Vancouver company eyes Smithers Shopping Centre

A Vancouver-based commercial property company is getting close to inking a deal to buy Maple Park Mall, along with six other shopping centres, located in British Columbia and Alberta, including Smithers.

Sunstone Realty Advisors, with a portfolio of revenue properties throughout Canada, looks for commercial properties to revitalize through solid business management.

Sunstone co-owner Steve Evans said his company plans to re-tenant the South Quesnel shopping centre.

“Our goal is to revive the mall,” he said.

“It’s been fairly vacant in past years and needs an anchor. So we’re going to look at bringing a large anchor in – it’s the key to draw consumer traffic and make the whole mall viable again.”

Nestled on the hill, Maple Park mall sits at a 75 per cent vacancy rate with only 15 tenants in the 147,397-sq. ft space.

“We have a high vacancy rate because our two anchor spaces are vacant,” Mall manager Sherry White said.

“When Wal-Mart went in, Zellers decided to close and Extra Foods relocated across the street to put in a larger store and gas pumps.”

The 26-year-old shopping centre has seen better days, but Evans said he hopes his company can turn it all around.

It’s a plan hinging on attracting an anchor such as a grocery store or big box. Without a draw, smaller tenants struggle to stay alive.

“There’s a greater difficulty to survive,” he said.

With one or two anchors, the other, smaller tenants spin off better.”

The mall’s current owner, Retrocom Mid-Market Real Estate Investment Trust, announced Jan. 2, it entered into an agreement to sell seven properties totaling 694,000 sq. ft. to Sunstone for $73.3 million, which is still subject to financing. Both companies expect the deal to close February.

Retrocom, an Ontario-based open-end real estate investment trust, said it’s already planning what to do with the money from the sale.

“Mortgages in the amount of approximately $40.2 million will be discharged or assumed by the purchaser (Sunstone), and the remainder of the net proceeds, estimated to be up to $33.1 million (less costs) will be used to continue to invest in the balance of our portfolio, reduce short-term debt and buy back units through a normal course of issuer bid,” Retrocom’s chief executive officer David Fiume said.

Chamber of Commerce president Camae Lyn welcomed the news, adding Maple Park mall is a good development that shouldn’t sit empty.

“The last thing we like to see is the building sit empty,” she said.

“It’s been the talk of the town ever since it lost so many tenants.

There’s a large residential population in South Quesnel, so it’s nice to see business there to support people.

“Traditionally an attraction for people, Maple Park, like all malls, are good for shoppers, particularly in winter – so we don’t have to run outside.”

Other shopping centres involved in the deal include those in 100 Mile House, and Terrace.

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