Empty mall needs shoppers

Ten months after tenants started moving into the still mostly empty New Horizon Mall just north of Calgary, its first anchor tenant is being announced this week.

That means the grand opening originally scheduled for October could take place — at last — this spring, says Eli Swirsky, president of The Torgan Group, which developed the Asian bazaar-style centre in conjunction with its partner, MPI Property Group.

The Calgary anchor tenant is The Best Shop, which operates a store described as a "Chinese Walmart" in Toronto's Pacific Mall, a similar shopping centre opened by The Torgan Group about 20 years ago.

Negotiations are nearing completion for an unnamed second anchor store, which Swirsky said is in food merchandising but not a restaurant or grocery store.

"It took two years with Pacific Mall to get to full occupancy and I think we're going to match the same. I think those two anchors are going to provide a major momentum for other tenants to come in," said Swirsky in an interview.

Unlike most shopping centres in Canada, about 70 per cent of New Horizon Mall's retail space has been sold to individual investors who have the option of leasing to others or operating their spaces themselves. The rest of the space — about 80,000 square feet — is being held by the developer for anchor tenants.

The mall began allowing tenants to set up their shops in May of 2018 but only nine of its 517 spaces were occupied by last September. It says The Best Shop's opening will take the total number of shops to 73.

According to the mall, the store's products will include mahjong tables and an extremely small washing machine that sells for around $100, plus brands such as Haier and Midea that are popular in China but relatively unknown in Canada. It will be the second outlet in Canada.

Best Shop is getting about eight months of free rent and financial help with improvements on its 15,000-square-foot space, Swirsky said, adding the mall is also offering to help unit owners cover the costs of bringing in tenants to occupy spaces they own.

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