Not surprisingly, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) – developer of the East Village redevelopment project – chose the historic Simmons Building as the site to announce two significant strides forward in its commitment to the East Village master plan unveiled in 2009.
The EV master plan includes more than 400,000 sq. ft. of retail opportunity. Based on extensive market research and the buoyancy of Calgary’s retail environment, CMLC has been pursuing a two-pronged retail strategy that would combine ‘Urban Format’ destination-styled retail with more intimate, service-oriented ‘Village Format’ retail.
“Today,” says CMLC President & CEO Michael Brown, “CMLC is thrilled to announce two major milestones in our efforts to bring exactly the right retail amenities into the East Village mix. In April, RioCan, Canada’s largest Real Estate Investment Trust concluded a transaction on a parcel of land in East Village referred to as the Gateway Block, for a major urban retail centre. And now in July, after soliciting expressions of interest, conducting interviews with dozens of would-be tenants and stewarding lease negotiations, CMLC has selected a trio of tenants to activate East Village’s most prized historical landmark, the Simmons Building.”
Together, the activation of the Simmons Building and sale of the Gateway Block represent another huge and purposeful stride forward in the realization of CMLC’s master plan vision; this retail focus offers a dimension to the neighbourhood that is paramount in attracting prospective residents and enticing them to consider East Village as a place to call home.
To fulfil the Urban Format aspect of its retail strategy, CMLC encouraged discussions, negotiations and forward movement on the sale of the Gateway Block to RioCan (www.riocan.com), which develops, owns and manages a variety of urban and suburban shopping centres across Canada. The block, formerly owned by the Calgary Police Association, is bounded by 5th and 6th Avenue and 3rd and 4th Street SE, the 2.75-acre site is slated for 300,000 sq. ft. of retail space.
“We are excited about the opportunity the East Village development represents, and the chance to expand RioCan’s urban property portfolio into Western Canada,” said Edward Sonshine, CEO of RioCan. “Calgary is an important market to us and this urban shopping centre will provide an exciting shopping destination for new and existing residents in Calgary’s unique urban village.”
While RioCan has yet to name specific tenants, lease negotiations with several prospective retailers and tenants are underway.
As if the RioCan announcement wasn’t news enough, CMLC also unveiled its selection of tenants for a Village Format retail hub along the riverfront in the beloved Simmons Building.
“CMLC is delighted beyond words to announce the tenancy of East Village’s most extraordinary piece of real estate by a trio of local retail champions,” says Brown. “The Simmons space is very special; it is centre-ice to the East Village redevelopment. Since Calgarians were so vocal about their desire to see it transformed into a space the public can enjoy, we undertook a very rigorous process of identifying and selecting just the right tenants. After interviewing more than 40 strong contenders, we chose the new tenant group because they – like East Village itself – are strong, distinctive, locally notable brands.”
Those three “local champions” are food and beverage icons Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and the chefs who created CHARCUT Roast House, Connie DeSousa and John Jackson. All were founded in Calgary, all were home-grown from grass roots, and all have emerged as highly regarded local brands. Together, they will transform the Simmons Building into a culinary destination at the heart of East Village.
The new tenant group shares a collective vision to make the Simmons Building a bustling hub of activity by engaging the public with best-in-class food offerings, large open spaces to experience their retail operations and ample hours. The tenant mix will draw a significant number of people to the building seven days a week, from early in the morning until late in the evening. And to take advantage of the exquisite riverside setting, the trio envisions an open-air rooftop patio that showcases the incredible views of the Bow River.”
Originally known as the Simmons Factory Warehouse, the Simmons Building was built in 1912. During World War II, its sole purpose was to provide bedding for the military. In 2008, CMLC began refurbishing the Simmons Building; and in May 2011 the organization issued a national call for Expressions of Interest from groups interested in leasing the historic space.
In concert with architectural firm McKinley Burkart and Stuart Olson Dominion Construction, CMLC will continue to make base building improvements to the Simmons space over the next year. After CMLC fulfils its obligations, the new tenant group will undertake their fit and finish work with McKinley Burkart’s guidance.
The Simmons Building’s new retail offerings are expected to open to the public in the spring of 2015 – the same time residents will be moving into the 396 new condos currently under construction by Embassy Bosa and FRAM+Slokker. Currently, the East Village redevelopment project has attracted over $1.1 Billion of planned investment to the neighbourhood, including the National Music Centre, the new Central Library, a Hilton Hotel project, and major mixed-use developments which collectively account for 1200 new residential homes for the area.