Nanaimo’s Longwood Station shopping centre sold for $33.1 million

The Longwood Station shopping mall, located in Nanaimo's north end, was sold last week for $33.1 million.

The 106,000 square-foot shopping centre was sold by Calgarybased First Capital Realty to Great-West Life, a leading Canadian insurance company that is also a major shareholder in Country Club Centre.

Ralph Huizinga, First Capital's vice-president of acquisition and development, said the company decided to put the Longwood Station on the market approximately two months ago because it is now focusing more of its time and attention on assets in larger urban centres.

But, he said, First Capital intends to hold on to the Port Place shopping centre in Nanaimo's downtown centre, its only other property in the city, "for the time being."

The company has completely revamped Port Place in recent years and has spent more than $18 million to convert it into a modern, outward-facing "urban village" mall.

"Longwood Station was not one of our core assets, but it was sad to see it go because it was one of the first purchases I helped make for First Capital when I first began with the company seven years ago," Huizinga said Friday from his Calgary office.

"But First Realty has decided to recycle its capital into urban markets. We did put Port Place on the market at the same time as Longwood Station but we were not happy with the response. That didn't upset me because a lot of work went into Port Place and it has not had the opportunity to demonstrate its value yet in a reinvigorated downtown core."

The major tenants at Longwood Station include Thrifty Foods, TD Canada Trust, Boston Pizza and a B.C. Liquor Store, and Huizinga said he doesn't expect any major changes to the shopping centre with its new owners. "It's functioning well as it is and while there might be some changes in tenants, I don't expect that there will be any major changes to the structure of the centre," he said.

Jason Winton, a commercial relator with Colliers International, said it's becoming increasingly common for real estate trusts like First Capital to pull out of "secondary markets" like Nanaimo and focus more on larger urban centres.

He said asset management companies like Great-West Life that manage portfolios for pools of investors and pension funds are picking up these facilities in many cases.

"A lot are interested in Nanaimo because they see the local market as a good fit for them," Winton said.

"I expect that Great-West Life's puchase of Longwood Station will be a passive investment and there won't be any major changes there anytime soon."

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