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Elgin Centre in St. Thomas Adds Final Tenant to Former Zellers Box Amid Major Updates [Interview]

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After buying the Elgin Centre mall in St. Thomas, Ontario a few years ago, the Burstein brothers have invested heavily into the property with the addition of several new retailers to the old Zellers space as well as the upcoming addition of a hotel and future plans for more development on the site.

Jay Burstein, property manager, involved with leasing and one of the owners, said the addition of a JYSK store in December fills out the last remaining section of the former Zellers space at the mall, joining other retailers Dollarama and Giant Tiger. 

The new JYSK store has an exterior entrance as well as an entrance accessible from inside the mall.

Also taking up space in the old Zellers spot is the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hotel, a 95-room and $17-million project, that is scheduled to open in March or April.

Former Zellers and Current JYSK and Giant Tiger at Elgin Centre (Image: Elgin Centre)
JYSK at Elgin Centre (Image: Elgin Centre)

He said the area of the mall where Zellers had vacated years ago was pretty much a “dead zone” for a long time. 

“St. Thomas is a growing city. It’s growing quite a bit. They went through some economic hardship back (a few years ago) with some plant closings. A Ford plant closed there and a Sterling Truck plant closed. But since then there’s been some really good things happening there. There was an Amazon plant that was just completed recently on the former Ford plant site,” said Burstein. “So that’s going to add a lot of jobs to the area.

“The city is really pushing to build at least 2,000 homes over the next four years. 500 homes a year. They’re encouraging the development of that. The city really is in growth mode. They recently assembled 800 acres of industrial land. I think they’re trying to attract one of those large EV plants that manufactures batteries for electric cars. 

“It’s very close to London which is a benefit. It’s a benefit that even if you’re living in St. Thomas you could easily have a job in London. St. Thomas is also very close to Port Stanley which is a beautiful town on Lake Erie. In the summers, it’s really busy there. So I think the hotel will benefit from that as well. We feel that the hotel is going to be really busy and that will help fuel the mall as well.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hotel at Elgin Centre (Image: Elgin Centre)
Rendering: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hotel at Elgin Centre

“It seems to be a really happening place. More retailers are coming into St. Thomas which is long overdue to be honest.”

Burstein and his four brothers own the Bursco Group, a family-owned commercial real estate investment and development company based in Brampton, Ontario. 

The brothers purchased the former Elgin Mall in October 2016. 

“The attraction is that it was a very well kept, well maintained property. We also felt that there was potential with it. The potential and the condition of the property, even though it needed some paving, it had really good bones,” said Burstein. “The mall had the appeal of having some very good existing national tenants to build on, including Metro, Fit4Less and Galaxy Cinemas.”

Elgin Centre is a 288,000-square-foot shopping centre located at 417 Wellington Street (just east of Fairview Avenue and easily accessible from Talbot Street (Hwy 3), in St. Thomas.  Formerly Elgin Mall, Elgin Centre with over 1,200 free parking spaces, is the only enclosed shopping mall in St. Thomas and Elgin County and has been a shopping mainstay in the community since 1976. 

With over 50 stores, Elgin Centre has a mix of junior box national retailers, local shops, boutiques, fitness centre, 18 hole mini golf, services, pharmacy, restaurants and continues to transform. Galaxy Cinemas at Elgin Centre is the only movie theatre (six screen) in St. Thomas and Elgin County. Other tenants include Fit4 Less by Goodlife, Metro, Coles Books, and Ardene. Over the past two to three years, new national tenants and local business have been added and $3.5 million has been spent in improvements.

Image: Elgin Centre

Burstein said the mall is about 92 per cent occupied.

“We feel that there’s some good synergy there between the hotel and mall. The mall will bring amenities to the hotel’s guests and the guests will bring customers to the shops and restaurants,” he said.

“(The property) is still kind of an ongoing project. We want to get some other tenants and we have some in mind. We also want to add some restaurants. In addition to that, when we did the zoning for the hotel we also got zoning for apartments or condos. That’s what we’re going to be looking at doing next. Along Wellington Street we’d like to add some residential and perhaps some mixed-use.”

Elgin Centre Leasing Map

In a news release, JYSK, an international retailer of Scandinavian home furnishings, described itself as one of the world’s fastest growing retailers with over 3,000 stores in 48 countries. 

The new JYSK store in St. Thomas is just over 31,000 square feet.

“JYSK has opened or will open a total of four new stores in Canada this year (2022): St Thomas, ON, Thunder Bay, ON, Wetaskiwin, AB, and Granby, QC. With many more stores to come,” said the retailer.

In 1996 JYSK opened its first Canadian store in Coquitlam, BC, and today there are 63 stores across the country.

Mario Toneguzzi
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 is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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