It was the official opening the Winners/HomeSense store, filling a large portion of the vacancy left at the city’s largest mall when Sears closed. In addition to the Winners/HomeSense store, the mall also opened its Northwest Wing, which is the mall entry next to Winners/HomeSense.
“We are very lucky,” said Rachel Olson, general manager of Pine Centre Mall. “Sears left the market and Morguard REIT (the mall owners) decided to they were going to make an investment in redevelopment.”
The company pumped $17 million into changing the old Sears location from one anchor tenant spot, to several smaller retail spots. The old Sears space was about 112,000 square feet. Winners/HomeSense takes up about 42,000 square feet of that space, there is a hallway in the middle and Pine Centre is looking to fill those spots. BC Cannabis and OrangeTheory Fitness have taken up some of that space and have exterior entrances.
“It’s been a draw and people are really excited to see (Winners/HomeSense) open up,” Olson said. “There’s been a line up all day.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, changed operations at the mall and it delayed the opening of the Winners/HomeSense store by a couple of months.
Pine Centre Mall, which stayed open throughout the pandemic even though some stores did not, has sanitization and physical distancing protocols in place.
“Our employees are wearing masks, we have tenant-queueing meaning there is a designated sport on the floor where you have to standing six feet apart, and the food court we’ve reduced the seating to allow for the physical distancing,” she said.
The stores also have made individual changes, such as adding plexiglas for cashiers.
And while the old Sears location is filling up, the other anchor spot in the mall, vacated when Lowe’s closed, is still a work in progress.
“We’ve been able to fill it time and time again,” said Olson. “I know there is lots of interest in it and leasing is working hard on that … I’m optimistic about it.”
She said Prince George is in a unique position in that the city is a hub for the area, so there is interest.
“Prince George is still looking pretty good to a lot of people,” she said.
As the province moves through the phases of reopening, the mall is adjusting to its “new normal,” said Olson.
The mall is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We’ve got almost all of our tenants re-opened,” she said. “Things are going well.”