Island grocery chain leads plans for Sidney Gateway

Developer outlines potential tenants for Sidney Gateway.

Peter Laughlin

Island-based grocery store chain Quality Foods and the Western Financial Group credit union are two strongly-hinted-at tenants in the proposed Sidney Gateway commercial site.

Peter Laughlin, the Vancouver Island director of Omicron Development Ltd., outlined potential tenants at the Gateway during a lunch presentation at Sidney’s Haro’s Restaurant. It was attended by local business leaders and municipal politicians as part of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s seventh annual Tour of Industry on Friday, Jan. 22.

Laughlin pointed to Omicron’s current project — Eagle Creek Village — in View Royal, next to the Victoria General Hospital. He told the crowd that development is 90 per cent pre-leased, with the first retail spaces set to open in February.

“It’s almost all national tenants in the site,” he said, counting Quality Foods and Western Financial Group among them.

Laughlin added his company tends to forge strong relationships with their commercial partners — hinting strongly at what’s to come for Sidney.

“Omicron tends to keep its tenants consistent,” he said. “I cannot say the names, but look at Eagle Creek Village.”

Laughlin said other proposed leases at the Sidney site would likely include a large medical office building, a fitness centre and day care facility, drug store, up to four drive-through restaurants, a furniture store and a Victoria-based, family-owned eatery. He noted Omicron is in talks with multiple possible tenants in those areas.

Omicron was hired by the property owner, the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA), in 2014 to seek out tenants and develop the site as a commercial shopping area. In early January, the VAA announced the land had been excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve and could then take its plans to the Town of Sidney.

“We identified five years ago the Peninsula was under served by retail,” Laughlin said. “At that time, the VAA land was our first choice, but it was not yet available.”

Omicron worked with the District of North Saanich and the Randall Family, owners of the former Sandown race track, to develop a 12-acre commercial site there, but the company was dismissed from that project.

Laughlin said Omicron’s lease with the VAA for the site at the corner of the Pat Bay Highway and Beacon Avenue West is for 62 years. The goal, he explained, is to create something that will help retain the retail dollars being spent away from the Peninsula.

“Our plan is to pull back some of the millions per year spent by residents here in other places like Broadmead and Langford.”

He added the view is to make the entire commercial retail share larger — comparing it to making a bigger pizza, with existing businesses on Beacon Avenue able to take advantage of much larger slices.

Laughlin noted the core service area of the Saanich Peninsula is around 39,675 people. In similar sized places like Duncan or Courtenay, there’s 6.4 to 6.5 square feet of grocery store space per resident, he said.

“Sidney has only 2.4, so a much lower square foot average,” he said.

Speaking to a mostly  favourable audience, Laughlin was asked only about the impact the Gateway might have on local and highway traffic. He assured everyone right off the bat that there is no roundabout proposed for the highway intersection at Beacon.

He added both his company and the VAA commissioned traffic studies and any changes to ease the flow of vehicles would eventually have to be approved by the provincial transportation ministry.

Laughlin said that over the next six to eight weeks, they will present an official package of their proposal to the Town of Sidney. It will include those traffic studies, site designs, building elevations and more. From there, Town staff will draw up a report to council for debate at a public meeting — followed by what he called “an extremely robust public process.”

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