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New Horizon Mall developer not yet worried about empty storefronts

The developer behind New Horizon Mall says he’s not concerned by the mostly-empty store fronts at the moment because of his experience opening a similar mall in Markham, Ontario.

Eli Swirsky, president of The Torgan Group, said it took two years to get the Pacific Mall filled to capacity.

In the meantime, he’s providing incentives to store owners here to open earlier rather than waiting.

We have a $5,000 bonus for any store owner who opens a business in the space before Christmas,” said Swirsky.

“The first guys are going to be the winners.”

Mall management is also temporarily waiving monthly fees for those store owners.

The New Horizon Mall is set up differently than most commercial malls. It has a condominium model, where instead of leasing from a corporation, store owners or landlords can buy their stall at the mall.

The spaces up for sale are small by most retail standards, ranging from about 100 to 500 square feet. Once it’s up and running, the store owners will pay monthly fees like a condominium and a board will oversee upkeep and repair of the exterior and shared spaces.

RELATED: Cautious optimism among New Horizon retailers despite mall being virtually empty

As the developer, Swirsky’s group has retained ownership of a few large anchor tenant stores.

He said an Asian department store called the Best Shop has already signed the lease on a 20,000 square foot space in the mall. The Best Shop is also an anchor tenant in Pacific Mall.

“When he saw that another mall like Pacific Mall was being built, it was another opportunity to come in and open the store,” said Swirsky.

The Best Shop at New Horizon Mall will be much larger than Markham’s outlet, which is only 7,000 square feet.

Stephen Wong, a realtor who sold store spaces in the original Pacific Mall said the uptake by tenants is very comparable, based on the mall’s soft June opening.

“When we opened the doors at Pacific , for 6-8 months we were in about the same shape,” he said.

Wong said those who invested in the stores have seen great returns. The storefronts in Markham first went on sale in 1993 for $60,000. Some of those same spaces sold this year for $480,000.

Swirsky said he understands that the mall may look empty and quiet to those who are walking in today, but he said there is a lot of behind the scenes work happening every day.

“Even though we have 11 stores open today, in a couple of weeks we’re going to have six more, and by the end of the month we’re going to have 39 stores open.”

As a co-owner in the space, he’s not concerned.

“This is exactly what we expected.” he said. “When we walk around, when I compare it to what we did in 97, it’s a far superior product. So we’re very, very confident this will achieve equal success as the Pacific Mall.”