Three years after the City of St. Albert approved a then $450-million redevelopment of Grandin Park Plaza, many business owners located inside the mall are wondering when the project will move forward.
Vancouver-based Amacon originally made a proposal in 2008 to replace the aging mall with St. Albert Village, a mix of commercial and residential space that included five high-rise towers up to 19 storeys.
In May 2008, council approved the development, which was supposed to accommodate up to 2,000 residents and create 157,000 sq. ft. of retail space.
At the time, many area residents were concerned about the height of the towers, the number of residents and the amount of traffic they would generate.
The project was expected to take between five and seven years to build and, once complete, would net the city $1.4 million in taxes.
But six months after it was approved, the city received a letter from Amacon saying the development would be delayed for an unknown period of time due to the economic downturn. Officials with the company said it would be delayed until the outlook improved, particularly the condo market.
Curtis Cundy, city director of planning and development, said Amacon keeps in regular contact with city hall about the project but they have not said if their plans have changed or when work will begin.
“They’re taking the opportunity to re-evaluate the plan and just fine-tune it and look at some changes that they might want to bring forward,” Cundy said.
“It’s all been just discussion and speculation at this point, they haven’t submitted anything.”
New proposal rumoured
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he’s heard Amacon will be submitting ‘something’ to council but he doesn’t know the details.
“We’re waiting to hear from either Amacon or our staff as to what the new proposal is but we haven’t seen anything,” said Crouse.
Asked if council would approach Amacon, Crouse said he would prefer to wait until council first hears from the company.
One business owner in the mall, who asked to remain anonymous, said he is eager to know if the development is still going forward.
“They should say one way or another what they’re going to do. Is there any hope here? Should we stay? They don’t seem to care. There is no communication,” he said.
Several businesses have left Grandin mall in the last two months, including Sonja’s, a consignment store, and Buffy’s Family Cleaners.
“I think there are a few others that probably can’t make it and we’re probably all going to leave eventually,” said the business owner.
He said business owners have several concerns with the current building, including vandalism due to an absence of security on site, and water damage.
“Everything seems to be falling apart and they don’t really have any interest in maintaining it.”
Last week a sprinkler turned on without warning and caused $1,000 in damage to one of the businesses inside the mall.
A few weeks before that, an elevator in the professional office tower malfunctioned and an employee from Athabasca University was trapped inside for 90 minutes.
In 2008, several businesses inside the mall were temporarily relocated after water seeped in through the back door after a torrential downpour.
Amacon did not return phone calls before the Gazette went to press.