THE SKEENA Mall has been sold with the final paperwork scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.
Once full of tenants and shoppers, the mall never recovered from the regional recession, which took hold when the bankruptcy of Skeena Cellulose brought on a collapse of the forest industry in the late 1990s.
Carroll MacLean, a representative for mall owner Lanch Holdings, said its owners began looking for a buyer after deciding to get out of the commercial real estate business.
Lanch itself purchased the mall out of receivership in 1986, just as the local economy was beginning to pull out of an earlier forestry-based recession in the early 1980s.
“There were some good years there in the late 1980s and into the 1990s,” said MacLean. “But these last years have not been pretty as you well know.”
“There was a big reluctance on the part of national tenants to look at the area. They didn’t hold out any hope for the market at this time and did not want to look into the future over the next three to five years,” he added.
MacLean would not identify the new owners until the sale had completely closed but said they had existing commercial mall properties.
“I feel they will be able to attract some of those tenants. They have existing relationships,” he said of the company and tenants at its other properties.
Lanch Holdings has just one other commercial property left in its portfolio, a small holding in Alberta.
“The owners have decided to take on a completely new direction,” he said.
The sale is the second recent significant real estate sale to take place in the downtown core. Last month, the former Terrace and District Credit Union building on Lazelle Ave. was sold to a local person, Loralie Thomson.
He praised the work of mall employees over the years to not only look for tenants but to offer up its vacant spaces for various community events and purposes.
The former Northern Drugs space, for instance, became headquarters for the Hockeyville campaign in 2009.
MacLean did say there was a cause for optimism given the start of major projects in the region and expectations of more developments being announced.
“Had we stayed there, I feel we’d be back to the good times,” he said.
Lanch Holdings is in turn owned by the Shon Group, which has a major development in Vancouver called Cathedral Place.
Ron Shon, a principal of the Shon Group, was also a factor briefly in northwestern mining circles when a company he controlled operated the Johnny Mountain gold mine. It closed in 1990.