Local businesses reeling after being served with ‘untimely’ redevelopment plans

A decades-old strip mall containing several community staples in the Strathearn neighbourhood will soon be demolished to make way for a new development.

Nearctic Property Group, which owns Strathearn Centre, has always intended to redevelop the strip mall into a new neighbourhood hub. Last week, tenants were given notice their lease would be terminated and that they would have six months from May 1 to vacate their space.

While several business owners at the complex, near 87 Street and 95 Avenue, knew redevelopment plans were in the works, construction had been delayed for several years.

“We are now in a position to move forward with (redevelopment) construction which necessitates this official notification of (lease) termination,” said a Nearctic letter hand-delivered to strip mall businesses.

“Thank you for your business, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”

‘UNTIMELY NOTICE’

Juniper Cafe and Bistro opened its doors on Friday, November 13, 2015. For owner Kenney Dario, that day represented a dream coming true in being able to open a community-oriented eatery.

Dario said the first three years were “outstanding,” with soaring sales and support. Then Valley Line LRT construction began blocking off access routes to the strip mall.

“That literally flatlined us and took us downward,” Dario told CTV News Edmonton.

“We thought if we could survive that and get to where we open (without LRT construction), maybe we could ramp up sales again and get back to the trajectory that we saw (in) 2017-18,” he added.

“Then the pandemic hit. That shut all the gates.”

Juniper was forced to close and reopen three separate times, Dario said. He had hoped the property management company would have given business owners in the complex more advance notice on when they could expect redevelopment construction.

“I was debt-free prior to that (the pandemic), and now I’ve accumulated a lot of debt during those three reopenings and closings,” he said. “There’s no way I can pay off my debts in five months. It’s just untimely notice.”

“It’s just an untimely time to send this strip mall packing,” Dario added.

‘THE BEAUTY OF THIS SPACE’

According to Nearctic Property Group, the strip mall will be converted into a 2,000 apartment community with 100,000 square feet of retail space located next to the Valley Line LRT.

CTV News Edmonton has reached out to the management company for further comment.

In 2018, Kathryn Kern, now the owner of Home and Cottages, says she walked by Strathearn Centre and knew it would make a perfect home base for her dream store.

“This space was really important for us,” Kern said. “It’s a sweet building.”

“I am sandwiched in between two (local businesses),” she added, “that when someone comes to them, they bump into us and vice-versa. So all the way down the strip, that happens.”

“That’s the beauty of this space.”

In the past, Kern said business owners were told by the property group that they would have an opportunity to be accommodated during redevelopment construction.

She told CTV News how early plans indicated the apartment complex would be built in two phases, with initial construction beginning behind the strip mall. That way, businesses would have the option to move into the new building while work was completed for the second phase.

“We thought that it was taking us into consideration,” Kern said. “It’s not.”

“To be out of your business after surviving COVID and the LRT, and now,” Kern said, “(being forced out) just a month before Christmas, it’s just very unfortunate.”

Both Kern and Dario said they are unsure of any future plans for their businesses.

“I don’t see us moving from here to there (a new space) and then back again,” Dario said. “There’s just too much cost.

“I’ve got to be prudent about what my next steps are because I really can’t afford to go into more debt to open a new place,” he added. “What we know is that this new development is going to be more exorbitant in rent.”

Peter Gerrie, a supporter of Juniper, said he was disappointed to hear about the plans to the strip mall community hub.

“This is a popular place,” Gerrie said. “We’re losing so much.

“It’s going to be missed,” he added. “I hope they can find another place as nice as this to relocate because I would definitely support them.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nahreman Issa

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