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Downtown business owners anticipating great things

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Downtown business people say they feel nothing but optimism about the new ownership of the struggling Bayside Centre and its plan to repurpose the building as a retirement residence.

“I am thrilled,” said Corrine Schieman, owner of Artopia Gallery & Framing on Christina Street.

Bayside, which is right around the corner from Artopia, hasn’t attracted significant customer traffic for years as mall occupancy floundered with a small number of retailers remaining.

Now Schieman is hopeful the proposed retirement residence with an estimated 140 to 160 independent and assisted living suites will generate more visitors and potential customers in the downtown core.

“I think it’s wonderful that it will be geared to the elderly,” she said. “They’ll need amenities like a grocery store and a drug store that we haven’t had down here for a long time.

“I really love the whole concept and, hopefully, they’ll have artwork in need of museum-quality matting and will come to me.”

Oakville-based Seasons Retirement Communities offered cash to purchase Bayside Centre and the deal closed April 18.  CEO Rick Smyth was at city council earlier this month and said construction could begin as early as 2018. There is no indication if the mall will continue to have commercial space.

“We haven’t met with the new owners yet so we don’t have any answers,” said Richard Marhue, owner of Red Rhino, which moved into Bayside in late 2015.

“It’s got to be good news,” Marhue said. “This is an owner with a reputation that is solid.”

Marhue was alluding to the former mall ownership that promised big things and ultimately failed.

“We just kept going and built our business,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of questions,” said Frank Marsh, a long-time Bayside tenant and owner of Marsh TV.  “The last owner came in with all kinds of noise and this one seems to be more cautious.

“Of course we’re hoping the new proposal will have a commercial component,” said Marsh.

Kyle Deloof, owner of Davy Jones Quality Meats, said he has yet to hear anything from Seasons Retirement Communities but hopes he can go ahead with a second Davy Jones location in the mall.

Deloof had been working with former Bayside developer Gord Laschinger last year to locate a grocery store there.

“We had a design and they’d torn up the flooring but nothing really got started,” Deloof said. “I hadn’t signed a lease yet. I refused to. With the history of this mall, I was a little hesitant.”

But Deloof said he still wants to “go for it.”

“Of course we’ll have to meet with them first, but I’m staying positive. I want a downtown location and I’d be happy in the mall,” he said.

Property owners on Christina Street who thought they’d sold their buildings in 2016 to the numbered company represented by Laschinger are not involved in this deal, said realtor Mark Woolsey.

He owns 140 Christina Street, also known as the former Taylor’s Furniture store, and says he lost tenants because of the Laschinger deal.

Now he intends to renovate his three-storey building and announce new tenants shortly. A new Bayside owner could bring stability to the downtown and attract more customers, Woolsey said.

“I think everyone feels it will go through this time and everyone will win. More people living downtown is good for everyone.”




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