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Uptown leads commercial pack

Phase 2 on track but don't expect a new Ikea store at Saanich mall
Uptown Shopping Centre, anchored by Future Shop and other big box retailers, was assessed at $240 million.

Uptown Shopping Centre, which topped the 2012 assessment roll as Greater Victoria's most valuable commercial property, is on track to open its second phase this fall.

And despite a churning rumour mill that has Ikea, Target and Chinese grocery chain T&T Supermarket landing as major tenants, none of those retailers will be in Uptown's new development, says general manager Roberta Ferguson.

"We hear about Ikea all the time and, no, they are not coming," she said Thursday. "Ikea requires a much larger demographic than what is on the Island. Victoria has very expensive land and they build in more industrial areas and that's not what we have here."

Burlington, Ont.-based Ikea Canada confirmed it has no plans to open a store on the Island any time soon, leaving faithful fans of the Swedish-based home-furnishings retailer to take ferries to its Lower Mainland stores.

Uptown was by far the highest appraised commercial property in Greater Victoria for 2012 at $240 million, according to B.C. Assessment, which also has its head office at the Saanich shopping centre.

In fact, malls took seven of the top eight placings in the commercial category, with Mayfair Shopping Centre a distant second at $180 million, followed by Hillside Centre at $128 million.

The venerable Fairmont Empress Hotel was in fourth place with a value of $107 million, followed by Tillicum Centre and Langford's Millstream Village and Westshore Town Centre, respectively.

The Bay Centre, sold by Cadillac Fairview in May 2010 to Chicago-based LaSalle Investment Management for a reported $92 million to $100 million, finished eighth in the 2010 assessment roll with a value of $94 million.

The most valuable office building in the region is the Atrium - owned by the Jawl family and home to B.C. Ferries' head office - which is worth just under $75 million, according to B.C. Assessment.

Hillside Centre can expect to move up significantly in value next year. The Canada Pension Plan acquired the 431,000-square-foot mall from the Ontario Pension Board in September 2010 for $113.5 million and has started a $50-million renovation and expansion project that will include an 80,000square-foot addition on the east side of the property.

The two-level addition is expected to start in February and include Shoppers Drug Mart and two as-yet-unannounced anchors, as well as other stores.

Hillside is also receptive to expansion involving the current Zellers store if Target Corp., which owns the lease, wants to rebuild a new store on the site.

Target on Thursday announced the locations of its first 24 store openings in Canada in March and early April of 2013. All of the initial round of store openings were in Ontario. More announcements on Western Canada sites are expected in the coming days.

The mass merchant announced last year that it would open 125 to 135 stores in Canada after it bought the leasehold interests of 189 Zellers sites, including Tillicum and Hillside malls.

Uptown is being developed by Morguard, one of Canada's largest integrated real estate companies, with more than $9.2 billion in properties owned or under management. The region's 10th most valuable property, at 4000 Seymour Place in Saanich, is a four-storey office complex and data centre for the provincial government.

Uptown's assessed value will also rise significantly next year with 220,000 square feet of retail and 100,000 square feet of office space being prepared for the market.

The retail area in Uptown's first phase, comprising 439,000 square feet, is now 95 per cent leased. The office component in the initial phase, however, is hurting with just half of the 108,000 square feet leased, say officials.

Up to 300 construction workers have been labouring on the Phase 2 site for more than a year.

Ferguson said the project is expected to be completed in the fall, as scheduled. It includes two three-story buildings that will complete Uptown Boulevard, a four-storey building connecting the boulevard to the Blanshard Street side and a fivelevel parkade with 1,500 spots that will more than double parking on the site to 2,800 stalls.

Uptown has not announced any major tenants for Phase 2, but Ferguson indicated the development wants to attract big fashion retailers that are "firsts for the Island" as well as an organic-based grocery retailer for some of the 20,000-to 35,000squarefeet spots.

She also said there was no truth to a rumour that T&T Supermarket, the big Chinese grocery chain, was coming to Uptown.

The International Council of Shopping Centres annual convention later this month in Whistler is considered a key event for all mall operators. That's when almost every major retail chain rubs elbows with property managers looking to refresh and find the right mix.

"A year ago, we looked very different than we do now," said Ferguson, who expects to see several retail representatives flying over to tour the site.

The newest businesses to open at Uptown include David's Tea and Plenty, a B.C.-based clothing chain. Urban Nail Bar has signed a lease to open this spring.


Uptown Shopping Centre Saanich $239,789,630

Mayfair Shopping Centre Victoria $179,342,680

Hillside Shopping Centre Victoria $127,651,456

Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria $106,827,648

Tillicum Shopping Centre Saanich $97,018,711

Millstream Village Shopping Centre Langford $95,842,054

Westshore Town Centre Langford $94,898,388

Bay Centre Victoria $93,846,373

Atrium office building Victoria $74,625,407

4000 Seymour Place office building Saanich $50,037,980

SOURCE: B.C. Assessments