After months of construction, the Polo Park shopping centre is preparing to exorcise the demons of Zellers -- and Bretton's for that matter -- from its second floor.
The biggest mall in the city is nearing the final stages of a $49-million renovation that will add a total of 22 new stores between October and sometime next year.
H&M, the most highly anticipated name, has already been announced, but other first-to-market retailers in Winnipeg include Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Nine West, Thomas Sabo, Fossil and Journey's.
There will also be a Disney Store for the first time in Winnipeg in five years. There used to be one at St. Vital Centre.
Sixteen of the stores are scheduled to open this October, including the aforementioned retailers.
"Normally, we don't have the space for (new retailers) because we have no vacancy," said Deborah Green, general manager of Polo Park. "This was a great opportunity to bring in a lot of tenants that Winnipeggers have been asking for."
The renovations cover 114,000 square feet of new and reworked space, largely on the site that used to house Zellers and Bretton's before that.
In order to facilitate customer traffic, a new hallway from the old Zellers entrance will go through the space and loop back to the mall.
A number of existing retailers, including Eddie Bauer, Guess, Garage, Dynamite, Lenscrafters and Mexx either relocated or renovated to facilitate the development.
John Winter, a Toronto-based retail analyst, said even though Polo Park is already Winnipeg's leading mall, it needs to continually reinvest in its facility to give more people more reasons to visit.
"You want to have a cutting-edge image that 'This is the place to shop.' You can't stand still. The stores and their designs are improving so you can't let the common areas reflect the past," he said.
The massive investment at Polo Park should benefit the new retailers as well as the old ones, Winter said.
"People will soon forget where the Zellers was. There will be more people coming to the mall for more reasons. Once they're there, collateral sales occur. The crux of a major mall is comparison shopping. 'Am I going to look best in this or should I go down the corridor and try another retailer?'â" he said.
Winter said the only potentially negative element about the expansion is Polo Park is not adding any new parking.
"You can never have enough of that," he said.
Polo Park had a $30-million facelift in 2007, but this renovation is the biggest one since 1986, when it added a second level.
Once these stores open in Winnipeg, will their presence be enough to keep you from shopping in the U.S.? Join the conversation in the comments below.