News

Walmart planning big expansion at Pen Centre

By Karena Walter, The Standard

Walmart is planning to add an addition to the former Target store at the Pen Centre (right), building out south towards Sears and reconfiguring the mall entrance. Friday October 13, 2017 in St. Catharines, Ont. Karena Walter/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Walmart is planning to add an addition to the former Target store at the Pen Centre (right), building out south towards Sears and reconfiguring the mall entrance. Friday October 13, 2017 in St. Catharines, Ont. Karena Walter/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Walmart Canada’s plan to open a location at the Pen Centre is moving forward with a request to add a massive addition on the northeast side of the mall.

The giant retailer announced more than two years ago that it would open a fourth Walmart store in St. Catharines in the former Target space, but no work has been done on site.

But an updated building application submitted by Walmart to the city this week has the company planning to expand the Target store footprint by 50 per cent, building south into the current mall towards Sears and east into the parking lot.

Already, a strip of half a dozen stores on the east side of the mall — including Laura Secord, Bell and Bentley — have vacated their locations near Sears and moved to other parts of the centre.

Reached this week, Pen Centre General Manager John Bragagnolo said he couldn’t yet comment on the changes at the mall.

But a notice posted in the window of Turtle Pond Toys, one of the empty stores, informs customers that it had to move this summer because of Walmart’s expansion into the Sears Court where their store was located.

The notice says there wasn’t another good location for the toy store within the Pen Centre, so they had to say farewell after 16 years. Turtle Pond continues to run stores in Dundas and at Niagara Fallsview Casino. Its owners could not be reached Friday.

Walmart made an application to the city earlier to amend a site plan agreement so it can put on the addition. The city gave its feedback and asked for some revisions. This week Walmart re-submitted its plans with updates.

St. Catharines urban design planner Scott Ritchie said the current Target space is approximately 82,000 square feet on the main floor. Walmart’s addition would include 42,000 square feet of main floor space.

Walmart’s plans do not include running a retail space in the basement of the store like Target and Zellers before that did.

Ritchie said they do include reconfiguring some of the parking area and landscaping as well as shifting the northeast mall entrance further south.

Zoning changes aren’t required so approvals from the city won’t involve public meetings or city council approval.

City staff will review issues such as lighting, sewers, drainage, landscaping and architectural plans to ensure the engineering work is to the city’s standards.

“It’s reasonable to think that they’ll have their approvals from us by the end of the year,” Ritchie said. “How quickly they actually take those approvals and run with them and put a shovel in the ground, that’s up to them, but conceivably they could be in a position to do that in the not too distant future.”

The space in the northeast corner of the mall was a long-time Zellers store until the nationwide chain folded and U.S.-based Target bought up the stores for its expansion into Canada.

Target opened at the Pen Centre in late November 2013 after an extensive renovation of the property. Just over a year later in January 2015, Target announced it was closing all of its stores in Canada.

Walmart Canada announced in May 2015 that it had purchased 12 former Target sites across the country, including the Pen Centre site, for a total $165 million. At the time the company said that renovations to the outlets were expected to cost $185 million.

Walmart has not responded to repeated interview requests.

There are Walmart stores in St. Catharines at Fairview Mall, Welland Avenue and Vansickle Road off Fourth Avenue.

The updated plans for the Pen Centre location come at a time when the mall is about to lose a long-time anchor tenant in Sears. Sears Canada received court approval Friday to liquidate all its stores across the country.

kwalter@postmedia.com