Elliot Lake’s new multi-million-dollar shopping plaza will be built by McCowan & Associates, a development firm based in Barrie with experience developing more than 40 similar shopping malls across the province.
After narrowing the field to two, Elliot Lake council selected the developer following a special meeting on Oct. 29.
William Elliott, general manager of the Elliot Lake and North Shore Corporation for Business Development (ELNOS), which is overseeing the new mall development, said McCowan brought to the table everything the city was seeking to meet the community’s needs.
“We really liked their design; it integrated very well with the downtown,” Elliott said. “We were very comfortable that these were the guys who were going to do a good job, understood the community and addressed all of the things that we had asked.”
McCowan has developed shopping malls mostly in secondary markets, including North Bay, Guelph, Kitchener, Ancaster and Goderich.
The new plaza will replace the former downtown mall, which was deemed unsafe after a portion of the roof collapsed down two floors, killing Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Dolores Perizzolo, 74, and injuring 20 others, on June 23.
Dubbed “Pearson Plaza” for its proximity to the downtown Lester B. Pearson Memorial Park, the new mall will be built on one level and will incorporate facades on three sides of the building. It also includes enclosed transit spaces between businesses, a nod to the city’s senior demographic.
The list of retailers who have signed up to set up shop in the new mall comprise a good mix, Elliott said, but the names of tenants aren’t being announced just yet—that will be left up to the developer.
Site preparation is currently being undertaken by Blind River-based J.I. Enterprises, which won the $3-million contract for the work in early October. Trees and soil have been removed from the site, and blasting is expected to start this week.
“We’re expecting the site to be done to shovel-ready conditions, which is what we’ve told the developers we’ll do for them, probably at the end of February,” Elliott said. “That’s our target date.”
He anticipates McCowan to get on site to start construction in March, but that date depends on weather conditions. In the meantime, the firm will be in the community working closely with the site developers on any revisions that need to be made to the plan.
Recovery of the city continues in other areas as well.
Premier Dalton McGuinty visited the city Oct. 25 to celebrate the opening of the Elliot Lake Centre for Development, which houses a business development centre. A day later, Foodland grocery store moved into temporary quarters to better serve the community, and other businesses have been tapping into the province’s $2-million emergency business continuity fund to help get them back up and running.
There’s been no word on what will happen at the old mall site, though the structure remains standing. Elliott said that the issue lies with the owner, Bob Nazarian, and the insurance company, and the city is limited in what it can do.
However, because of its unsafe conditions, the city has issued an order to prohibit use or occupancy on the property, which requires Nazarian to repair, renovate or demolish the structure. Nazarian and his company Eastwood Mall will have 30 days to respond.
Meanwhile, Justice Paul R. Bélanger, who has been appointed as commissioner for the public inquiry into the mall collapse, has been in the community hearing testimony from people who have been affected by the event.