By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
What was once a busy destination just south of Oshawa’s downtown has slowly become a shell of itself, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Back in 2011 when U.S.-based company Target purchased 220 Zellers stores across Canada, the location at 555 Simcoe Street South was not included under the new banner.
For the past six years, the largest unit in what’s known to many city residents as the Zellers Plaza has sat vacant.
As time passed by, other major tenants such as Swiss Chalet, and the Habitat for Humanity Restore moved their operations.
On most days, the parking lot at the plaza has a scattering of vehicles across its sprawling concrete. The only current tenants are a HR Block location and a TD Bank ATM terminal. The rest of the units are a mix and match of covered up windows or signage leftover from former tenants such as a convenience store and a furniture outlet. While the current narrative may portray a bleak picture, plans are in place to bring life back to the plaza. Toronto-based company Triple Properties Inc. bought the lands a few years ago. Residents may have noticed some work underway on the plaza in the past year, and more is on the way.
“We are going to be modernizing the plaza and bringing it up with 2018 standards,” says David White, head of special projects for Triple Properties Inc.
White says while the building is in great shape, it still requires some care, as the previous owner Hudson’s Bay Company “didn’t want to do much with it.”
“We want to get the building in a proper spot for us. Once it’s there, we can focus on leasing it out.”
While he declined to name any potential tenants, White did tell The Oshawa Express there is considerable interest in the property.
Revitalization plans for the plaza are welcome news to Mayor John Henry.
“You are always concerned when a plaza is empty,” he says.
According to Henry, the location represents an important piece of Oshawa’s history.
It was once the home of the Pedlar People Company, a sheet metal manufacturer that employed thousands of people in Oshawa.
“I think it’s important to realize that it’s been an evolution. It was a fabrication plant, and it was reinvented and become a shopping centre,” Henry notes. “Now, it’s completely reinventing itself again.”
With a GO Station scheduled to be built one block north at the former Knob Hill Farms property as part of the extension of the Lakeshore East line, Henry says the plaza is in the middle of what he expects to be a very busy neighourhood in the future.
“I’m excited to see another great project happening in the City of Oshawa,” the mayor says.