Bayside Centre owners looking at 14-story senior’s residence as part of development

General manager says 'specialty' retail, grocery and pharmacy will play a role in downtown revitalization

Mike Service, general manager of Bayside Centre, came to Monday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Sarnia with more than a new set of colour renderings. He brought with him a sense of energy and optimism around what the property’s new owner has in mind for a revitalization of the downtown Sarnia he says is unlike anything that’s been attempted in the last 15 years.

That includes what is looking like a 14-storey senior’s residence made up of a combination of independent living apartments as well as increasingly dependent living units that would include meals and other services.

Service also said the new owners—largely Gord Laschinger, the majority owner of the Wilsondale Assets Management subsidiary that paid $1.7 million for the bankrupt asset last fall—are still in the planning stages for what will be built over the former Taylor’s Furniture building near Cromwell and Christina Street.

Separately but also owned by Laschinger’s company—Bayside Mall 2015 Inc.—the firm is also studying how the Drawbridge Inn might fit into the overall plans for downtown.

What Service did say was that the new owners are getting close to having a grocery chain signed up as a key tenant for Bayside, which ultimately will be rebranded as “Centre” rather than continuing with the use of “mall.”

“This will be a true centre, a place where people don’t come to shop as such but where they come to gather and shop downtown,” says Service.

The senior’s residence will be built on property currently operated by the Industry Theatre (the former Odeon Theatre). Service said the building will be demolished once the plans and various permitting are finalized.

The demand for senior’s housing is there, he said. “We believe Sarnia is about 1,000 beds short on the number of senior’s units needed and we think we can deliver on about 15% of those,” said Service.

He also said Bayside would like to attract a new-style LCBO (the nearest location is north of Bayside in the Kenwick Centre) that would be consistent with the provincially owned retailer’s strategy. “We’ve reserved the former Canadian Blood Services location for a new LCBO,” said Service.

The owners are also getting close to having a modern pharmacy signed up as a tenant, having spoken to at least two firms who have expressed an interest.

Also on the developer’s agenda is the creation of a “Market Square” that Service says will be positioned as a gathering place for downtown activities. The new owner has already purchased some six properties and is looking at others as well. At least one of those, the Temple Bar, will be demolished soon to make room for the open space.

All those plans, he stressed, are very much dependent on various approvals. although he said the vision of what Bayside Centre could become is getting clearer almost on a weekly basis.

Service did say that the new owners are very interested in hearing from members of the community as to what they’d like to see. A survey at the firm’s website——is the best way to record those ideas.

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