The $214 million sale of Sevenoaks Shopping Centre is likely the largest real estate transaction in Abbotsford’s history.
The News learned of the sale – which occurred in February – from online BC Assessment records following last week’s closure of Sears. The buyer has not been disclosed, and a representative from Morguard, the property management company that operates Sevenoaks, wouldn’t say who the new owners were. Morguard, which has managed the site for 11 years, remains involved in managing the property at the current time.
With HighStreet the only comparably valued private property in Abbotsford, BC Assessment deputy assessor Brian Smith said the Sevenoaks transaction is the highest-valued property to sell that he’s seen.
The shopping centre has a gross leasable area of 568,317 square feet. Its value was assessed last year at $195 million. That was an increase of more than $10 million from the previous year. The assessed value of the Sevenoaks land alone has risen by $35 million – or 50 per cent – since 2014.
The mall was sold several times between 1999 and the mid-2000s, according to online reports. Smith said the 1999 transaction was for $82.75 million. The shopping centre originally opened Oct. 15, 1975 and has gone through a variety of changes over the ensuing years.
The city will be closely interested in the new owner’s plans for the property. Abbotsford is currently working on its City Centre Neighbourhood Plan, which envisions the creation of an urban boulevard along South Fraser Way and a more walkable, vibrant downtown core. The plan will envision more people living downtown, and the parking lots that currently dominate the area shrunk and pushed underground. It also hopes to create a better link between the South Fraser Way area and Mill Lake.
Mayor Henry Braun said he had a brief introductory meeting with the mall’s new owners following the sale.
He said the new Official Community Plan, which laid out the broad vision for the city centre, seemed to be of interest to them, “but that’s based on a single conversation many weeks ago.”
“Sevenoaks is strategically located between South Fraser Way and Mill Lake. I’m sure that fact is not lost on them,” he said. “As the city continues to work on the City Centre Neighbourhood Plan, I think the Sevenoaks Shopping Centre, without a doubt, will play a key role in how South Fraser Way evolves.”
Braun noted that the OCP envisions smaller, more walkable blocks in the area, but that whether that becomes a reality depends on the private market.
A recent report from Colliers suggests that all of Canada’s suburban shopping malls are destined to undergo “fundamental structural change” over the next decade. Market trends and increasing land values, the report says, have encouraged such shopping centres to evolve into “regional town centres” with a mix of housing, and other uses to complement existing retail operations.