Avalon Mall to Renovate and Expand by Repurposing Sears Space

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By Mario Toneguzzi

A multi-million-dollar, three-year redevelopment project has been launched to enhance Avalon Mall’s position as the dominant enclosed mall in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And the capital investment program, by owner Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust, includes re-purposing former Sears retail space to make room for many more tenants.

Marcel Elliott, Regional Property and Leasing Manager of Avalon Mall, said the Sears space was 137,000 square feet.

“We’re chopping off about 60,000 square feet on the end and creating more parking and then we will be build out in front of it. We’re subdividing space and adding new space to create smaller units and mid-size to big-box units,” said Elliott.

“The net gain for us is about 20,000 square feet of CRU (Commercial Retail Unit).”

Elliott said the result will be an addition of about 36 new tenants for the mall located in St. John’s.

“For the last decade we’ve basically been operating at a zero vacancy rate. We’re really the only centre in the province. So adding 36 sounds like a lot but we’ve got a waiting list,” said Elliott.

Crombie said the $54.5 million Phase I project coincides with Avalon Mall’s 50th Anniversary, and began in April with construction of a four-level, 875-space parking structure. The project will include a redesign and realignment of Kenmount Road vehicle access, and the redesign and phased renovation of the centre’s interior common areas, entrances and exterior facade.

It said all interior common areas will be transformed with contemporary porcelain tile, acoustic ceiling tiles, and wooden seating. Lighting will be updated to LED linear and recessed downlight fixtures. Natural light will be in abundance, as plans include a clerestory to replace existing skylights. Additional features are designed to create an exciting and engaging visitor experience.

The food court is receiving the same lighting, ceiling, and tile treatments as centre court, corridors, and atriums.

Crombie also said a new store front design criteria will be implemented during the project that will align with the centre’s modern and simplified new look.

The two-level Avalon Mall is the largest enclosed shopping mall in Newfoundland and Labrador at approximately 564,000 square feet of gross leasing area.

“For us, we just have a pent-up demand for people who want to be here in smaller footprints and finally we’re able to go to the market and accommodate the people who want to be here,” said Elliott.

“The mall does just under $700 a (square) foot. So it’s a pretty solid number for Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland never really gets too high or too low. Most tenants want to be here. They want to be truly national and across the country. So you kind of have to be in St. John’s to say that . . .  It’s a pretty decent place to do business.”

Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust is an open-ended real estate investment trust that owns a portfolio of 284 retail and office properties across Canada, comprising approximately 18.9 million square feet. The REIT’s enterprise value is $4.6 billion.

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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