Lincoln Fields owner moves to demolish aging mall

Real Estate giant RioCan has applied for permission to tear down Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre to make way for a new retail development on the west end property.

Smaller tenants told leases could be terminated by July 31 to make way for redevelopment

RioCan REIT has applied to the City of Ottawa to demolish Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre. Many businesses have already left the mall, including anchor tenant Walmart.

Real Estate giant RioCan has applied for permission to tear down Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre, paving the way for a new retail development on the west end property.

The company filed its site plan proposal with the city recently. 

The mall, near the intersection of Carling Avenue and Richmond Road, dates back to 1972. Many of the stores inside are now vacant, including the space left empty three years ago by anchor tenant Walmart. The mall is also home to service counters for the Ontario and federal governments.

Some remaining tenants received notices this week informing them their leases could be terminated around July 31. 

The first phase of RioCan's redevelopment plan includes a new Metro grocery store and a separate building to house retailers including Rexall and Moore's. (December 2018 report for RioCan REIT by Fotenn)

Demolition in phases

Under the demolition proposal, the mall's east end would be torn down first to make way for a new Metro, allowing the grocery store to continue operating in its current location until construction is complete.

RioCan said it considers the Rexall pharmacy the other "integral part" of the existing mall, and would move it into a second building.

The company's long-term plans call for high-density residential towers at the site.

​RioCan also owns Westgate Shopping Centre, which is in the early stages of another big redevelopment. And, it tore down a strip mall at Gloucester Centre to build the new 23-storey residential tower near the Blair LRT station.

The company's plan for Lincoln Fields, which is due for its own station as part of the LRT project's second stage, appears to be following a similar path.

"With the approval of [Stage 2] LRT and expectations that it will be operational in late 2023, we are confident a mixed-use development at the Lincoln Field site will lead to continued community growth and success," said Terri Andrianopoulos, RioCan's vice-president of marketing and communications.

Sam Olszynko has owned Jewellery Encounter for 41 years, half of them Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre. He plans to close his shop and go into semi-retirement when the mall is demolished. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Mixed reaction

Shopkeepers who aren't part of RioCan's plans had mixed reaction to the news Friday.

When Sam Olszynko received his lease termination notice, he promptly scratched the word "not" from of the "We are not closing" sign he'd hung above the entrance to his jewelry store.

It wasn't big, big business, but I had a job.- Sam  Olszynko , Jewellery Encounter owner

"It's been slowly deteriorating, but I was holding my own because I've been around a long time," said Olszynko, who's been in business 41 years, half of them at Lincoln Fields. "It wasn't big, big business, but I had a job." 

Vezina Opticians manager Paul Sambell has been at Lincoln Fields for 20 years, and says he's excited to move into a bigger, better space. (Kate Porter/CBC)

At the opposite end of the mall, Vezina Opticians manager Paul Sambell welcomed the impending demolition.

"This is a positive change. It's good for the community, good for the neighbourhood. It's going to give a whole new shopping experience. It's awesome," said Sambell, who hopes to move into a larger store in the new retail development.

The recently elected councillor for Bay ward, Theresa Kavanagh, is hoping to see affordable housing as part of RioCan's future plans for the site, which she said is underutilized.

Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh is hoping RioCan will include affordable housing in its future plans for Lincoln Fields. (Laura Osman, CBC News )

"It's a big chunk of asphalt, and nobody loves asphalt. I think it's kind of crying out for a change," Kavanagh said. "I think there's a lot of hope that we can do something really special here because of the closeness to LRT."

RioCan has been meeting with local community associations over the past month, and Kavanagh said she's planning to hold her own public meeting about the changes coming to Lincoln Fields by mid-February.