The owners of Midtown Plaza are planning a massive renovation to change the perception of the downtown Saskatoon shopping centre.
The mall presented plans for a privately-funded $80 million revamp Wednesday to city council’s planning, development and community services committee, outlining how space left empty when Sears closed in January will be redeveloped.
The concept includes two new flagship tenants in the retail space, a food court on the second floor of the Sears area with glass walls overlooking downtown and improved access from Idylwyld Drive.
An additional $25 million may be spent on existing storefronts.
Michael Mehak, representing the mall’s owners, told committee members the renovations would “turn around” the mall towards Idylwyld and prevent it from being perceived as the “back” of the building.
Skylights, interior walkways and landscaping are also part of the proposed 30-month project.
The Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) is backing the renovation plans, as are the Downtown YXE and Riversdale Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).
“As Midtown Plaza goes, so does downtown Saskatoon,” Downtown YXE executive director Brent Penner said.
“This project needs to move forward now. Downtown Saskatoon needs this investment now.”
Randy Pshebylo, executive director of the Riversdale BID, called Midtown Plaza the “heartbeat” of downtown business and encouraged councillors to support the project.
Mehak told councillors the project would create hundreds of temporary jobs during construction, along with 200-300 permanent part-time positions once the new area of the mall opens.
Midtown Plaza made the presentation to councillors in the hopes of receiving a break on additional property taxes resulting from the project.
The mall estimates the improvements will improve their property value, leading to an additional tax burden of $565,000 per year. The business is asking for an abatement for that amount for five years under council’s “Vacant Lot and Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program.”
Councillors and administration viewed the proposal as an exception to the program, which doesn’t currently include major retail projects or renovations to existing businesses.
However, Ward 10 Coun. Zach Jeffries suggested the request worked within “the spirit of the program.”
Midtown Plaza currently pays the city $4.3 million in property taxes annually, which wouldn’t change under the mall’s ask to council.
Mayor Charlie Clark told the committee the annual contribution to the city was significant, as are Midtown’s plans for the future.
“Making an $80 million investment in a tough retail climate is a great sign for our city,” he said.
The committee unanimously approved the tax abatements as an exception to the current incentive policy. The recommendations will be considered by council on June 25.
Construction could begin on the renovations by August, and be done by early 2021.