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Avalon Mall in St. John’s Marks Grand Re-Opening Following Major Redevelopment: Interview

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Avalon Mall in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador has been an integral part of the province for more than 50 years.

Now, the popular mall, owned and operated by the Crombie REIT, is poised for continued growth following the completion of a three-year, more than $100-million redevelopment project with the addition of numerous new retailers.

Last weekend, the mall celebrated a Grand Reopening Ceremony as it looks with optimism to the future. 

The capital investment program included the re-purposing of former Sears retail space, of 137,000 square feet, to make room for many more tenants.

Image: Avalon Mall Facebook Page

Arie Bitton, Senior Vice President, Leasing & Operations for Crombie, said the overall redevelopment increased density in the mall by about 35,000 square feet, enhancing Avalon’s position as the dominant enclosed mall in Newfoundland & Labrador. 

Arie Bitton

“For Crombie REIT, this has been one of our pre-eminent assets and we started conceptualizing what to do with it about four or five years ago. One of the challenges we had is we weren’t able to accommodate tenants to enter the property just given space constraints. With Sears’ departure, that was actually a bit of a blessing in disguise,” said Bitton.

“We started thinking at the time how do we reposition the asset so that we’re able to really bring in all these national and international tenants to the property. We could have done the easy thing. We could have done just a few boxes in the former Sears space. But what we did was more of a racetrack design that really enabled customer flow to go throughout the property in a very circuitous route. The property before really didn’t have great access from the street. It was incredibly under-parked. So we added to that by introducing a multi-storey parking garage and that really enabled us to open up the rest of the property to have a flow that I think customers are really welcoming.”

The redevelopment included the construction of a four-level, 875-space parking structure and the project included 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.

Avalon Mall (Image: Crombie REIT)

Part of the redevelopment includes the relocation of Winners from about 40,000 square feet to more than 50,000 square feet in a Winners/HomeSense combination.

“We also added a couple of parcels on the property that previously didn’t exist. We’re adding two pads. One of the pads will be anchored by CIBC. CIBC was previously in the mall. They wanted to get a more traditional format with a drive-through. We’ve been able to accommodate them there,” said Bitton. 

“The other pad will be anchored by Burger King.”

The mall, which is about 600,000 square feet, experienced a shut down in April and May of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a spike in COVID cases earlier this year, the mall was shut down for all but essential services for a period of about two to three weeks in February to early March.

“The reason the mall does well is really because we’ve been focusing on really listening to our customers to provide them with an experience that they’re able to get elsewhere and haven’t previously been able to get in Newfoundland,” said Bitton. “The Newfoundland customer is very discerning. They’re very sophisticated. They travel and they come to us and they tell us they want to see these other tenants here. They don’t want to go to Halifax and other places. Previously we weren’t able to accommodate them because frankly we didn’t have the space.

“For us that’s been the focus, giving them what they’re looking for. The fact that during COVID the mall was not shut down or interrupted to the same degree that others around the country and the world were has really helped these tenants perform well and the mall functions as ‘the’ mall for all of Newfoundland so it services not just the city of St. John’s but the entire province of about 500,000 people. If they’re going to the mall, they’re coming to Avalon Mall.”

Crombie REIT is one of Canada’s leading real estate investment trusts with 284 retail and office properties, 18 million square feet of gross leasable area and an enterprise value of $4.7 billion.

According to Crombie, here’s a list of retailer movement at the mall. New tenants are from 2018 basically when the redevelopment began. Those in bold are new to market.

New Tenants to AM

  • The Rec Room
  • Sport Chek
  • The Gap
  • Banana Republic
  • Old Navy
  • Lush
  • H&M
  • Mountain Warehouse
  • Showcase
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Skechers
  • Michael Hill
  • Bikini Village  (open fall 2021)
  • Levi’s
  • Torrid (opening Summer 2021)
  • Five Guys
  • Adam & Eve hair Style
  • Aerie (opening Summer 2021)
  • Mobile Klinik
  • Flavours of India
  • T-Kettle
  • Hakim Optical (Opening Fall 2021)
  • The Brick  (outparcel)
  • Burger King (pad site – open Fall 2021)

Relocated and Expanded

  • Winners/Homesense   (42,000sf – 50,000sf)
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Charm Diamond Centre
  • Pseudio
  • Envy
  • Samuel & Company
  • Jump +
  • The Source
  • Tip Top
  • EB Games (EBX)
  • Newfoundland Chocolate Company
  • Claire’s
  • Bentley (open Fall 2021)
  • Ardene
  • Bluenotes

Expanded current location

  • Crescent Jewellers
  • The Body Shop
  • Bell

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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