January 20, 2022

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Brockville Shopping Centre revamp sought

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An ambitious redevelopment of the Brockville Shopping Centre would turn the mostly-unused space into a multi-use hub including apartment buildings, a sports dome, a medical facility and an emergency shelter for the homeless.

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Brockville council’s planning and operations committee heard the proposal at a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, where there was enthusiastic support for the plan and no one spoke in opposition.

As is the usual procedure with public meetings, planning staff will return to the committee in the near future with a recommendation to be forwarded to the full council for a final vote.

The long-discussed redevelopment would tear down part of what was once known as the “Zellers Mall,” with “Stingers Mall” arguably becoming the more current verbal shorthand for the Stewart Boulevard commercial site.

The Stingers youth recreational facility housed at the former Zellers would remain in place in the new development. The redevelopment would also keep the former LCBO site, and the current Dairy Queen, Oil Changers, and Beer Store.

The middle buildings are to be removed and reconstructed, city officials said.

“We’re trying to connect with the existing economic and social fabrics that surround us,” Shopping Centre owner Jameel Madhani told the committee, noting his plan is for something more than a big-box-retail and general residential development.

“The intention is very much to have an urbanized experience in the midtown area.”

Madhani added he aims to support small businesses in the area and provide youth programming in partnership with Stingers.

In a report to the committee, city planner Andrew McGinnis said the owner is applying for official plan and zoning bylaw amendments that would allow “for two residential apartment towers, multiple commercial tenants and other accessory uses.”

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The first apartment tower would contain 88 rental apartments, while the second would have 140 senior apartments.

The commercial component would include a “medical complex,” an air-supported structure or sports dome, a grocery store, and a “commercial recreational establishment,” the report adds.

The site would include an emergency shelter for homeless people, and a transit hub.

McGinnis noted the amendments would also increase the permitted height of the residential buildings to up to 10 storeys.

The plan, if approved and made a reality, would bring significant change to a site that has lain mostly unused in recent years, except for Stingers and a handful of businesses.

In recent months, the mall’s usually mostly unoccupied parking lot has made it an advantageous site for Brockville’s temporary COVID-19 vaccination centre.

The Brockville Shopping Centre sign is reflected in a window on a grey Wednesday afternoon. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times)
The Brockville Shopping Centre sign is reflected in a window on a grey Wednesday afternoon. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times) jpg, BT

A potential obstacle to the plan is the proximity of Highway 401, directly north of the sprawling site. McGinnis noted the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) is undertaking a preliminary design for improvements to the 401, and proposed changes to the site’s footprint would require the removal of the entrance to Stewart Boulevard.

“The MTO feels that much of these matters can be moved forward to the site plan/building and land use permit stage of this development and have no concerns with the proposed rezoning or official plan amendment,” adds McGinnis’s report.

In an email to The Recorder and Times on Wednesday, McGinnis said the timing of the redevelopment has not yet been discussed, because the site plan control requirement can take a few months.

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Madhani could not be reached for direct comment.

The plan got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Robyn Holmes, of Connect Youth, one of the agencies to be included in the redeveloped site.

She added the plan is for a “mixed-model facility” allowing offices and “short-term residential units” to help homeless individuals.

There would also be services for “our community’s most vulnerable youth and adults” as part of the agency’s proposed future amalgamation with the John Howard Society of Kingston, said Holmes.

“Having Stingers on site allows for our clients to access multi-generational recreational opportunities, as well as having the opportunity to engage in volunteer and mentorship opportunities,” added Holmes.

Matt Reil, a teacher at nearby St. Mary Catholic High School, praised Stingers for its recreational and social value.

“Stingers has really serviced something that the Brockville community is missing compared to our larger centres,” said Reil.

“I really think, with this recreational opportunity, it can certainly do much more than what it’s already done before.”

Stingers owner-operator Andrew Walford-Davis said the facility celebrated six years on Dec. 21, and has grown from a paintball business to a community resource. He said he has been working with Madhani over the past three years “to build something that nobody else has.”

“Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, nobody has what Stingers has … as well as the plaza itself,” said Walford-Davis.

“The vision is definitely something for people, when they’re driving by (on) the 401, to see.”

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