Doors about to open at Sandown shopping centre in North Saanich

The Canadian Tire store opening next month in North Saanich will mark a milestone for new commercial developments on the west side of the Patricia Bay Highway.

Two major sites on the north end of the Saanich Peninsula have been approved for new shopping centres. One is the 12-acre strip on the site of the former Sandown race track, owned by the Randall family and being rolled out in a phased development by Platform Properties of Vancouver.

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Slightly to the south, on Victoria Airport Authority land, Vancouver developer Omicron is planning its Sidney Crossing shopping centre on 10 acres, a project that requires approvals from the federal government. That development has yet to get started.

The Sidney Crossing project has faced opposition from Sidney merchants, who fear it will take business from locally owned shops.

The 49,000-square-foot Canadian Tire is the anchor and first tenant for Sandown Park Shopping Centre.

“We are preparing to open in late October, with a grand opening planned for early November,” Canadian Tire spokesman Ryan Cowieson said in a statement. “We chose the location on McDonald Park Road near the Patricia Bay Highway to better serve the North Saanich community.

“It also appealed to us for its proximity to Sidney, the Victoria International Airport and the ferry terminal.”

Platform Properties spokesman Andrew Sinclair said talks are underway with potential large and smaller tenants for the next phase of development, but there are no names to announce at this time. “Our goal and expectation is that we will be under some level of construction in the spring for that.”

Sidney Mayor Steve Price said he thinks local residents who would have left the area to shop at a Canadian Tire elsewhere will turn to the new store, thus helping reduce the number of vehicles on the highway.

The Sandown site does not include residential space. But Price would have liked to see it in the North Saanich development.

“It was a missed opportunity,” he said.

The Saanich Peninsula is experiencing a critical shortage of workforce housing, Price said, adding that after the Oct. 20 municipal election, perhaps the new North Saanich council could revisit Sandown commercial plans to add residential units.

Former Sidney councillor Cliff McNeil-Smith, who is running for the mayor’s job, said the Canadian Tire store will be “serious competition” for the community’s core.

If a business fails as a result of stiff new competition, that would affect the entire area’s ability to attract newcomers, he said.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finell said the Canadian Tire store will bring additional taxes to her municipality. A new service road to the store’s parking area has been built and the existing McDonald Park Road has been cleaned up. “It certainly looks a lot neater and tidier,” Finell said.

To win approval for the project, the Randalls donated 83 acres of the Sandown property to the municipality for agricultural use. In return, the remaining 12 acres were designated for commercial development.

Land reclamation was required, and Platform Properties is responsible for drainage work.

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