West side turning into the happenin' place

SAINT JOHN - After watching the dizzying development on the other side of the city, people on the west side felt they were being left in the construction dust billowing up from the east side.



The new Sobeys, at right of photo, is doing boffo business off Fairville Boulevard and its former location will reputedly become a new super Lawtons. In addition, Plazacorp is planning a development at the old site of Saint John Transit.


Now development is coming across the bridge and to the west side.

The new Sobeys has already opened off Fairville Boulevard and the Saint John West Business Association says the old Sobeys site will be developed as a super Lawtons, but the drug store giant hasn't confirmed its plans yet.

"The evidence is out there that it's starting to come this way," association president Owen Boyle said. "We feel it's all going to gel here in the spring."

Plazacorp has already begun work behind the current Saint John Transit building, which will be torn down by mid-summer. The project is being done in three phases.

Ground was broken at the new east side home of Saint John Transit on the corner of Loch Lomond Road and McDonald Street last March, with completion of the $22-million project slated for the end of June. The old facility is slated for demolition and then Plazacorp will build the other two phases of its project.

Plazacorp president Michel Zakuta wouldn't divulge what stores will be located in his company's development, but there will be at least 12 stores that will run the retail gamut and include a restaurant.

"What you're seeing is the larger building going up," Zakuta said of the current construction.

There will be approximately 60,000 square feet of retail space when all three buildings are finished.

"We're under construction," Zakuta said. "We've leased some space and the first doors will be opening in the fall."

Development started to shift to the west side when Counsel Corp. of Toronto bought the Lancaster Mall in 2006 and then began a $13-million facelift.

The renovations included a 17,000-square-foot, stand-alone store in the parking lot of the mall for Shoppers Drug Mart, and a 12,000-square-foot expansion of Zellers.

A new Canadian Tire is also slated to replace the current one on Fairville Boulevard.

"It's obviously going in the right direction," Zakuta said.

While developers question the state of the economy in the rest of the country, Zakuta said Atlantic Canada is a stable market because the expectations aren't as grandiose as the rest of Canada.

"We're very bullish about the area."

Zakuta said retailers are looking toward the east coast.

"I'm here with national retailers and they're positive about Atlantic Canada," Zakuta said.

"I can't say that they're positive about other areas of Canada."


 Published Wednesday January 21st, 2009 - Telegraph Journal