Marcel Elliott, regional leasing and property manager for mall owners Crombie Reit, confirmed rumours of a significant redevelopment project over the next four to five years.
“I can’t put a dollar amount on it, but I can tell you it’s multi-multimillion for sure,” Elliott says.
Work on one major infrastructure project is already well underway on O’Leary Avenue, where an existing overflow parking lot will be replaced with a four-storey parkade. When completed in 18 to 24 months, it will provide mall users with 580 new covered parking spots and 850 in total on that side of the mall.
Elliott admits it will put a strain on parking issues at the mall, but they’re already at work establishing a plan on how to use other lands under Crombie Reit’s ownership — namely Woodgate Plaza and the Kenmount Business Centre — to alleviate some of those issues.
Those two properties are part of the longer-term mall redevelopment plan, but at least one anchor tenant will remain.
“Toys ‘R’ Us are there and they’re going to be there forever, whether it gets modified or expanded, we’re not really sure how that looks,” he says.
The four- to five-year plan will also address traffic issues on the mall parking lot, and is likely to include a new entrance to the main parking areas off Kenmount Road.
The Avalon Mall has seen a few renovations since it first opened its doors in 1967, some cosmetic in nature, some much more involved. A second floor was added in 1977 and expanded in 1987. In more recent years, there have been other additions, including the new movie theatres, Winners Homesense, the O’Leary Avenue parking area and skywalk, a redesign on the food court entrance, Dollarama and a suite of box stores built or renovated in the east and west ends of the main parking area.
As for inside the mall, which currently houses about 140 tenants, Elliott admits the national retail landscape has slowed in recent years due to the economic climate, and while sluggish here, interest in the Avalon Mall remains consistent.
“The vacancy rate here, historically for the last decade, has been very, very low, so we’ve always had a list of people trying to get here. We’re trying to bring the right people in and trying to bring in tenants that people want.”
To that extent, Elliott says mall management is very “picky and choosy” with who it brings into the fold.
“We’ve had some vacancy in the food court and we’ve been waiting it out to get the right tenants, as opposed to the first food vendor to come along.
“That’s always been the philosophy.”
Tuesday also marked the final day of operation for the Gap store. Elliot says the space is likely to be redeveloped into a space for three or four tenants.
“We are certainly talking to a bunch of different tenants. We have some deals confirmed with new tenants and we are also working to provide some of our current stores with bigger locations than what they have now,” Elliott says, adding that the storefront vacated by HMV last month is already set to become the new home of an existing tenant.
“We’re kind of working on a whole remerchandising mix of new and existing tenants getting new spaces, renovated spaces, bigger spaces.”
Tuesday may have been the mall’s technical birthday, but Elliott says they’ll wait until May 13 — Mother’s Day weekend — to celebrate with community groups in a more substantial way that includes a blend of nostalgia, food and entertainment. More details will be available at shopavalonmall.com in the coming weeks.