Scott Smith, left, the city’s director of development services, was on hand for a public information meeting Thursday on a proposed redevelopment of 10th Avenue Plaza. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Repurposing plaza in Alberni business district follows market trend

Public hearing for Fairway Market conversion set for March 12


Special to the News

A plan to transform the shuttered Fairway Market into a four-storey retail and apartment complex drew a roomful of curious residents Thursday night.

Marlowe-Yeoman Ltd., which has owned the 10th Avenue Plaza property for 50 years, proposes a 24-unit rental apartment building with four retail/commercial spaces at ground level.

A city amendment of the property’s general commercial zoning is an initial step to enable the redevelopment to proceed. The necessary bylaws have already received second reading by city council and a public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 12, 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.

Architect Raymond de Beeld said the plan reflects a North American-wide trend that has shopping centres being repurposed in order to adapt to shifting commercial and retail market demands.

“There’s not a lot of demand for plazas,” he said. “It’s a tough business being in retail.”

Fairway Market closed a year ago. Thursday’s meeting was held in the former premises of Serious Coffee, which closed recently as well. At the same time, there is growing demand for multi-family residential housing as the postwar boomers downsize from single family homes. The proposed one and two-bedroom units would range from 552 to 900 sq. ft.

“We thought it would be good to get the feedback,” said de Beeld, who also designed the Uchucklesaht Cultural Centre and Thunderbird Apartments on Argyle Street at Kingsway Avenue. “People are interested. Seniors are looking for other places to live.”

The project bears “good synergies,” as a catalyst to attract additional seniors’ services to the neighbourhood surrounding 10th Avenue and Redford, said Scott Smith, the city’s director of development services. It’s a neighbourhood that already offers a mix of services within walking distance as well as public transit connections, he noted.

Cameron Olma, who works for the property owners, said they hope to balance an over-supply in the commercial property market with community needs by achieving the highest and best use.

“It has to make sense, economic sense,” Olma said. “That’s the challenge. We want to develop a concept we can take into the future.”

If the rezoning proceeds, the redevelopment project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

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