$72-million makeover in works for Mayfair mall

Mayfair Shopping Centre announced Tuesday it will undergo a $72-million expansion that will replace parking lots along Douglas Street with 100,000 square feet of new retail space, add a rooftop parkade, improve street and vehicle access and update the mall interiors.

“In our market, competitors have done their thing. Now it’s our turn,” said general manager Laura Poland.

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Poland kept mum on who the new tenants might be, but said the expansion will include fashion and lifestyle retailers.

“Fashion is what we do very well,” said Poland, noting exclusive retailers such as Aritzia and Sephora have drawn shoppers from afar.

Designs for the expansion show two large retail spaces at either end with a new entrance, sidewalks, outdoor seating and possible restaurant space.

“It is on the wish list,” Poland said. The entire mall will get new flooring, lighting and furniture, as well as another set of washrooms at the south end and a new escalator to the parkade — which will add about 500 spots and have two exit/entrances.

Graeme Silvera, vice-president of retail development for Mayfair owners Ivanhoé Cambridge, said the ability to draw exclusive retailers to the region and improve accessibility to the mall were major drivers in the investment. The international real estate firm also owns and recently renovated Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo.

He said it is important to “maintain the functionality and access of the Douglas Street entrance,” so there will be a covered access zone for vehicles, as well as two bus stops, bicycle parking and a potential light rail line.

Additional ramps and traffic lights will improve flow, he said. The Douglas and Finlayson area will be “highly urbanized with sidewalks and trees.”

Silvera said site prep work will begin next month, but full construction will not begin until January. The company is still in the process of obtaining permits from the City of Victoria.

The project is slated for completion by fall 2018.

Acting mayor and city councillor Jeremy Loveday said: “I’m glad the investment is going here in Victoria rather than somewhere else. It’s a competitive market.”

Loveday said the plans appear to make the vicinity more livable and create a neighbourhood centre, “rather than a highway with a parking lot along Douglas Street.” He said this is a positive development for an area that is seeing more residences built.

Mayfair is one of Canada’s best performing shopping centres, with “sales approaching double-digit growth,” said Roman Drohomirecki, executive vice-president and CEO of Ivanhoé Cambridge.

He told the crowd at the launch event: “Great malls like Mayfair are not dying, they are being reinvented.”

University of Victoria business professor Brock Smith said it’s especially important to update malls such as Mayfair because there is more competition in urban settings. “Mayfair needs to up its game to attract consumers,” he said, noting competition from online shopping is also a factor.

“Many people, however, don’t want to wait for product to arrive, want to see it first or want to try it on. So physical retail is still needed,” he said.

Smith said malls also need to differentiate themselves from each other. “This is typically done by having some unique store brands,” he said, adding he has no idea who the new retailers at Mayfair will be. “But a Cabela’s [outdoor gear store] would be nice.”

Smith said the local malls are spending a lot of money to maintain their competitive edge.

Mayfair opened in 1963 with 26 stores. CIBC is one of the only remaining original tenants. The mall now has 120 stores and four million visitors each year.

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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