Midtown Plaza opened with Sears in 1968; in 2018, they’re trying to move on without it.
The mall’s ownership group is undertaking a massive renovation of the building including an overhaul of the old Sears location.
The $80 million renovation would include adding new skylights and windows, new facades, a relocation of the food court to the second floor, parking reconfiguration and improved access to the building with interior sidewalks and landscaping.
An additional $25 million could be spent on storefronts.
“We’re trying to embrace it with glass and pedestrian connections,” Michael Mehak, a representative of the mall’s owners, said. “We’ll make it inviting, that’s the point.”
The plan would be to completely strip the old Sears location before renovations and the addition of “flagship” tenants.
“A vacant SEARS store isn’t good for anyone, it doesn’t bring people to the building and it looks bad,” Mehak said. “So filling this space is fantastic.”
But before any of this can happen, the ownership group has requested a property tax abatement for the old Sears location and food court area; it’s estimated to be $565,000 per year for five years.
The mall currently pays $4.3 million annually in property taxes, and that wouldn’t change.
Councillors heard the renovations could create hundreds of temporary jobs during construction, and 200-300 part-time jobs when finished.
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The request was backed by SREDA, Downtown Saskatoon, and the Riversdale business improvement district.
The request was backed by the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA), Downtown YXE, and Riversdale Business Improvement District.
“As Midtown Plaza goes, so does downtown Saskatoon,” said Brent Penner, the executive director of Downtown Saskatoon.
The biggest concern expressed by councillors was that the tax abatement doesn’t meet current policy; it was filed under the Vacant Lot and Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program.
The policy doesn’t apply to retail use and doesn’t support renovation projects to existing businesses. A review of the program is expected later this year.
The requested recommendations were approved unanimously at committee, and will go to council on June 25.
Construction could begin in August, with the renovations complete by 2021.
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