The Alexis Nihon Plaza is a 2,400,000 sq ft complex in Downtown Montreal, consisting of a shopping mall, two office towers, and a residential building. It is named after Alexis Nihon, a Begian-born immigrant, who came to Canada when he was eighteen years old. In 1940, he started theIndustrial Glass Works Company Limited in Saint-Laurent, one of the few Canadian glass manufacturers during the Second World War. He sold it in the 1940s. In 1946, he started the Alexis Nihon Corporation (today Alexis Nihon REIT) one of the largest real estate companies in Canada today.
The Alexis Nihon Plaza was built on several lots of land, known in the early 1900s as Atwater Park, a baseball park, where the Montreal Royals played for 24 seasons. It has been rumoured, that even Babe Ruth played here on a visit to Montreal in 1926. Mr. Nihon leased the land to a Montreal developer on condition that the complex to be built would bear his name. The contract to design the complex was awarded to architect Harold (Herschel) Ship, one of the first chartered town planners in Canada.
The Alexis Nihon Plaza opened in 1967, and for the first time in Montreal with two 16-storey apartment and offices towers, connected to a shopping mall and the metro, a development where you could live, shop, work and even exercise, all in one place. There were a variety of retail shops, cinemas, and the popular Maidenhead Inn, a pub where waitresses wore low-cut wenches outfits while serving bottled beer and mixed drinks.
In October 1986, a major fire started on the 10th floor and destroyed the six stories above. The 13-hour blaze would become the largest office tower fire in Canadian history. The Atwater metro station and parts of downtown Montreal were closed for fear of the tower collapsing. Air Canada and Steinberg’s had offices in this tower. All was lost and the airlines’ reservation system had to be rerouted as the main server was destroyed. The office tower was reconstructed two years later, and a third (residential) tower was built.
By the beginning of this decade, both the interior and exterior were showing their age. Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), the owners of the Alexis Nihon Plaza, began renovations in 2013 to make the mall more functional and more accessible with new wheelchair ramps and elevators. Outside renovations included the installation of large illuminated panels on two sides of the building. Today the complex is home to over 85 stores, of which many are superstores.
Source: Alexis Nihon Plaza / DC Montreal / The Globe and Mail / Westmount Mag
By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca