Chinook Centre unveils spacious, sleek, newly renovated dining hall

If you’re 18 years old and still hanging out at the mall, hopefully you’ve updated your look.

Maybe a new wardrobe, something a little more stylish, contemporary and adult.

That’s the thinking behind the newly renovated dining hall (ne food court) in Chinook Centre, which officially opened Wednesday morning with a VIP reception.

“Eighteen years old, it was time for a change,” says Paige O’Neill, general manager for CF Chinook Centre.

It was a 10-month, $17-million makeover for the 30,000-square-foot dining space, which is one of the most used in the world of North American malls.

Changes to the brighter, slick new digs for digging-in include an upping of the seating capacity to 835, making the seating more spacious and efficient, and adding an extra retail client to make it an eating option of an even 20 taste-pedlars.

And while many of those remain the well-known chain options that one would expect when malling — Dairy Queen, New York Fries, Opa!, Edo Japan, Taco Time, Starbucks and now Subway — all of their new digs look more sleek and inviting, and part of the new Chinook Mall experience as a whole.

“It just sort of brings it into this century, I would say. It matches the rest of the centre now,” O’Neill agrees.

It also almost brings to an end a busy 24 months of improvements that the building has undergone.

Other projects have included the impressive new indoor pedestrian bridge over Macleod Tr. that brings shoppers into the dining hall — sadly, necessitating the removal of the beloved carousel, which has been relocated to Spruce Meadows — as well as the openings of high-end retailers Saks and Louis Vuitton.

The last bit of freshening up for the almost 60-year-old landmark-for-many is a $4.5-million south tile project to match them up with the already completed north tiles

“That wraps up in the next month, so we are ready for Christmas,” O’Neill says with a somewhat relieved laugh. “We are now officially ready for Christmas — no disruptions.”

As to how long that will last, well, that’s yet to be seen.

Calgarians old enough to remember the days when some of the biggest or best-known retailers or services in the mall included Kresge, WHSmith, Woodward’s, Sam the Record Man, the barber shop and Safeway know that it looks nothing like what it once did. (Bowling alley: still open!)

Chinook Mall is and has always been updating, upgrading, always looking for ways to make it a destination place and the shopping experience that much more comfortable and welcoming for all.

In fact, as O’Neill notes, since she came into the company in 1994, “There’s probably been two years that we haven’t been under some massive construction.”

She continues. “And I know Calgarians get a little tired of it sometimes, but hopefully the reinvestment and results really resonate with them.”

(Photo courtesy Cf Chinook Centre.)