A major redevelopment will soon begin in Brockville, Ont., transforming the Brockville Shopping Centre into a multi-use hub.
Locally known as the ‘Zellers Mall’, the property has been a shell of its former self, with Zellers leaving in 2013, and the mall’s grocery store closing its doors in 2016.
“The days of the large malls, it’s gone,” said Brockville resident Robert McNish sitting in his truck in the parking lot. “It does need to be revamped.”
That revamp seems to be coming to fruition, with a revitalization project on the way that will transform the property to include a sports dome, a medical facility and two new apartment complexes.
Brockville city council has already approved the official plan and zoning bylaw amendments.
“Our community partners play an essential role in making sure that we can put the right type of uses and programs in place,” property owner Jameel Madhani told CTV News Ottawa on Wednesday.
“Over the last four years, we came more connected to issues and the priorities of the community in this neighbourhood, and of entrepreneurs in the area,” Madhani said, some of which have joined the project as tenants and partners.
One of those partners is Connect Youth, which is currently working out of the former TD Bank. Interim executive director Robyn Holmes says they have invested in the capital project to be able to expand and offer more services.
“It’s a unique site in that any youth or adult or senior regardless of their economic background, their gender their identity will feel welcomed and included here,” Holmes said.
Connect Youth is also aiming to partner with the John Howard Society out of Kingston at the location.
“It will see our agency and John Howard staff having offices with approximately six short-term residential units that will allow us to provide some programming for homeless individuals in Leeds and Grenville,” Holmes said.
She noted that it can allow their clientele to see some better intergenerational opportunities for programming, recreation, and cultural involvement in the community.
“To have opportunities for mentorship, to learn entrepreneurship, to be really involved in the development and the sustainability for the project here,” Holmes said. “Our clients can be immersed in the community and feel welcomed and valued and to be able to participate and offer their skills and this is a perfect place to do so with this redevelopment.”
Madhani says the location, with prime Highway 401 frontage, can also be used as a calling card for passersby.
“There is a real opportunity to do something special, there is no doubt,” he said. “The intent is very to much to provide for the local community as much as it might be to drive tourism.
Stingers Paintball, Dairy Queen and the Beer Store will stay in their current locations, with the middle section of the centre demolished and revamped.
“As long as they use it for something that is good for the community,” said McNish about the current proposal, with hopes some of the new living units will be affordable.
“You can’t just go and throw in high-priced apartments for certain individuals. It has to be for everybody,” he said.
Medhani says affordable housing has always been in the discussion.
“We are very committed to the long-term wellness of the community….so bridging divides in ages and incomes,’ Madhani said, adding housing issues are a nationwide problem at the moment.
“We’re looking to add to the housing supply to try and bring balance,” he said. “We’re looking at how we can use the project to have young families think differently about the community when they are driving between some of the larger cities around the neighbourhood to have reason to think that actually Brockville is ready for the next generation for them to raise their families.”
Madhani also noted this is a multiple-year project, and housing affordability issues will be discussed throughout the entire process.
“We’re not sure yet exactly how the new site plan is going to be laid out,” he said. “In fact, we are in the process of reviewing it at the moment, nor have we confirmed which tenants would be interested in locating here. But the focus is to promote as much small business as we can.”
“Jameel has a really solid understanding of the Brockville community,” added Holmes. “He has a history with this community with his family and he’s really committed to seeing the development move forward.”
“The change will not be immediate, it will take some time and it’s kind of something that Jameel and his team have really involved multiple stakeholders, and taking their time and making sure that the redevelopment is really meeting the needs of everybody here in Brockville,” Holmes said.
“Our focus is how we can drive wellness holistically, promoting active lifestyles, enhancing walk in stores, and housing formats and really just being a bridge from the historic one-stop shop that this project was 15 years ago and before to what the needs are in the next generation,” Madhani added.
The first phase of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2023.