Staff photo by Louie Rosella
MISSISSAUGA — Dixie Outlet Mall, a south Mississauga landmark since 1956, has been sold to a Canadian real estate investment giant, fuelling concerns from tenants and residents the mall will be torn down.
But in an interview with The Mississauga News this morning, Guy Charron, executive vice president of operations — retail sector for Quebec-based Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust, the new owner, said that isn’t in the plans.
“There is no status quo in retail. But there is great potential in Dixie Mall,” he said. “The mall will evolve. Our strong preference is to maintain the location as a retail location. This is not an acquisition for demolition. This is to maintain and to increase.”
In a massive deal finalized last fall, Cominar, one of the largest diversified real estate investment trusts in Canada and the largest commercial property owner and manager in Quebec, acquired Dixie Mall and 13 other shopping centres, office buildings and industrial properties from another Quebec real estate heavyweight, Ivanhoé Cambridge, for $1.24 billion. The other acquisitions are in Quebec and Toronto.
“This transaction is a key element in the implementation of our business plan which calls for the strategic refocusing of our investments,” said Daniel Fournier, Ivanhoé Cambridge’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The capital generated by this transaction can be recycled to invest in our properties in Quebec and across Canada, and our investment in Cominar allows us to support a leading Quebec company that has the necessary expertise to ensure the success of these properties.”
Cominar now owns more than 560 office, retail, and industrial buildings, totalling 45.4 million square feet, including the 416,000-square-foot Dixie Mall location on South Service Road.
Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey said he believes the City’s Official Plan, established to guide the city’s growth and development to the year 2031, allowed for further intensification on the site.
“It’s a viable mall and it seems to be very successful,” he said. “I would think any redevelopment would have to be mixed use and include a mall.”
While Charron said he would never close the door on residential development, particularly with Dixie Mall being in a location that’s “perfect for a residential project,” with all the nearby amenities and selling features such as a major highway, it’s not being considered at this time.
“We’re just not there. We’re not a big residential player,” he said.
Pointing to upgrades at Applewood Village Plaza and the large expansion project happening at nearby Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke, Charron said Cominar has to evaluate Dixie Mall and possibilities such as expansion, renovations and potentially adding entertainment-style tenants. There will also be limitations, he said. Cominar will have to explore adding new tenants, Charron said, but the company has not approached any of the mall’s more than 100 tenants to indicate their leases won’t be renewed. The goal for the immediate future, he said, is to “maintain” the mall’s current set-up, although he added some leases are up for renewal this year and in 2016.
This was welcome news to Maribel Magnaye, who manages Canadian bedding chain Quilts Etc. inside the mall.
“I heard they were going to make residential buildings, so of course when it (the mall) was sold, we were wondering what was going to happen to us,” she said. “We like the location. It’s fun, busy and we have really loyal and regular customers. We do well here.”
Sumaira Tariq, whose been managing Cosmetics ‘n More for Less at Dixie Mall for the past decade, said she’s hopeful the new owners will devise a plan to create more people traffic.
“That is our main concern,” she said. “The people traffic has been going down year after year.”
The mall property is zoned for commercial and retail use. Any attempt to build residential properties on the site would have to go through a re-zoning process and public hearings, according to Lesley Pavan, director of development and design for the City’s Planning and Building department.
Cominar would also need to request an amendment to the Official Plan, which currently caps residential development at three storeys, if they wanted to build high-rise condominiums on the site.
Dorothy Tomiuk, vice-president of the Town of Port Credit Association and secretary of MIRANET, a City-wide network of Ratepayer and Residents’ Associations, admitted Dixie Mall could use a facelift.
“It’s a prime location,” she said. “We’re not against development, as long as it’s appropriate development.”
The premise of Dixie Mall as a discount hub is “a little tenuous especially with online shopping,” she added.
Opened in 1956, Dixie Outlet Mall was once known as Dixie Plaza until the late 1980s, when expansion and renovations transformed it into a mall.
Highly visible from the QEW, it’s home to more than 135 stores, including brand name outlet stores such as Sears, Puma, Levi’s and Laura. It’s perhaps best known for the Fantastic Flea Market, the oldest flea market in the GTA, located in the basement of the mall. It still operates on weekends.