Homeowners to benefit from redevelopment, says company behind initiative
An ambitious multi-year plan to breathe new life into Deerfoot Mall in north Calgary stands to benefit nearby homeowners in a big way, says the company behind the massive redevelopment.
In early 2016, Vancouver-based Shape Properties announced it would be transforming the decades-old property at Deerfoot Trail and 64th Avenue N.E. from a traditional closed mall into a state-of-the-art open shopping centre dubbed Deerfoot City, complete with everything from a restaurant campus to style district.
“For local property owners, Deerfoot City is nothing but a good story,” said Shape Properties executive vice-president Darren Kwiatkowski, whose company purchased the site from Ivanhoe Cambridge in 2011 for a reported $78 million.
“Having a centre like this only a short distance away is a great amenity. All you need to do is go visit the sales centers of new projects in whatever city you live in, and you’ll see them flagging shopping centres on their sales brochures of what’s nearby. It’s a big plus for the neighbourhood because regeneration is always good – new developments lead to more growth and renewal.”
Slated for completion by the first quarter of 2018, the 30-plus hectare Deerfoot City redevelopment will involve a transformation into a pedestrian-friendly shopping area, landscaped with outdoor pools, patios and bocce ball courts.
As part of the plan, retail space would more than double to 1.3 million square feet and also include a 250,000-square-foot office building. Already, the site has added a GoodLife Fitness location, retailers such as Fido, Rogers, Lenscrafters, EB Games and Flight Centre, as well as a number of quick-service restaurants on the north side of the property such as Smashburger, Booster Juice, McDonald’s, Quiznos and Menchies.
An Original Joes location is expected to open next month, along with a Canadian Tire store this fall.
A major demolition of the mall to create the new high street is to begin this spring with completion in the fall of 2017.
In addition to bars, restaurants and spaces for live entertainment, the property will also feature several anchor tenants making their first foray into the Calgary marketplace.
Some of these retailers include the 70,000-square-foot Cabela’s, an outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear that opened last fall; and a two-storey, 50,000 square-foot entertainment complex from Cineplex Entertainment called the Rec Room – only the second of its kind in Canada when it opens in Calgary in December, after the first opens in Edmonton this spring.
“When the property became available for sale in 2011, we realized this was an incredible opportunity with a location second to none in the city,” said Kwiatkowski.
“From a regional perspective, it has the highest highway traffic count in Alberta with almost 130,000 commuters passing by on Deerfoot Trail every day. There’s easy access to the airport and a trade area of 930,000 people, all within a 20-minute drive.
Kwiatkowski noted the shopping centre was previously in decline over the last 20 years, going from an A to C class asset over its life cycle. The mall’s anchor tenant, Sears Canada, vacated the property in fall 2012.
And despite its ideal location, he said there was not a lot of interest in the property from anyone prior to Shape’s involvement.
“So we said, let’s do a major transformation,” said Kwiatkowski. “Let’s build something new while making use of existing buildings where we can, turning an enclosed mall into an urbanized lifestyle setting, Calgary had nothing of that nature – nothing street-front, pedestrian friendly or highly landscaped.”
The next phases of construction, to be completed over the next two and a half years, involve three components:
• A fashion-focused area called the style district.
• A restaurant campus of six or seven various offerings.
• A food market, inspired by a ski lodge, where visitors can rest and warm up in front of a fireplace.
Despite the ease and convenience of online shopping, Kwiatkowski believes the authenticity of trying on clothes or seeing that ring in person presents an advantage for brick-and-mortar retailers moving forward in Calgary, said Kwiatkowski.
“It’s not fun taking photos of yourself when you’re in your basement on the computer,” said Kwiatkowski. “People are still drawn to shopping centres because tenants are making their offerings experiential, through incorporating restaurants, recreation centres and other amenities into an everyday lifestyle.”
Looking forward, Kwiatkowski also does not anticipate the current downturn in Alberta impacting retailers’ appetite for developments such as Deerfoot City to wane.
“Retailers are being more deliberate about their decisions and most are taking a long-term view,” he said. “They’re making 10- and 20- year decisions. They don’t think Calgary is going away, and 2015 was a big year with the leasing we did.”