Redevelopment plans for the Northland Village Mall in northwest Calgary have been talked about for a number of years but the project is now ready to move forward in early 2022 that will see the mall transformed into an open air shopping centre.
The Primaris owned property will be about 400,000 square feet of retail space and services, anchored by Walmart, Winners, Best Buy and Good Life, and will include 230 rental residential units.
The first phase of the redevelopment is expected to be completed by 2023 with the entire project finished by 2025.
The mall originally opened in 1971.
“We started a process to work towards a (demolishing) of the centre quite a number of years ago – probably eight or nine years ago. The first plan was a lot more ambitious. It was going to be a much larger multi-storey project with residential on top. We were basically tearing the entire mall down, save the Walmart and redoing the whole thing. That was 2013, 2014,” said Patrick Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of Primaris, which is a division of H&R REIT.
“We had a Whole Foods deal that was essentially done and it was just subject to us getting building permits finished and we didn’t get our permits for over three and a half years and at about the two, just shy of three year mark, Whole Foods came to us and said ‘there’s a regime change going on and if you don’t remove your conditions soon, the regime change is going to actually walk away from Alberta’. We never got our permits so that’s why we lost the Whole Foods deal. It was very, very unfortunate.”
But on the positive side the market had started to change around that time in Alberta, the economy had started to take a nosedive, construction costs spiralled out of control.
“With the loss of Whole Foods we kind of shelved the much more ambitious plan and went to a smaller, (demolishing) version and spent the next few years trying to revise our plans with the city and get permits again,” said Sullivan.
“Where we’re ending up now is 400,000 square feet of retail and we’re retaining Best Buy where they are, we’re retaining basically what’s known as the Eaton’s block which is where Winners currently is and the rest of the mall will be demolished and we sold two acres to Deveraux Homes to build 230 rental units.”
Walmart is under renovation and will stay. Fountain Tire, A&W and CIBC will remain on the site owned by Primaris. A McDonald’s is also on the property but the fast food chain owns that particular site.
The parkade will stay as well but the rest of the enclosed mall structure will come down in the Spring.
“We’ll build it as we pre-lease it basically once we have committed tenants,” explained Sullivan. “But right now for a lot of the area where the mall exists today it will probably be three years before anything is ready for possession.
“Winners is going to move to the lower level into the old Future Shop space and GoodLife is going to move into the Winners space. So we have to keep the structure in place for GoodLife until Winners is actually done moving. That’s why there’s a delay in kind of redoing where the current existing enclosed portion is.”
Northland Village Mall is located just a few kilometres from CF Market Mall. Sullivan said the northwest part of Calgary doesn’t need two regional shopping centres in close proximity.
“Northland has always been the weaker enclosed shopping centre. At one point, I think back in 2008 we had at its peak occupancy pretty close to being full. It was doing well,” said Sullivan. “But it’s really just been a struggle to maintain the occupancy. It’s been a struggle to get the tenants going in, especially right now with tenants rationalizing their store counts. They certainly don’t need to be in both properties. North Hill Centre is not next door but it’s still in that same trade area too. So you’ve really got too many enclosed mall properties in that area.
“Right now with the cost structure the way it is in enclosed malls they really don’t need the multiple stores in that trade area. So we’ll (demolish) the shopping centre. It will get smaller. We’ll have a bunch of large format tenants and then we’ll have a lot more service retail.”
Primaris is the Canadian retail division of H&R REIT, one of Canada’s largest diversified real estate investment trusts with an enterprise value of over $14 billion. Primaris owns and manages 17 regional enclosed shopping centres and 14 retail properties across Canada encompassing approximately 10 million square feet.
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