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This article was published 17/8/2020 (271 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For Shindico Realty Inc., the Kildonan Mile retail project has been a marathon, not a sprint.
Nearly a decade ago, the company began planning what it envisioned as a major hub of retail and business activity in West Transcona, centred on big-box stores and using the nearby Kildonan Place mall and Crossroads shopping centre as "shadow anchors" to draw tenants and customers in.
The 340,000 square-foot project was subject to required zoning changes from the city, as well as a four-lane extension of Reenders Drive that Shindico paid for. It’s taken longer than expected, says company president Sandy Shindleman, but with only the finalization of the development agreement to go, Shindico is finally approaching the finish line.
"It’s been a challenge to say the least, but hopefully, we can see the light at the end of this tunnel," Shindleman said.
Since the project started, its plans have shifted: many of the box stores initially targeted for tenancy found other locations, Shindleman said. Instead, the first planned strip — about 20,000 square-feet — will be aimed at attracting doctors, dentists, quick-serve restaurants, insurance businesses, and other small-scale, stable tenants — "the usual suspects" as Shindleman calls them.
Leasing for that strip is expected to begin in the spring.
Although the project’s actual make-up will be different than the one Shindico envisioned at the outset, that’s nor such a bad thing: Shindleman says the resulting development will be more dense, and the decreased emphasis on big-box stores frees up space for the company to develop rental apartment buildings.
"We think we will probably put 500 to 600 apartments in a mixed-use building," he said. Those units could be split between multiple buildings, which will be next to, but not on top of or connected to, retail and service buildings.
"That’s where we think the market is going," Shindleman added. Design development for the apartments will likely begin in the fall.
As far as the planned retail strip, Shindleman is confident that tenants will be interested: there are plans for a grocery store to potentially be built at the site, which should boost interest if it materializes. Plus, he said the area is clearly up-and-coming, with nearby major sites like the mall and standalone box stores acting as solid "shadow anchors" — businesses that automatically draw attention to the neighbourhood even if they aren’t associated with the development itself.
COVID-19 will continue to pose a challenge, and Shindleman said the company will likely target big retail spaces far less aggressively in the near future.
Retail not out of the woods yet
While the retail industry has already faced enormous difficulties since March — with one in seven small businesses in Canada at risk of closure — more hardship is on the horizon.
Government supports, including provincial eviction moratoria, are expected to expire before the end of year across the country, and many Canadian businesses are fighting an uphill battle to remain competitive with giants like Amazon, retail analyst Bruce Winder told Retail Insider’s Mario Toneguzzi earlier this month.
Retail Insider founder Craig Patterson says even as "reopening" strategies unfold, there have been a "fairly substantial" amount of bankruptcy filings and closures, which he expects to continue into the fall.
"From there we’re going to see the December holiday shopping season which some retailers will look to hopefully recoup some losses and maybe keep operational," he told Toneguzzi. "But depending on things like a second wave, we don’t know where that’s going to go.
" I think January of 2021 is going to be a bloodbath. I think we’re going to see a substantial amount of store closures in Canada — probably the most we’ve seen in our lifetimes in such a short period of time," he added.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.