Considered the poor cousin of enclosed shopping malls by its previous owner OneREIT, Elgin Mall has wonderful potential according to the small, family owned real estate investment company that acquired the 263,000-square-foot property last month.
Brothers Jay and Mory Burstein are adamant their intention is not to demolish the retail centre that first opened in 1975.
“Our goal is to try and lease the vacant space as quickly as possible and try to make this mall the vibrant place it once was,” Jay assured in an interview this week.
An optimistic game plan for a mall that is operating at a roughly 50 per cent vacancy rate.
But their vision appears to have caught favour with city residents who would love to see the mall return to its former glory. And that’s according to more than 100 favourable comments posted on the T-J Facebook page in a span of less than 12 hours.
Here’s a small sampling.
“Absolutely thrilled! Miss the old Elgin Mall,” writes Sandra Mudge.
“Oh man its about time! Better than going to London all the time,” adds Jenna Oldham.
Curt Beleutz concurs, “So true. And it would be lovely to see that mall get back to its former glory.”
Jaylene Barker has some astute advice. “I think it would be wise for the new owners to either follow this thread or give the public an input. I’ve lived in a town much smaller then St. Thomas that was landlocked meaning I couldn’t just drive to another town to get something. And our mall was incredibly popular because of it. Step one is putting in things that are needed vs. Putting in things that individuals want.”
Good point Jaylene and we contacted the brothers Burstein on Friday with that suggestion.
Jay responded quickly,”I read through some of them and yeah a lot of good ones! Great to see and hopefully this will be a benefit to the mall!”
Not everyone is a believer, however, as witness this observation from Johathan Blair.
“Any small mall that loses its only anchor store is doomed. I’ve seen many turned into call centres across small city Canada. And outlet store shopping centres only work off major highways.”
Funny you should mention outlet centre. That was a common theme with posters.
“An outlet mall would being people from all around st. Thomas …just don’t make the rent to high,” writes Brenda Austin.
“Turn it in to a Factory Outlet Mall. High-end, brand-name products. People will travel from London for this,” predicts Steven McNeil.
Victoria Spencer checks in with, “I’d love to see an outlet mall … all the big brands and much needed brands for teens … that would also drive tourism to the city.”
Stacey Tennant Colquhoun makes the same pitch with, “I really think that it could be turned into an outlet mall. There are enough traditional malls within driving distance but an outlet mall would turn it into a destination for shopping. I remember having people drive up to an hour and a half to shop at the Cotton Ginny outlet, when it was located there.”
An outlet mall has support in high places, with the city’s biggest booster Bob Hammersley, president and CEO of St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce, putting in a plug in a May, 2015 interview with T-J reporter Eric Bunnell.
“What’s wrong with St. Thomas becoming an outlet centre that is a haven for brand names, clearout centres, things like that? Those outlet malls we see up and down I-75 in the States, I’d love to see one here.”
One benefit to Thursday’s announcement, Elgin Mall is getting top-of-mind awareness again.
Are strip malls and small indoor shopping centres the dinosaurs of our time, doomed to extinction when competing with online shopping?
Cherryhill Village Mall in London sure is thriving, even after losing its LCBO outlet.
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Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the mall opened in 1978.
Steve Peters checked in with us during the week to note today (Nov. 12) marks 25 years to the day when he came up through the middle to knock aside Cliff Barwick and Janet Golding and lay claim to the mayor’s office.
At the time, the victory made him the youngest mayor in Canada.
And there’s more than a few in St. Thomas wishing the former A&P stock clerk would reprise his career in municipal politics.
What do you say Steve?
“I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I’ve cut enough ribbons, eaten enough chicken and beef dinners . . .”
A SLIPPERY SLOPE
Steve may not be returning to office, however the tubes will be back on the slopes next February in aid of the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Foundation.
In a letter to city council to be dealt with Monday, foundation executive director advises the second edition of the World Tubing Championships are scheduled for Family Day weekend.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit us on FacebookFollow @ianscityscope