Greystone grocer won’t be a giant

Greystone Village - image from

Greystone Village – image from

By Joe Paraskevas

If you had hopes of roller-skating up and down the aisles of the new grocery store expected on Main Street, you might want to leave the wheels at home.

The Regional Group, developer of the Greystone property surrounding Saint Paul University, is scaling back its plan to include a major grocery at the corner of Main and the driveway leading to the Deschatelets building near the back of the university campus.

Instead of a 25,000-square-foot retail space, Regional is now looking to dedicate 7-8,000 square feet to a grocery. The reason? Its efforts to find a large retailer, such as Loblaws, Metro or Sobeys, have come up short.

“We’re probably not going to land a major tenant,” David Kardish, Regional’s vice-president in charge of the commercial elements of Greystone, said recently. “The problem is: you’ve got other sites intervening.”

Regional talked to several companies about its plans for a large grocery, the kind of store residents of Old Ottawa East have long coveted. But in each case, Kardish admitted, potential tenants backed away because of the proximity of competing stores at the Pretoria Bridge, in Centretown, even at the Train Yards near Industrial Road and Riverside Drive.

Kardish predicted a smaller space could attract a tenant comparable to the Cedars food store in Old Ottawa South or the Nicastro store in the Glebe.

Along with changes to the size of the expected grocery, Regional was adjusting its plans for the residential units that would be built above the commercial space. No longer was Regional aiming to build condominiums. Instead, Kardish said, the company would erect two buildings – one six-storeys-tall, the other nine – and fill them with rental apartments.

“We’re seeing now a resurgence in rental,” Kardish said, adding one tower could be dedicated to people looking to downsize, and the other to a younger market.

Regional would spend the last weeks of summer trying to solidify its plans for both the residential and commercial spaces on the lane to the Deschatelets building, Kardish said. With that done, it could then search in earnest for a smaller-scale grocery tenant.

The changes to Regional’s designs meant construction on a potential grocery store wouldn’t start until early 2018, he added.

Unlike the effort to find a large grocery anchor tenant, the search for businesses to fill smaller commercial spaces on the Greystone development had been relatively easy, Kardish said. Small businesses were lining up to consider occupying those units – each about 2-3,000 square feet.

“Coffee shops, maybe a restaurant, we have a lot of demand for personal services,” Kardish said.

Among already established Main Street businesses, the news of Regional’s downsizing of its plans to add a grocery to the neighbourhood was met with support.

“I’ve always considered Main Street to be like my home town – small, quaint and friendly – so I’m a big proponent for this,” said Watson’s Pharmacy owner, Scott Watson. “A Cedars-type grocery would be a natural fit. I’m hoping a number of local businesses come to Main Street.”

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Filed in: Business Beat, FP, Front Page, Main Street Renewal

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