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Former Hockey Arena in Downtown Belleville to be Converted to Marketplace with Food Hall: Interview

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The historic Belleville, Ontario, Memorial Arena, located in the heart of the city, will be transforming into a marketplace with food establishments and businesses catering to food and drink.

The project is being developed by Taskforce Engineering and being leased by The Behar Group Realty Inc.

The arena, which has existed since 1929, will turn into the Memorial Market Place – “the gastronomic, artistic and cultural hub of the Bay of Quinte region,” according to a marketing brochure on the project. 

Lawrence Mosselson

Lawrence Mosselson, Broker, Vice President, Retail Advisory with The Behar Group Realty Inc., said the ground floor of the building has about 20,000 square feet. 

“The plan is to basically convert it to – I hate using the term food hall or food market because it means so many different things to so many different people – but the project . . . will have a couple of anchors for people wanting to go there and enjoy it. We came up with a restaurants’ plan which shows three larger restaurant spaces and smaller market vendors,” said Mosselson. 

“Our intent is to turn this into a 52-week a year destination for food.”

He said the restaurant plan is what Behar is focused on right now which includes three restaurants/brew pubs ranging from about 1,600 square feet to 5,700 square feet. The plan also includes nine food market vendors which would include potential businesses such as a butcher, cheese shop, bakery, fish place, wine store, etc.

The leasing company also has a plan to show a retailer if it wants to take up the entire space. 

“The one sort of benchmark and the one project that has been helping with some logistic information and stuff is the St. Lawrence Market (in Toronto). That’s sort of the goal. Although the St. Lawrence Market you don’t really have the restaurant component. You only have the one restaurant at the St. Lawrence Market and the rest of them are all vendors,” explained Mosselson.

“I don’t know of any other projects where someone’s taken an arena and turned it into this type of market – at least in Canada. I definitely think this is the first time this is being done in Canada.”

The arena has been closed since December 2010. The legendary Bobby Hull and other National Hockey League players began their careers there. Memorial Arena was also the home ice of the Belleville McFarlands that won the Canadian national championship in 1958 and went on to defeat the Soviet Union in the 1959 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. 

The unique Market Place project is buoyed by location. First, Belleville itself, which is central to the region along Highway 401 connecting Toronto to Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal.

Belleville has a CMA population of over 103,000 making it the largest urban centre in the Quinte Region.

Its newly revitalized Downtown District is home to many independent restaurants, cafes, boutiques, theatres, galleries and markets. Belleville plays host to numerous festivals and events that take place throughout the year including the Downtown DocFest, Poutine Feast, Porchfest Belleville and the Kiwanis Walleye World Fishing Derby.

“Downtown Belleville was historically challenged similar to a lot of smaller towns. What happened for a long time vendors and retailers left the historic sort of downtown section of Belleville and moved up to either North Front Street or Bell Boulevard – the two main streets,” said Mosselson.

“Probably about six or seven years ago the City of Belleville decided to heavily invest in the downtown core. They have an extremely strong BIA down there. In fact, the Belleville BIA was the first BIA in the country as far as I know to partner with Shopify to get all of their merchants online and they had done that by the end of April 2020. It’s a very, very strong BIA.

“They have revitalized all of downtown. New roads, new sidewalks. There’s a farmer’s market that operates 52 weeks out of the year that’s actually located almost right outside the doors to the arena. They’ve really been pushing for a lot of investment in Belleville. So this is somewhat of a lynchpin development to the revitalization of the downtown core.”

Mosselson said the hope is for construction to begin at the beginning of 2022 with either the third quarter or fourth quarter of 2022 for tenants to be in the new space and open for business.

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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