A major renovation and revitalization project is in the works for Powell River Town Centre, says the new general manager of the shopping centre Lorelei Guthrie.
Guthrie, who has been in her new role since August, has made a career of helping property owners transform and renew their aging shopping centres, she says.
“Jack Barr came to see me at the last place I refreshed and asked me if I could do the same for Powell River,” says Guthrie.
It only took her about 12 hours after arriving to make a decision to take on the project.
“I came up here and fell in love almost immediately,” she says.
Growing up in small-town Manitoba, Powell River offers her familiar comfort and the ocean views from her Westview home are a source of daily joy, she adds.
Big changes are in store for the 45-acre property, according to Guthrie.
“Jack’s desire is to bring something fresh here,” she explains. “His commitment to the property and community will be evident with the use of materials and design.”
‘Bringing the outdoors inside’ will be the main theme of the redevelopment with much focus on the use of wood, a nod to our forestry roots, she adds.
Details will be announced mid-March and the public is invited to the engagement.
Guthrie says she thinks this will be of great interest to the community as there has recently been much discussion about the status of the shopping centre after two tenants, Ardene and Peoples Jewellers, closed.
“It’s unfortunate that people on social media are making comments about situations they don’t fully understand,” says Guthrie. “These decisions were made by the companies’ head offices and have absolutely nothing to do with us here at the ground level. This is just the ebb and flow of retail.”
She adds that she feels local shopping centre landlords are easy targets for blame, especially when social media commentators do not have all the facts.
“What most people don’t know is that Ardene closed eight of its other Canadian locations at the same time they closed their Powell River store,” she says.
Guthrie adds that it is not in the shopping centre’s best interest, particularly in this era of challenging retail sales economics, to raise rents to make it even more difficult for its tenants to stay in business.
“We’re not in the business of jacking up rents to put tenants out of business,” she says.
The proposed refresh will not only be limited to improving the look of the property but also to increase its support for the local small business community.
The shopping centre will also continue to work closely to support community nonprofits such as Powell River and District United Way, Powell River Action Centre Food Bank, School District 47’s student lunch program, PRISMA, Powell River Hospice Society and many others.
“My vision for this shopping centre is for us to work much more closely with the community,” says Guthrie.
During the recent busy holiday shopping period, visitors to the shopping centre may have already noticed this change, which included a Santa welcome show that brought performers back into the centre and put more focus on locally made, handcrafted goods and services.
“I want to bring in more local artisans and be able to do more pop-up shops,” she adds. “We want to be able to provide more support for our local entrepreneurs.”
Guthrie says she sees a larger role for the shopping centre to provide retail space for a range of more service-oriented businesses.
“I’m working with a number of franchise operators to try to bring their businesses to Powell River,” she says.
Also, she sees a greater role for the shopping centre to provide an outdoor public gathering space to host events such as large community fundraisers.
“I don’t see myself as just being brought here to do a mall renovation,” she says. “I see this as an opportunity to help provide a full, all-encompassing reboot.”