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Cordova Bay Plaza “is a ghost town,” says store owner

After 57 years the Cordova Bay Plaza is all but shuttered with only the Scotiabank branch and Super Duper Dollar Store remaining open.
The Cordova Bay Plaza is down to two tenants, including the Scotia Bank, ahead of the planned redevelopment. Travis Paterson/News Staff

After 57 years the Cordova Bay Plaza is all but shuttered with only the Scotiabank branch and Super Duper Dollar Store remaining open.

The mall is set to be replaced with a mixed-development of commercial and residential by developer James Gardiner with architect Alan Lowe leading the design.

Despite the loss of keystone tenant Tru Value grocery store, which closed last month, and the other stores closing and moving, the sleepy village centre continues to draw a few cars in every hour. But it’s nothing like it was, even a few months ago.

Jeannie Kam has owned the Super Duper Dollar Store in Cordova Bay plaza for 18 years. She said she was told to vacate by June.

“It’s a ghost town,” Kam said. “But I am hoping I can stay past [deadline] because people still come in, I still have the only lotto in the area, I’m still doing OK.”

The size of the new development, with 80-plus residential units, an 18,000 square-foot grocery store, additional retail space and underground parking, is facing opposition from the community and without Saanich’s approval yet, the empty mall could be left in a state of limbo.

Meanwhile, the Scotiabank branch had hoped to stay open during construction in a temporary trailer on site, which is actually how they started, on the corner of the Cordova Bay Plaza about 18 years ago.

Instead, the branch is likely to “consolidate” with its Uptown Saanich location on Sept. 22. Customer accounts will be transferred there unless otherwise notified.

“It was never our intent to vacate this very important market,” said Kate Simandl, spokesperson for Scotiabank. “We are actively seeking an opportunity in the area, both short and long term.”

Larry Gontovnick, president of the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs, said it would be nice to see something developed in there soon. However, the association does not approve of the development application as it stands.

“There’s so much more potential for that property,” Gontovnick said. “I hope we can get things moving so we can see something there, it’s sad when a business has to close and that it will take two or more years to rebuild it.”

The new development fits within the existing zoning but needs a new development permit. The existing 1998 development permit - which was stalled in part by the remediation of land soiled by a former gasoline station - was for 16 condos.

“We think there’s significant form and character issues to be addressed,” Gontovnick said. “But anyone moving in should have been aware of the zoning that was already allowed. The site has been zoned C3 Shopping Centre since the 1970s, well before the Cordova Bay Beach Estates were there.”

Bruce Nicol is a member of the community association but is also one of 75 names on the new Cordova Bay Village Vision Group email list. The group wants an encompassing approach to the many developments underway in Cordova Bay, as most are in the approval stage. That includes a new community centre, and the four storey condo unit on Doumac Avenue.

“Let’s have a responsible development, let’s not stick a Tuscany Village in the middle of Cordova Bay,” Nicol said.