Tenants in the sparsely occupied New Horizon Mall in Balzac, Alta., were invited to attend a closed-door meeting on Wednesday to discuss the future of the shopping centre.
The multimillion-dollar facility, which opened in summer 2018, is located across from CrossIron Mills on Writing Creek Crescent.
There are 517 retail spots in the mall, but many are empty. As of Wednesday, there were only 109 tenants.
Sohail Khan, owner of Smart Tech, suggests shop owners are struggling financially.
“During the weekend, we see about a couple of hundred people, or 500 people, visiting … but that’s not good enough for the business owners here to run their businesses.
“I’m still not able to make enough so that I can justify to completely work here and open my store all the time,” Khan said. “To support my family, I have to actually go out and do another job.”
Khan said business has been very slow over the past few months, and developers have not shared with tenants how they plan to encourage potential patrons to visit the building.
“They do not share any marketing strategy or marketing plan with us so we all are concerned, as a huge investment has happened here by individuals. We all are concerned that what is the future of this mall?” Khan said.
In April, the mall announced it would be welcoming a new farmer’s market as a major anchor tenant, saying the 23,000-square-foot Prairie Horizon Fresh Market would open in the summer of 2019 — but the market has yet to open.
In May, New Horizon Mall announced a leasing incentive program.
Two months later, in July, the mall welcomed its first major anchor tenant, The Best Shop.
Khan complained that it’s not enough.
Albert Fialkow, who has two units in the mall, said he understands the developer’s struggles may, in part, be due to the economy.
“We’re a year and a half in, and I think people who had expectations that the mall would be a success going out of the gate … it would have been nice, but it’s not the reality,” he said.
“I do see the developers are making a sincere effort. They have the biggest vested interest in the mall.”
The Wednesday town hall, held by the developer, ran from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m.
Afterwards, New Horizon Mall general manager Scott Smith spoke with members of the media inside the shopping centre, saying the mall initiated the meeting to give the developer the opportunity to “dispel some of the rumours and the myths” about the shopping centre.
“I think there was some confusion about what the developer has done at this point, perhaps what the developer hasn’t done, so they had the opportunity to come talk about the reality, the money that they’ve invested in the centre, the fact that they’re committed long-term to this, the fact that they’re committed to the store owners and the unit owners,” Smith said.
“The developer is a 30 per cent owner in the mall,” he explained. “They’re invested in the mall long-term.”
In response to accusations the mall hasn’t shared its plans to entice customers with tenants, Smith conceded that New Horizon needs to work on “better communication” with store owners and unit owners.
“We have a great marketing plan that’s being rolled out, we’ve got some new media programs that we’re going to launch, we’re doing a lot more advertising between now and the end of the year and we want people to come and shop at New Horizon Mall,” he said.
“We’re going into our good Christmas season and we’re hoping that Calgarians will come and support the vendors here and shop at the mall.”
Smith also suggested the mall was set to reveal some “exciting news” next week.