Growth on the Golden Mile

Published Wednesday September 10th, 2008 - Telegraph Journal

Development New stores could act as catalysts for further expansion on the west side

SAINT JOHN - Retailers have their eyes set on the Golden Mile as the west side thoroughfare undergoes the early stages of a makeover.

A proposed new Canadian Tire outlet and confirmed Sobeys store and strip mall on Fairville Boulevard are expected to attract further investment, reinventing the area into a commercial strip.

Canadian Tire plans to build a new, larger store on the boulevard, featuring a Marks Work Wearhouse outlet, said Coun. Bill Farren. The new store, he said, will be located at the abandoned building next to the Cox Electronics and Communications site.

Farren, who said he received new information about the Canadian Tire development during meetings with company officials, added the current store will be torn down and transformed into a parking lot when the new one is built, expected by December 2009.

The larger store would be complemented by a new Sobeys location, expected to be open early this winter, and a strip mall, slated for construction on the current Saint John Transit building by next summer.

A Canadian Tire official would not confirm Farren's comments on the details of the new location, saying the retailer is looking at "possibly expanding" its presence on the west side.

"This is going to be a starting point and once the first businesses are opened, the rest will fall in place," said Blaine Harris, secretary treasurer of the Saint John West Business Association.

"The Golden Mile can very possibly be the new main street."

Harris said the association is looking to attract Empire Theatres and fast-food retailers to the west side, particularly Fairville Boulevard. He said the developments slated for the area can only help those efforts.

"With Sobeys building their new store, scheduled to be open by November or December, it's definitely going to help bring an upswing for retail business on the west side," said Harris. "It's really going to be a new focal point."

Farren said he has met with Canadian Tire and retail officials in his bid to draw more business to the west side. He said those meetings, which took place in Toronto and Saint John last month, were part of an election commitment to drum up more retail development for his ward.

During his trip to Toronto, Farren also met with a prominent real estate official, who he said is connected with 15 major retailers. This official, who Farren wouldn't name, is expected to link the councillor with executives working for these retailers in the hopes of drumming up business on Saint John's west side.

"(Constituents) told me very loud and clear that they are sick and tired of going to east Saint John to do their shopping and I promised them I would do what I could," said Farren. "It was my campaign promise and I paid for the trip out of my own pocket."

Farren's commitment comes after Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, walked away last year from a proposal to build a new store on Fairville Boulevard.

Prominent developer John Rocca said the new projects slated for the Golden Mile will likely attract more development - and it may even originate from the city's east end.

"The retailers that have been successful out east might have had an opportunity for a second location on the west side; but the problem is no one wanted to take the leadership in locating to a light industrial area for fear no one would follow them," said Rocca, president of Ellerdale Investments.

"When you have a Canadian Tire and a Sobeys, you get the comfort level that it will happen."

Canadian Tire has an application before common council to rezone the proposed location of the new store for shopping centre development. Company officials appeared before a planning advisory committee hearing Tuesday night and a public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Coun. Bill Farren stands in front of Canadian Tire's west side location. The veteran politician says he's fulfilling a campaign promise by working to attract retailers to his ward.