New Horizon Mall hosts public meeting for struggling tenants
CALGARY – New Horizon Mall in Balzac is holding a town hall meeting Wednesday amid major financial concerns from its tenants and owners.
Some business owners say they’re struggling and concerned they may lose their life savings because they’re unable to pay rent or other maintenance fees.
Sohail Khan, owner of Smart Tech, said many shop owners are feeling the financial burden.
"I'm still not able to make enough that I can justify to completely work here and open my store all the time," said Khan. "To support my family, I actually have to go out and get another job."
The mall adopted a system, similar to that of condominiums, where shopkeepers purchase storefronts instead of leasing out spaces.
The $200-million New Horizon Mall opened a year and a half ago with space for 500 units and 26 food court units. Just over 100 stores are currently open, accounting for less than 25 per cent of the vast retail space that measures roughly the size of five-and-a-half football fields.
New Horizon Mallmanager Scott Smith says while things are slower than they’d hoped, they are moving in the right direction.
“We’ve made some good strides here. Last year when I started, we had nine stores and now we have 109," he said.
"Obviously the economy hasn’t helped at all, we all wish the economy was better but we’re going to work through it.”
Officials say another major anchor store will be announced sometime next week which should also help increase traffic to the mall. Smith adds that the mall’s model is new to Alberta but has proven successful elsewhere and they are confident it will prove the same in Balzac.
“It’s something new and taking time for people to understand the model,” he said.
“The developer has been very proactive, there’s been a lot of incentive programs that have been offered to unit owners. Some unit owners are sharing that with their store operators and some are not.”
Some owners and tenants are also frustrated they aren’t seeing much advertising to draw people or business to the mall but Smith says there is a marketing plan that will be rolled out shortly.
Some tenants also showed up to take part in Wednesday’s town hall but were disappointed when they were turned away because it was for unit owners only.
“I have some good insight how this mall could progress and how to get unit owners in here to open up shop but it’s frustrating to show up here at eight a.m to share my voice in this meeting and then just be told it’s not for the tenants but the unit owner it’s frustrating,” said Nick Durham, who runs Prowlers, a clothing store.
"It's dead here during the week when we see only maybe 200 people in a day. The mall really needs to advertise, getting new unit owners in there and opening up shops because, at this point, I haven't seen any marketing to give business owners incentive to open."
Despite the challenges, some shops are confident the space will fill up and there is a group of tenants who previously told CTV News they were given a rent discount and are pleased with their investment.