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Bayside sold, Sarnia is no longer in the mall business

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 11:02 -- Chris Cooke
cover of First Monday featuring photos of Bayside Mall and the Entropex building

After two years with two owners with grandiose plans and little cash it appears the Bayside Mall has finally landed on the real deal.

Seasons Retirement Communities of Oakville, a company funded mostly by the Labourer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA) paid more $3 million and plans to build a high - rise retirement residence.  

Rick Smyth, the company’s CEO showed up at Council this month to explain that Seasons had purchased the leasehold interest in the mall and had taken out Chilton Capital of Toronto, the latest owner.

Chilton bought the struggling mall last fall after a proposal from Wilsondale Assets Management of Vaughan erupted into a legal fight and financial chaos.

Since then little has happened at the mostly empty 371,000 square foot mall.

Smyth told Council local media has been pestering him for information about Seasons and its proposal but that it is “just premature”.

Seasons which has $500 million is assets, $200 million in projects with 18 retirement residences in Ontario and Alberta will need the rest of this year to develop plans for Bayside.

Smyth says there will be 140 to 160 residences for seniors along with 75 full and part – time jobs.

The mall currently houses the Lambton County Shared Services Centre (social services), Service Ontario and the Provincial Offences Court and a few small retail tenants.

Smyth told Council the existing tenants will be “affected positively” by his company’s ownership. Architects are being sought to draft plans with work to start next year.

He described the Bayside as “perfect” for a retirement residence due to its proximity to neighbouring businesses and Bluewater Health.

David Boushy described the job creation as “amazing”.

Boushy told First Monday Smyth impressed him.  “He is solid and his company appears to be solid. I think Seasons will bring a lot to downtown”.

Mayor Mike Bradley says the new owner has “credibility across the Province and is backed by a large pension fund with strong connections to LiUNA”. The only role the City has is to transfer the ground lease, which is a technicality.

Bradley says he knows from affidavits last year that Seasons has been in play at Bayside since then.

Bradley says he hopes the new owners will make the 700 underground parking  spaces “a 24 hour operation to benefit all of downtown at reasonable rates”.

Bradley pointed out that Sarnia is fortunate to find this company to repurpose the property. “Malls in Ontario are going through a slow death and I’m pleased the City didn’t end up in the mall business which almost happened”.

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