Laura Hubert

Laura Hubert

BUSINESS BEAT: Like a diamond, the new Hillside Centre dazzles

It's been a long time coming, but Hillside's expansion/renovation nearing completion

Hillside Centre general manager Kerry Shular hasn’t had many opportunities to come up for air the past couple of years.

When she took a few minutes’ breather to speak about the massive expansion and renovation that has transformed the mall, she chuckled, recalling a recent conversation.

“It’s funny, I was just saying to someone this is the first time in 18 months that I haven’t had a construction trailer in the front parking lot,” she said.

While securing tenants for the handful of remaining vacancies among 22 new spaces is a priority, Shular happily reported the expansion/renovation is in the area of “95 per cent” completed, with only some landscaping, lighting and signage to be completed.

Some mall newcomers, such as Tip Top Tailors, GNC and Cali Nails, aren’t quite in place yet. Target expects a mid-March “soft opening,” Shular said. But enlarged Shoppers Drug Mart and Sport Chek stores are attracting plenty of attention at the Shelbourne Street end of the mall.

Tenants who have stayed are happy to see the lion’s share of the work done. Some, like Wrapprz, an independent seller of customized e-device covers and four-year tenant, managed to secure a more premium location.

“We’re right next to Purdy’s. It’s a better spot than we were in before,” said Laura Hubert, store co-owner with husband, Jeff. “It’s been a long haul for us, for sure, with all the construction around. But as far as traffic goes, people are starting to come and check things out. It’s be nice when the whole new wing is full of stores.”

Hubert is excited about the future of the mall with its fresh new look, doubled-in-size food court and broader range of offerings with such anchor stores as Target and Marshall’s, similar to Winner’s and owned by the same parent company.

In the Greater Victoria mall battles to attract new customers, Shular believes Hillside now has something to offer everyone. “We’re being selective about what we’re bringing in. It’s a careful consideration of what works and what doesn’t.”

The expansion positions Hillside as the leader in the middle market, the 25-and-over age, mid-price point, Shular said. “We service everybody from families to seniors to teens to children.”

Not only has the mall increased its offerings, with more to come, it has made big changes to its external infrastructure, something she called the “sustainability of the new Hillside.”

More trees, greenery and rain gardens, the use of permeable paving materials, and the installation of an underground collection system to prevent leaked vehicle fluids from entering the Bowker Creek watershed – all contribute to the greening of the shopping centre.

“We even have 12 car chargers on site,” Shular said.

While the major project was planned and started before the mall was sold last year to Bentall Kennedy, Hillside’s original developer back in 1969, the new owners will be looking to the mix of 100-plus tenants to spur a solid return on their investment over the long term.

Charity focus for local merchants

Vancouver Island Construction Association’s U40 Network raised more than $8,500 for street community supporter Dandelion Society, at a Casino Royale night Jan. 30. The young construction leaders annually pick a charity to support with their fundraising efforts … You still have time to donate your gently used jeans to a local shelter through Warehouse One – The Jean Store. The retailer, with stores in Hillside Centre, Millstream Village and Tillicum Centre, will give customers 20 per cent off purchases with the donation of two or more pairs of jeans through Feb. 9 … Reps from Monk Office Supply presented a cheque for $800 to the Mustard Seed, donated at its stores before Christmas.

New businesses offer international flair

A pair of new businesses downtown are bringing international flavour to the city.

Raj Gupta’s Saaz Restaurant and Lounge, tucked inside in a heritage building at 103-535 Yates St., offers Indian food with specialities like butter chicken, Dosa crepes and Tandoori dishes. A short walk away at 1210 Broad St., Katrina Ulasovska’s Domani Fashion presents women’s clothing, shoes and handbags from Italy.

West Shore operations certifiable green

Eight private and public organizations on the West Shore have earned Vancouver Island Green Business Certification distinction.They are City of Colwood (municipal hall), Royal Bay Bakery, Forester’s Bistro and Bar, Growlies for Pets, Farley Martin Notaries Public, Stephen Whipp Financial, Caring for First Nations Children Society and Oak Bay Bicycles.

Who’s making waves on the business front

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney has named Alison Barratt its new executive director, replacing outgoing founding director Angus Matthews. Barratt brings 12 years of experience working with ocean conservation to the job, including nearly a decade at the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif. … West Shore Chamber of Commerce unveiled its new board of directors recently, with retired aerospace engineer and Bitez Sandwich Bar owner Doug Kobayashi at the helm as president. Others on the board executive are Ken Taylor, Dana Boutin and Robert Potier, and newly installed directors are Scia’new First Nation treaty negotiator Henry Chipps, lawyer Shelly Quinte and realtor Brad McLaren.

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