The oldest mall in Ottawa is in line for a major facelift. If approved, Westgate Shopping Centre will be torn down and a 5-tower redevelopment built on the site.

Westgate was built in 1955, bordering Carling Avenue, Merivale Road and the Queensway.

The owner of the property, RioCan, has big plans for the tiny mall and while many agree it is in need of an overhaul, they are not keen on it being hauled away.  

Every Tuesday, for the last ten years, a group of about 10 seniors has gathered at the Westgate Shopping Mall; it is their spot to exercise and socialize.

“We come here for coffee and share some laughs and good times,” says Don Morin, one of the members of the group.

Steeped in history, Westgate has become a community hub for the area, built in 1955 when Elvis Presley was just moving up the charts.  But for the owner of the mall, RioCan, it's “Now or Never” to make a change.

“The reality is that the changing face of retail provides an opportunity to redevelop this property,” Miguel Tremblay with RioCan told Ottawa’s Planning Committee today, “at a density of what will be fitting for the future transit station while still not ignoring the needs of current community.”

Ottawa's planning department passed RioCan's redevelopment plan that calls for 5 towers on the site, with both retail and residential use.

“Overall, I think this is an exciting opportunity for intensification the way it is supposed to be done,” Ottawa Councillor Jeff Leiper said at the committee meeting.

This whole redevelopment will take years and will happen in phases.  The entire mall will have to be demolished.  Then, the first two towers will go up and that will all take about 10 years, before the next phase begins.

“If that's going to give more living space for more people, it's a better use of this area than a mall that appears to me to be on its last leg,” says Westgate customer Robert Gadoua.

“It would nice to see some vitality brought to the place,” added customer Natalie Lamour, “maybe some new vendors.”

But these are uncertain times for the existing vendors like Nettleton’s Jewellery store that has been in business 100 years; 28 of them at Westgate. Cameron Nettleton is the owner.

RioCan is a worldwide company that looks at numbers, not people and structure,” says Nettleton, “This is a prime property in Ottawa.  They want to redevelopment it and make money.  We all are in business to make money but at what cost?”

As for the group of seniors, they can't imagine meeting anywhere else.

“We gotta have our social club here,” says Joan Surette, “Where are we going to have it?  Put a tent outside?”

One group at today was pleading with the Planning Committee to designate the mall a heritage site. 

Council will vote on the proposal April 12.