With news of Sidney Crossing’s cancellation, opinions appear divided based on the Pat Bay Highway.
On the eastern side, small business owners are pleased the development won’t occur. On the western side, employees of the industrial park are disappointed they won’t see an increase in retail options.
The nearly 100,000 sq-ft. mall on 10 acres of Victoria Airport Authority land was slated to begin construction this year.
Muffet Billyard-Leake, owner of housewares store Muffet and Louisa on Beacon Avenue, said the mall would not affect her business because of core customers, but felt Sidney was “already over-retailed.”
“I think there are many things that could have been better than another shopping centre,” said Billyard-Leake. She suggests a higher end RV park because there is currently nowhere close to park them, and she said they have more luggage space than air travellers. She said Sidney could use a small home accessories store, an independent butcher, or a fabrics store.
Gordon Benn, president of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber had wondered about the project because nothing was happening. With members on both sides of the issue, the Chamber did not take a position on the development. Some businesses they represent felt the mall would draw customers away from Beacon, but others felt it would have positive spillover effects. Benn is personally disappointed the mall did not go forward because of the jobs it would have created.
“They have to live somewhere, go to the grocery store, typically business is good for the [Town]. … You have to have some activity to keep a vibrant community,” said Benn. “If you bring money into the community, it just helps that sort of stuff.”
Benn said he would support a future developer looking to build on the site. “I think it just cries out for it.”
Incoming mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith, who also owns Tanner’s Books in Sidney, said the cancellation was likely best given current circumstances. In the two years since the project’s approval, he said there has been uncertainty for owners in the downtown business district who were unsure about renewing their leases or expanding. Prospective business owners might have been turned off by risk a competitor would open in the mall.
“You have [100,000] sq. ft. of new mall announcing they are opening at some point, yet you don’t know any of the tenant businesses that will be opening,” said McNeil-Smith.
He has also heard that employees of Sidney’s west side industrial area are looking for more retail outlets and wants to continue good relations between Sidney and the VAA, which has a mandate to develop airport lands.
McNeil-Smith said his ownership of the bookstore did not factor into his view of Sidney Crossing as mayor. He said if Omicron, a successful developer in Western Canada, did not proceed due to cost increases of the mall and infrastructure changes, he expressed some skepticism that another developer could easily pick up where they left off.