There’s been a lot of speculation about the future of retail as the pandemic has forced more consumers to turn to online giants for all of their shopping, but a Cornwall developer is doubling down on its hometown with its purchase of Cornwall Square.
Weaving Baskets Group said it has acquired the 250,000-square-foot shopping centre to complement its portfolio of local properties, which include the Seaway Shopping Centre. It’s another move into commercial space that has traditionally been associated with retail but also has the potential to house other types of tenants.
The square sits at the corner of Pitt Street and Water Street East, making it ideal for access through two of Cornwall’s major downtown arteries. The two-level mall was built in 1979 and features 250,000 square feet of retail for more than 60 tenants. It also includes a four-level parking garage with 1,000 spaces, along with another 180 parking spaces in an open lot.
Ottawa Business Journal spoke with Tom Hughes, vice-president of WBG.
Why buy a mall now?
Weaving Baskets Group focuses on commercial and retail properties in Cornwall and (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry United Counties) areas. An indoor mall was the next step in the progression of the company. This mall, Cornwall Square, is the only indoor mall serving the entire SDG Counties. It is in need of a revitalization and was the perfect fit for our company. Although retail has taken a hit over the last couple of years, I think that if done properly, there is always a space for brick-and-mortar stores. There is nothing like touching and trying on the items that you are purchasing.
"There is nothing like touching and trying on the items that you are purchasing."
Do you think the size of the city being served matters?
Especially in the smaller cities, the mall has always been the anchor. Usually downtown and easy to get to, it's where people like to be as it's safe and warm. Especially in the cold of the winter.
What is your plan with this space?
There will always be a large percentage of retail. However, there may be some mixed use for the mall. I expect retail to remain a major component, but I think that more mixed uses will be required with the changing times. This would include retail, small business, medical/health, institutional and possibly a residential component.
When do you expect to have a plan in place?
That is unknown. We have architects and engineers working on some different proposals. I would hope to have something more solid in the next six months. The planning stage is the most crucial part of the process, and to execute this properly the planning stage could take a while.
What’s next for WBG and Cornwall Square?
Next step is to canvas the tenants, the City of Cornwall and people in the city to see what is needed. Once we know the needs of the people we will have a better understanding of how to move forward. The input of the community is vital to the success of the property. They are the people we rely on to visit and shop at the mall. If we don’t provide a service or business they need, then the chance of success is small.
What is WBG’s overall goal and how does buying this mall fit that goal?
Our goal is to grow in the commercial property world. The company started buying small properties, some as small as 3,000 square feet, then we grew into properties of 10,000-15,000 square feet. Now we are focusing on properties of 160,000-250,000 square feet. Along with the building fitting our model, we also want to see good things for Cornwall and the SDG area. These are the people that have supported us from the beginning with our properties and operating businesses and we want to do everything we can to provide them with another great property to visit in Cornwall.