Garden City Shopping Centre is almost ready to fill the void left by Sears, as workers complete renovations that should be finished by November at the latest.
Former mall co-owners RioCan REIT and Bayfield Realty Advisors bought Sears' portion of the shopping centre for $8 million in October, 2017 after Sears Canada went belly-up. RioCan is now the mall's sole owner, after buying out Bayfield's stake in a deal that closed this past June.
The 92,000 square foot wing formerly occupied by Sears will have as many as six new tenants, but only three have been announced so far. A Bulk Barn opened in August, and a Michaels arts and crafts supply store will occupy about 22,000 square feet. The major tenant in the former Sears space will be a 44,000 square foot Seafood City Supermarket, a Filipino grocery store chain based in California. Winnipeg's Seafood City store will be the chain's second in Canada, following a location in Mississauga, Ont.
The remaining three units, totalling approximately 10,000 square feet, could be leased as one large unit or multiple smaller units, said RioCan property manager Rebecca Hyatt.
The reopening of the revamped Sears location follows a general mall makeover project that began in 2016, Hyatt said.
"When RioCan decided to freshen up the centre, they just realized it just needed something. The store mix was starting to get a little slow, some of the tenants were leaving… They wanted to make the mall more inviting."
The renovations brightened up the mall by doing away with the old, brownish floor in favour of new tiling. Low bulkheads that previously hung above the mall's hallways were raised.
"It made it feel taller, and now we have these clean sight lines," said Hyatt.
For Manitobans who haven't visited Garden City in recent years, Hyatt pitched the mall near Winnipeg's northern boundary as a friendly, clean destination for shoppers. It's also accessible, with upgraded bathrooms and no stairs.
"Traffic-wise, it's a no-brainer to come here," Hyatt said. "It's so easy to get here, we have so many parking stalls, people aren't trying to fit into tiny little spots."
The new tenants at the former Sears site aren't the only upcoming additions to Garden City Shopping Centre. A new, freestanding structure being built in a corner of the parking lot near the intersection of Leila Ave. and McPhillips St. will house two new tenants, although Hyatt couldn't disclose their identities.
But the property manager did hint that another unused mall space could soon see new life: the former Garden City Cinemas location, which closed its doors in August, 2010.
"We have a little birdie telling us that maybe our theatre might come back to life again in the next couple years," said Hyatt. "They haven't disclosed what the use is going to be yet, but someone's looking at renovating that space."
Garden City Shopping Centre will celebrate its fiftieth birthday in 2020. It opened on August 12, 1970, with major tenants including the Simpson-Sears department store, Famous Players cinema and a Dominion Stores grocery store.
Dominion Stores brought Domino the steer, a red-and-white Angus bull who was the world's largest steer at the time, to the mall to help promote the new grocery store during opening week.
The bull stood more than twelve feet tall and weighed more than 3,000 pounds, according to a contemporary Free Press report. He was ultimately exhibited in the parking lot after failing to fit through the mall's ten-foot-high doors.
"Efforts to move the animal in on his side also proved impractical," reported the Free Press in 1970.
Solomon Israel is the full-time cannabis reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and its national cannabis news website, TheLeafNews.com. He covers the social, legal, medical and scientific aspects of marijuana legalization in Manitoba and the rest of Canada.
Updated on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 3:32 PM CDT: Removes extraneous words.