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New Bayside Centre owners converting mall to seniors’ housing

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Troy Shantz and George Mathewson

The new owners of the Bayside Centre plan to build an assisted living retirement residence in downtown Sarnia featuring 140 to 160 suites.

Though too early to say exactly how the retirement complex will fit into the mall space, the CEO of Seasons Retirement Communities said the company is working with Lambton County to keep the existing government services centre in place.

It also intends to build upward with additional stories.

“We want to go vertical,” Rick Smyth told city council last week.

Seasons, which acquired the mall on April 18, is already interviewing architects and will create a master plan for the property over the next year.

Smyth said company studies show a strong market need for more supported-living units in Sarnia and the mall property was an ideal fit.

“The size and the location turned out to be perfect for us,” he said.

The former Sarnia Eaton Centre building sits in the heart of the downtown on 8.5 acres of city-owned land.

Seasons is an owner-operator private company of which the major shareholder is the pension fund of LiUNA, the Labourers’ International Union of North America.

“When the retirement community is complete, Seasons anticipates employing not less than 75 full-time and part-time employees,” Smyth told The Journal via email.

Mike Maitland, manager of LiUNA Local 1089 in Sarnia, said the union is looking forward to the project, but that it’s too early to say what the construction project might mean for local workers.

Incorporated just eight years ago, Seasons owns and operates 18 retirement residences and more than 2,000 suites in Alberta and Ontario, with sites in Amherstburg, Belle River and Strathroy.

The city’s hopes for a major downtown redevelopment were dashed last year after big plans announced by the mall’s previous owners, an investment group headed by Gord Laschinger, failed to materialize.

One of those initiatives was for Sarnia’s Davey Jones Quality Meats to open an 8,000-square-foot grocery store at the corner of Vidal and Cromwell streets.

Owner Kyle Deloof said he hasn’t been contacted by the new owners but might still be interested.

“If the opportunity is there, we’d love to be downtown,” he said.





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