August 1, 2014 6:09 pm

Future up in the air after Sobeys shuts downtown Edmonton location

WATCH ABOVE: Global News has learned Sobeys is still paying the lease on the empty store downtown – which has now closed. Vinesh Pratap explains.

EDMONTON – The downtown Edmonton Sobeys, once viewed as a sign of downtown revitalization, closed its doors Thursday evening.

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Located on Jasper Avenue and 104 Street, the store was popular with pedestrian shoppers in the downtown core since opening in 2008 in what was then a new development. The decision to shut it down, along with 49 other stores, was made after Sobeys acquired Safeway Canada in a $5.8 billion deal.  At the time, Sobeys said the store was “underperforming.”

What will happen next with the property is unclear. There are no “for lease” signs, and Global News has learned the company is still paying the lease on the empty space.

There have been cases in the city when a building remained idle for extended periods of time after being vacated by a grocer. The former Safeway on 118 Avenue and 66 Street, for instance, remains boarded up.

The downtown Sobeys, with a location in the heart of downtown, is less likely to remain empty.

Many, including local business owner Ed Fong, hope that another grocery store will take over the building.

“It’s too important and high profile of an intersection to remain vacant for a long period of time,” he said.

“The worst part is there’s a lot of disabled people down here that rely on the store,” added Pat Ringham, who shopped at the Sobeys almost every day. “I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

“We need the life here,” said Ashley Robertson, who works at the nearby Earth’s General Store.

Fong doesn’t believe the Sobeys closure is indicative of larger economic trends in the area.

“Perhaps there were difficulties in executing a business model that they envisioned, but it’s certainly not a reflection. 104 Street will prosper and grow regardless of what happens there.”

Global News contacted the property management company. It declined an interview, citing ongoing talks, but said it also hopes the space isn’t vacant for too long.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News

© Shaw Media, 2014

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