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GUEST COLUMN: Bayside Mall: fix it or bulldoze it

Published on

Robert Haisman

In recent times, larger cities such as Toronto have developed what is known as a “walk score.”

Walk scores measures things like access to grocery stores, restaurants, health care, libraries, etc. The scale is 0 to 100. The higher the number, the greater the livability of an area.

Having lived in downtown Toronto I know that walking to any service, business, event, job, etc., was and is easy.

The emphasis on decent neighbourhoods is growing constantly. Even Toronto’s government housing project known as Regent Park is slowly being bulldozed and replaced with attractive housing and buildings. A vibrant neighbourhood is rising from the ruins of the largest government housing disaster in Canadian history.

For any city to have life in its downtown core, people must actually reside there. To live, work and play downtown is a great lifestyle. Sarnia is moving in that direction and boasts a beautiful waterfront and marinas.

Then, there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room – the Bayside Mall – and its “walk score” of minus 500.

The mall has a whopping total of two eating establishments and three retail entities. Throw in a few government offices and we see what this dark and dreary place feels like: the Bayside Mausoleum.

The irony is the streetscape is improving dramatically and downtown Sarnia is becoming a beautiful place, with a few exceptions.

For Bayside Mall to serve any purpose, people need to actually want to go there, and not by default in need of government services.

The sky is the limit for this property. Literally. Bayside Mall could accommodate a mid-rise condominium development without blocking any views of the St. Clair River. There is also an opportunity to have a townhouse development on the rooftop of the existing structure.

A building exactly like this exists in downtown Toronto called Village by the Grange. Residents have full access to shopping, restaurants, employment, a health club, etc., without leaving the building. The rooftop residences are surrounded by gardens and an outdoor pool, and occupied by young professionals, families and senior citizens.

In fact, there are many such mini-communities throughout downtown Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

If Bayside Mall had residences conveniently connected to it, business success would follow. Build it, and they will come. Also, Lochiel Street should be opened up to allow better pedestrian movement.

Bayside Mausoleum is a wall dividing the city, and little more than an ugly tube used by people walking from one end to the other, out of the elements.

It is not a destination location. It is a wart.

As for the political bickering, enough is enough. Let’s see some real leadership.

If Bayside Mall cannot be fixed and made useful, bulldoze it.

Robert Haisman is an estate planning specialist in Sarnia and author of The Canadian Estate Planning Organizer.



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