The Zellers department store on Sparks Street, long a shopping destination for government workers near Parliament Hill, is closing down after nearly 27 years.

The owner of the building, Morguard Investments, has confirmed the Sparks Street mainstay will shut by March of next year to make way for a new business — possibly a bank, restaurant or pharmacy chain.

Several companies have already made pitches to take over the current Zellers location, said Jennifer Schmoisch, a broker for Morguard Investments. But department stores haven't yet expressed interest, likely because the space may be considered too small, offering about 46,000 square feet. 

"It's located a block away from Parliament Hill next to a great office tower, offers great frontage on to Sparks Street," Schmoisch said. "The daytime population in the area is significant, so you have a good co-tenant mix in that area."

The firm is advertising that the space is accessible to some 175,000 office workers.

Some employees at the Zellers store said they were stunned to see the "For Lease" sign posted on the front of the building this week and were instructed not to speak to the media.

Target bought Zellers store leases

One worker, who said she's been with the chain for 34 years, said neither she nor colleagues were given any forewarning about the coming closure or what might happen to their jobs. Many of the staff at the Sparks Street location have been working there for more than two decades.

U.S. retail giant Target Corp. announced last January it would be buying the store leases of the Zellers chain, with plans to convert up to 150 of Canada's 220 Zellers stores into Targets by 2014.

Customer Shamila Biswas-Mistry said she feels for the employees.

"It's an unfortunate situation for the people who've been here for a long time. I wish them good luck to try to find something else but it's hard times here in Ottawa," she said.

A spokesperson for Hudson's Bay Co., which operates Zellers stores, wouldn't give exact numbers on how many jobs are expected to be lost at the Sparks Street store, but said the average Zellers has about 100 associates.