This study examines the role and effectiveness of suburban, ethnic shopping centres in providing an alternative to public space. It is a response to the suburb's lack of good public spaces, and the resulting lack of community and sense of place, and is informed by the development of 'ethnoburbs' across North America. This study explores themes revealed by both literature and a series of field observations and intercept interview. A case study analyzing First Markham Place and how its mall patrons use the space revealed implications regarding the effectiveness of these malls as public spaces. The author found that the mall's role as a community hub provides opportunities to satisfy both practical and innate desires for cultural goods, services, and co-ethnic interactions, encourages a 'public life' not seen in conventional suburban malls, and creates a unique sense of place for members of the target ethnic community as well as non-members.