Displaced businesses look for new homes


City questioned about its role in helping business owners find new space

What will happen to businesses displaced by the redevelopment of Grandin Park Plaza and what is the city doing to help them relocate?

These questions were among many raised Tuesday when Vancouver-based developer Amacon, owner of the mall, held a public meeting to give local residents an opportunity to address concerns and ask questions about a proposed redevelopment on the site.

One resident asked what Amacon is doing to help the retailers that now have to move out of the mall. That part of the building will be demolished in the coming months.

“The victims in this case are those who are currently leasing and renting space in Grandin mall,” the resident said. “The development looks great but I think we have to, as a community, concern ourselves with those people who made an honest and long contribution to the community.”

In early March, Amacon sent a letter to its tenants stating that businesses will have to be out of the mall by April 30. Scotiabank, Little Einsteins Daycare and the office tower will remain open.

All other parts of the mall will be demolished, including Grandin Theatres.

Owners of businesses in the mall have known since Amacon bought the property in 2007 that they would have to move out one day, said development manager Simon Taylor, adding that this eventuality was clear even when the company put its plans on hold during the economic recession.

“We’ve been as honest as we could right from the purchase to signing up the lease agreements that the community knew that this was a redevelopment project,” he said.

At a council meeting two weeks ago, Coun. Tim Osborne asked the city’s economic development director Guy Boston what his department is doing to help mall owners relocate, given that business retention is part of that department’s mandate.

At the time Boston said his department hadn’t done any proactive outreach but promised to work with the tenants.

Members of his team have now contacted all of the tenants and are working with some of them on finding a new space in the city, said Joan Barber, manager of business retention and expansion.

The city has rental space available, she said. The only problem is that leases in the community are more expensive than what the tenants are paying at the mall.

“Pretty much all we can do is match them up with the amount of square footage that they need and say this is available in another building,” said Barber. “And then it’s up to them if their business model will work in a new location where they’re paying additional rent.”

In an earlier interview with the Gazette, Kabul Tailoring owners Nasir and Malaka Qaderi said they now pay about $12 per square foot at the mall. But other places in the city charge between $20 and $30.

On Friday, Malaka said they are still looking for a new home for their tailoring shop.

“I try to continue the business. I try my best to find a place but the only problem is the rent,” she said.

Other businesses in the mall are also struggling, she said. Some might move to Edmonton while others are closing for good.

Barber added that the city is short on available office and retail space. More will become available as developments by Costco and along St. Albert Trail open up but until then options for retailers are limited, she said.

“I am certain that we will probably lose some of (the retailers),” she said. “We certainly never want to lose business but at the same time … there has to be a fit for them as well.”


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