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Lifestyle Centres in Canada: 2007


Lifestyle Centres in Canada: 2007

By Dr. Tony Hernandez

The 'lifestyle centre' label is regarded by many practitioners in the retail development and planning industry as an over-used misnomer that is increasingly being adopted to describe a wide range of retail developments.  Yet, in spite of such over-use (and some would argue mis-use), the core defining principles of the lifestyle concept are generally agreed to and characterized as a form of open-air retail development that houses a mix of more upscale specialty retail tenants (albeit with many variations on this theme).  In the US, lifestyle centres (and their hybrids) have been developed since the late 1980s through to present day.  By contrast, the Canadian market has not experienced a parallel growth of the lifestyle concept (as is often the case with US retail innovations).  Over the last years however there have been signs of change in the Canadian marketplace, with a small number of emerging retail development projects being designed with 'lifestyle' components (and in some cases, labeled as 'lifestyle centres').  This research letter aims to provide a context for what may be a changing tide in Canadian retail real estate development.  The letter first addresses issues relating to the definition of 'lifestyle centres' then tracks the development of the lifestyle concept in the US.  The Canadian experience is then presented, with a number of existing and in-development projects detailed.  The letter concludes by discussing the growing trend towards mixed-use and the associated challenges this creates for retail developers in partnering with other property class developers (residential, office, hotel, etc.).  As these trends play out, the CSCA will continue to monitor these lifestyle concept developments, and in future studies will report on their impact. 

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