Plans in the works to transform, revitalize Bonnie Doon Shopping Centre

Click to play video 'Upgrades in the works for Bonnie Doon Mall' Upgrades in the works for Bonnie Doon Mall
WATCH ABOVE: Julia Wong reports on what's in store for one of Edmonton's oldest malls – Jan 21, 2018

Steps are underway to begin a transformation of the Bonnie Doon Shopping Centre.

Morguard Investments Limited, the site development manager of the community mall, has expressed an interest in rezoning the shopping centre. The site is currently under a site specific development provision (DC2.485) and there is an interest in converting it to a site specific development control provision (DC2).

The application is currently in the pre-application stage, according to the city, and Morguard is consulting with the local business community and community leagues about what they would like to see on the site.

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Design inspirations submitted to the city show a bike-friendly, walkable and transit-heavy development with high-density residential and commercial opportunities. Information from Morguard states the majority of new density and land use mix will likely be located less than 400 metres from the Bonnie Doon LRT station.

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In a vision and site analysis submitted to the city, Morguard said the community mall is “a prime opportunity to reinvest in Bonnie Doon and establish it as a district that supports liveability, long-term sustainability and is truly a place where residents can live, work and play.”

The analysis states that the current zoning “limits density, building height and stand-alone residential buildings… These are major limitations that prevent the City of Edmonton from capitalizing on strategic transit investment.”

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“I think probably the city would agree with that,” said area councillor Ben Henderson. “I think there’s an opportunity here. I think the most interesting possibility is doing something a bit more mixed-use so you can have residential in here. Maybe reconfiguring how the retail works around the fact there’s going to be a major LRT station up here in the corner. This became a really important meeting place for a lot of seniors. I think it would be really sad to lose that… we have a huge need for seniors housing in this neighbourhood.”

Over the years, the shopping has lost big anchor stores, such as Sears and, more recently, Target. Henderson said there is lots of opportunity to develop the mall and the accompanying parking lot.

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“It would be a waste… to keep it as a parking lot with an old-style indoor mall. Whether or not that would be a success in the future, I don’t know. I would hope the community would be upset to lose the retail here so how you can augment that and make it work and make it healthy and functional, I think, is also part of the challenge.”

Henderson said the area is “perfect” for transit-oriented development.

“With the LRT coming, I think the owners are in a position where they can ask some questions. A lot of these malls are shifting and changing, there’s ways I think where we can take advantage of that,” he said.

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“It is a bit of an island surrounded by some fairly major roads so how it can connect better out to the community around it is, I think, one of the things they’re interested in.”

Dave Sutherland, the civics director, for the Holyrood Community League said the developer reached out to the group last week.

“They seem to be very interested in hearing what the community wants and needs and hopefully catering to that,” he said.

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“The vision looks very interesting. I liked a lot of the visuals they were showing. I liked that they didn’t also just present a pile of towers and say ‘hey, this is what we want.’”

Sutherland said the mall is in need of redevelopment.

“The mall is not exactly doing that great business-wise. It’s actually a really good location though. Hopefully it’ll give the community a centre, almost a little mini downtown perhaps – a gathering space, a place to shop, to meet up with people and live,” he said.

An inspiration centre will open on January 25 inside the shopping centre across from Safeway. An open house is scheduled for January 30.

A public hearing is expected to be held at Edmonton City Council in fall 2018.