ESTEVAN — The Estevan Market Mall continues to make progress with their renovations and development plans.
Martin Blair, managing director of First Aberdeen Properties Ltd., which owns the mall, recently invited Estevan city council for a tour to talk about what's been done, what's happening now, what can be achieved in the future and how it can affect and benefit the city and the community.
The tour started on the south side of the mall – the area which has been actively developing since the change of ownership. Since there is a multi-residential area on the south side of the mall, the new owners wanted to ensure that people would have easy walking access to the facility, so they started turning it into a 360-degree building.
"I think we're going in the right direction," Blair told councillors during the tour.
He noted that the entire site has become very important for them, and they see a lot of development and growth opportunities in Estevan.
Since possession, the owners installed a new underground storm system and have done many other structural changes to help with any further progress on the property. Last year they built a concrete parking lot on the south side and started other improvements such as a free bicycle repair station, pathways and some beautification.
"We want to get people coming back and forth and engaging the mall as really part of the community. So that's what really drove that [south side development] … We put the sidewalk program in to help encourage things, but we do need the city to do a little bit of a curb ramp there at some point," Blair said.
Tesla installed their charging station this year on the south side, which has a capacity for other electric vehicles charging. The mall has already noticed people using it, which Blair believes will be beneficial for them and the community alike.
"This is a level 1 charge station. That's the level you can get right now in Canada. So for your Tesla, it's about 15 to 20 minutes for a full charge," Blair said, adding that there were already people out of the community using the charging station on their way from B.C. to Quebec.
Once Tesla installs a charging station, it appears on its system, and all drivers know that it's there. Having it by the mall gives drivers and passengers something to do while their electric vehicle is charging, which also stimulates the local economy.
During the tour, Blair also pointed out that the mall has 10,000 square feet of space on the second level on the south side, which one day used to be Walmart offices. Now this room is planned to be used to create opportunities for local business development.
"It's all been gutted and cleared out. And all along that upper wall will be all windows … This is going to be a two-storey glass entrance here. And then are we putting in a glass elevator that will allow the handicap [access] and [for everyone] else to be able to access the 10,000 square feet of what we here call the hub business centre," Blair said.
"So you can see what we're trying to create here, whether it will go this way or not. But if we could really have a 90-person call centre here, we got parking for it, they could live across the street, they can have coffee in our food court [which is coming up soon], and at 4:30, they can go down to Studio C [Fitness], and they can do all that at minus 20 without going outside. It's a convenience that you expect in a place like Vancouver or Edmonton, but it's something that actually can happen right here, which is really, really unique, so we wanted to capitalize on that."
The look of the south side of the mall continues to change with more landscaping, and they hope for it to become a popular arrival point.
They started updating their lighting system, installing LED lights on the building and the property.
The mall also plans for the development of the land south of the main building, where they hope one day to see single-storey professional buildings, accommodating specialists like doctors, lawyers and more.
The land behind Canadian Tire is also part of the mall's property, and they started working on a water management system there with hopes for a future subdivision and potential development opportunities for something more dense, probably a high-rise residential structure or assisted living building.
Work also has been done on the side of Canadian Tire, which is part of the mall's property as well, to improve the drainage system in the area.
"This one will allow it to detain or hold water for a while and slowly move it into the city system," Blair said. "We also started planting trees and rocks along the back as well and mainly around some of the garbage disposals."
The road on the east side of the mall was paved and redone to allow for better communication throughout the property.
On the front of the building, the renovations are progressing from east to west, starting from Peavey Mart the first year, with Dollarama’s storefront and adjacent area under construction now, and The Brick and Mark's on schedule next.
"We know they're going to be long-term tenants with us, so we want to make it better for them," noted Blair when talking about their relationships with tenants and their approach to renovations.
As they are proceeding with upgrades, they are improving the general appearance as well as the sidewalk system and pedestrian safety by installing separation islands, various landscapes and pieces such as permanent bike racks, garbage cans, benches and more.
"That's going to provide some comfort for pedestrians to feel comfortable walk along here, have a coffee, chat and not worry about somebody coming and going to get run over. We got to get that safety factor on the sidewalk, so that's part of our program going from east to west," Blair said.
One of the most exciting news Blair had to share is the food court now under construction in the central part of the building. With it coming up, the mall will completely redo their main entrance, which will be two-storey-high glass with sliding doors. It will also have a new north parking lot entrance straight through Pine Avenue.
"This mall hasn't had the accesses changed since it was built 50 years ago ... So the city worked with us and they're in the process right now, you can actually see the staking there for installing that new controlled intersection," Blair said, adding that they will keep the previous access by Tim Hortons, but will put a "pie" in the middle to regulate traffic flows better.
The food court will have a separate entrance to allow for independent work hours. It's also planned to have at least three tenants. Blair said for the tenants they are considering a coffee shop, potentially a Japanese cuisine like Edo, Booster Juice and others. They want to give the food court a modern and industrial look with a lot of sitting spaces and options.
New modern bathrooms will replace old ones on the ends of the building and will be located by the food court.
The mall hopes to have the food court front redone before the snow as they want to work on the inside over the winter.
"Our focus really right now is … that new entrance. That new entrance is incredibly important for us," Blair said.
He also noted that all the changes they are putting in place are happening while businesses keep serving the community, which means they can't be too aggressive with the renovations so that they don't interrupt the business.
The detailed plans for the new food court and other mall changes are now on display inside the building.
For the former Ardene space, the plan is to have up to five smaller-size pop-up stores. The shorter-term rent (three months to a year) will allow smaller retailers to try out space before making a long-term decision. Besides, subdividing the space will create more shopping opportunities for the community.
Last but not least, a major stop of the tour was the area previously used for the Christmas Farmers Markets, and which is currently under construction for the newest business coming to Estevan – a golf and baseball simulator. For more on that, see future editions of the Mercury.