EDMONTON - West Edmonton Mall is searching for a new image, exploring new ideas and turning to
a new generation of Ghermezians.
"History dictates that you cannot stay stagnant," said Don Ghermezian, 28, son of Eskander
Ghermezian. "People only want to go to the newest and what is best."
Mr. Ghermezian started working at the mall eight years ago as an amusement park operator. He has
taken over uncle Raphael Ghermezian's job as mall vice-president in charge of leasing, day-to-day
operations and future planning.
That means such tasks as overseeing a Hawaiian band perform hula dances and fire shows in mall
common areas, and planning for an 8,000-seat sports/entertainment complex, which could double as
a conference centre.
The multi-use complex is likely years away from opening its doors. Part of the mall's 10-year plan, the
complex would be Edmonton's "mid-market" facility, between the 3,400-seat AgriCom and the
17,000-seat Skyreach Centre.
"It would be like the lower bowl of the Skyreach Centre and would be used for sporting events,
concerts, trade shows, banquets, boxing, curling," said Gary Hanson, the mall manager.
Other, more staid, ideas are closer to fruition. A 12-storey office tower, financed by the tenants, could
become a reality in two to four years, Mr. Ghermezian said. A high-rise seniors centre with 600 units
could also join the mix of mall amenities.
Researchers found that seniors were flooding to retire to Las Vegas, not because of the climate, but
because seniors' mentality is changing, Mr. Ghermezian said. "Seniors want to do things that are fun
and exciting. They want to be at the centre of the action."
A residence attached to the mall would put seniors close to restaurants and entertainment, lots of
parking and the Misericordia Hospital just across the street, Mr. Ghermezian said. "We haven't
decided yea or nay yet, but research indicates it could be very successful."
Plans for another hotel were put on hold because of the lawsuit against the mall launched by Alberta
Treasury Branches in 1998.
But the West Edmonton Mall Inn, built across the street from the mall by the Ghermezians' public
company, Seven Crowns Corp., has grown quickly, achieving an occupancy rate of more than 90% in
little more a year, he said. "If it keeps growing at a fast rate, then we may be looking at a new hotel
Also in the mall's expansion plans is an additional 300,000 square feet of retail space.
With a mall occupancy rate above 94% this year, WEM is strong enough to be fussy about the
tenants it chooses, he said. But it will stick with a 60-40 retail/entertainment mix because it seems to
be working well
Geyser Branding of Toronto has been hired to develop the mall's new identity, to be unveiled by next
Great Great Great! and by the way WEM gets 22 Million People Coming into the mall Anually