Asian-style mall planned for east Balzac area
An Asian-style mall is expected to join the industrial and commercial horizon of Balzac within the next few years.
According to Eli Swirsky, president of the Torgan Group which is developing the project with The MPI Property Group, the 280,000-square-foot shopping centre will house 500 retail stores, services and restaurants in a “new visionary retail concept” with underground parking.
“It’s going to be a totally different experience than any mainstream mall that exists,” Swirsky said.
New Horizon Mall will be located east of Highway 2, south of CrossIron Mills mall. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and be completed by 2016.
The property was purchased about two years ago, according to Swirsky, and they have been with talks with Rocky View County (RVC) for a year.
RVC Communications Manager Grant Kaiser said the idea of using the land for a hotel, shopping mall or office building was approved in April 2009 under the Nose Creek Business Conceptual Scheme.
He added that open houses and public hearings were done at that time.
Swirsky said the mall will be able to capitalize on the roughly 200,000 vehicles that travel on the highway past the location per day.
“Accessibility was our main concern and that’s why being next to the highway was critical.”
Also, its location places it 20 minutes from downtown Calgary and eight minutes from Airdrie.
The mall intends to cater to Calgary’s growing Asian population, said Swirsky, and will showcase “unique products and businesses that only independent stores can offer.” Customers can expect a range of businesses, from health and beauty services to giftware, fashion and electronics.
The condo retail space will feature glass-style walls with about 320 square feet of glass per store, and most units will be on a corner location. The price for a single units start at $169,800.
A large atrium on the main level is intended to host fashion shows, cultural events and musical entertainment.
A traditional Chinese stage will be located on the second level along with an international food court.
A supermarket and hotel are planned for later stages.
Swirsky said the company developed a similar style of mall north of Toronto about 20 years ago, and since seeing its success, decided to bring the concept to Alberta.
Swirsky said the two main locations of interest were Alberta or California, but the Calgary-region was chosen to be the first on the slate.
“Calgary is obviously the leader (in the region) in terms of disposable income, retail sales, growth and economic stability, and that’s why we chose the area near Calgary.”
He said the company plans to open a similar-style of mall in California next year.
Swirsky added that “Asian demographics in Calgary are strong.” The mall will provide a niche-market that doesn’t exist in the area, said Swirsky.
RVC Reeve Rolly Ashdown said he thinks the mall will be a positive attribute to Balzac and for the County, enabling RVC to continue diversifying its tax base and create jobs.
Swirsky said he thinks more the mall will employ more than 1,000 people.
“(The mall) is in an area that’s planned for this type of development and it’s appropriate for what already exists (in Balzac),” said Ashdown.
“It will utilize that infrastructure that’s been put in place over time,” he added.
New Horizon Mall will offer “a rare opportunity” for retailers, entrepreneurs and investors as condo retail space, starting at 285 square feet, will be available to buy as opposed to the traditional style of leasing.
Ashdown said RVC’s absence of business tax will also be a draw for investors and retailers to own condo space.
The new mall is not seen as competition to Balzac’s current major commercial draw - CrossIron Mills, according to General Manager James Moller.
“We go after major international retailers that are known world-wide. The new mall sounds like it is going to be very specialized and will focus on more local businesses and niche markets,” said Moller
Moller said he just became aware of the proposed mall two weeks ago.
Moller said he is familiar with the mall developed by Torgan Group in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto.
“We are all very interested and curious to see how this mall will unfold,” Moller added.
Condo units go on sale Oct. 26 and 27 in Calgary, as well as in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.
Swirsky said the response in Calgary has been “overwhelming” so far.
“We were hoping for good reception but its been beyond what we could have expected. We’re expecting the mall to be very successful based on what we’ve seen so far. ”
Kaiser said the developer is in the process of applying for a Development Permit and must meet all the conditions outlined in the conceptual scheme, including approval from Alberta Transportation about traffic issues on Highway 2.