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Downtown redevelopment stalled by legal fight

Cathy Dobson More shops and services are moving into downtown’s Bayside Centre, despite its new owner being embroiled in a legal battle with his former business partner.
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Redevelopment around the Bayside Centre is on hold, pending the outcome of a legal dispute involving its owner. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

Cathy Dobson

More shops and services are moving into downtown’s Bayside Centre, despite its new owner being embroiled in a legal battle with his former business partner.

Mike Service, manager of the Centre, said the former mall building is slowly rebounding after it was purchased late last year.

Construction has started on a 12,000-square-foot grocery store and new entrance that Service hopes will be ready to open in October.

Davey Jones Quality Meats is scheduled to move into the mall’s southeast side at the corner of Vidal and Cromwell.

In recent months, Red Rhino and Harmony for Youth have opened shop at Bayside, Jag’s Burgers & Fries has opened in the food court, and local engineering firm Langtree Controls has moved in.

“We’re in discussions with three other potential tenants,” Service said, confirming a local fitness club is considering leasing a large space.

A drug store is also eyeing the location, but any deal hinges on whether a proposed seniors’ highrise moves ahead.

“We have not inked the deal for the seniors’ facility just yet, but once that deal is made, the drug store is a slam dunk,” said Service. He expects a decision on the seniors’ complex within 90 days.

If it does move ahead, the seniors’ complex will replace the old Industry Theatre to the east of Bayside.

The purchase of Bayside Centre, The Industry Theatre building and the Drawbridge Inn in 2015 created a wave of optimism that downtown Sarnia was in line for substantial redevelopment.

But those hopes are on hold, with the ownership of the three properties now before the courts.

Developer Gord Laschinger recently issued a statement about what he called “a business dispute … initiated by the former owner, which has lead to court.

“While it is distressing, we are aiming to provide business as usual services to our customers…” he wrote.

Laschinger went on to say the former owner launched a lawsuit to regain a stake in Bayside.

“This has rightly caused issues with our primary lender forcing them to seek court intervention to preserve the progress made over the past six months.”

Laschinger apologized and said he is committed to a fast resolution and the continuation of Bayside’s redevelopment.

Service said he anticipates the courts will order a power of sale to “clean off all the strings attached to the ownership and allow for company restructuring.

“And until the courts make up their minds, it has slowed things down,” he said.  “It’s having no impact on attracting new tenants but it’s slowing down our cash flow.”

Meanwhile, real estate deals between Laschinger and five property owners surrounding Bayside Centre have not proceeded as announced.

All five sales were supposed to close in March but Laschinger asked for environmental assessments at the last minute. It appears those deals are now dead.

“It’s been turmoil for a while with no indication of where this is going,” said Mark Woolsey, owner of the former Taylor Furniture building, one of the five impacted properties.

The environmental assessment on Woolsey’s Christina Street property came back “clean,” but Laschinger still didn’t make payment to purchase, Woolsey said.

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