As of the beginning of this month, the Cornwall Square has a new owner. Local property management and development company Weaving Baskets Group (WBG) purchased Cornwall’s last indoor mall from Quebec based Group Quint.
Like many malls, the Cornwall Square isn’t what it used to be. Fewer stores, just a couple of restaurants in the food court, and a lot of empty space. However, I think that this change in ownership will lead to positive growth and a brighter future for Cornwall’s last indoor mall.
The Square is a little over 40 years old. Unlike malls closely located near highways or new areas of development, the Cornwall Square was built in a historic neighbourhood in the heart of this city. Many historic homes and a church were demolished to make room for the mall, and the mall also claimed part of the once much larger Horovitz Park. The city sacrificed a lot to make the mall happen. The citizens of Cornwall have an investment in the Cornwall Square and an interest in its future.
I, like many others in Cornwall, I think, want to see whatever develops on that prime piece of real estate flourish.
I mentioned that the Cornwall Square is the city’s last indoor mall, because as some of you remember, Cornwall at one-time had three. Both the Brookdale Mall and the Eastcourt Mall have undergone significant changes and moved away from the indoor mall model to something more like a strip mall.
The Cornwall Square’s new owners too seem to be planning to make significant changes to the property. Tom Hughes, Vice President of WBG said that his company is wants to attract more retail outlets to the mall, as well as introduce mixed-use development.
I think mixed-use development is the right way to go for the future of the Cornwall Square. The challenges facing the Square aren’t unique, malls across North America have mostly all experienced similar loss of retailers and traffic.
A former owner of the Square, Partners REIT, had planned on turning the former Sears wing of the mall into residential apartments prior to selling the property to Group Quint.
I think this was a smart move then and still is now. Having built in housing, where potential customers can live on site will make the mall much more attractive for retailers while also helping to solve the housing shortage in Cornwall.
The most important improvement to the Square that I think the new owners can make would be to attract and add a grocery store to their roster.
When the Cornwall Square lost its grocery store, I think that was a terrible setback not only for the mall, but for Cornwall’s downtown as well.
There are a lot of people who live in downtown, including a lot of seniors, and no grocery store within walking distance.
I’m not necessarily envisioning a full grocery store, like a No Frills or Food Basics, but maybe a smaller mom and pop type shop that sells a few staples and maybe some specialty items.
Like I said, the Cornwall Square occupies an important place in the city’s history and geography and the citizens of Cornwall do have a special interest in its future.
I think that having local owners who have a vision for the mall’s future is definitely a step in the right direction.
Readers what shape would you like to see the future of the mall take? Email me your Letters to the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org