New Bayside owner has big plans for redevelopment

Grocery store, pharmacy, adult lifestyle residence and rental lofts among 'evolving' plans

Gord Laschinger
Gord Laschinger

Gord Laschinger, the new majority owner of Bayside Centre, has big plans for the downtown Sarnia building he and his partners at Wilsondale Assets Management scooped up for $1.7 million last fall.

How big? Laschinger has told Lambton Shield the new venture expects to spend between $13 million and $15 million over the next two years, focusing on a number of significant improvements to the property. And that doesn’t include an adult lifestyle residence and the proposed loft-style units that would be built where the former Taylor’s building sits.

How Laschinger and his partners came to discover the opportunity is a story that began at least a couple of years ago, when Wilsondale, which is located in Vaughn, northwest of Toronto, was sent the typical package that potential buyers of commercial real estate typically receive every week.

“We didn’t pay attention at the time,” he says now. “We were busy with other projects.”

Then, last July, they received another “pitch”—with a greatly reduced price.

“We said ‘something’s funny here’—the price had come down quite a bit and we thought it was worthwhile looking at. We did and put our offer in.”

Laschinger’s group is also interested in hearing from various members of the downtown community. An open house that initially revealed some of the plans was generally positive but an ongoing survey (online at is available through January 28, 2016.

For some, the idea of transforming what might be called a “tired” property into a driver of even more downtown transformation would be ambitious, but Laschinger disagrees (at least to a point).

“It might seem ambitious, but when you’ve come from nothing done in the last decade (other than decline), then almost anything would look good. That’s the perspective I would have,” he says.

Laschinger’s company—officially Bayside Mall 2015 Ltd.—has contracted with Sarnia’s MIG Engineering and David Gilchrist Architect to do their magic with Bayside.

While those plans are still being finalized, there are some details we can confirm:

Lambton Shared Services and the various provincial offices (licensing and employment assistance) will remain as Bayside anchors

Laschinger and his team are actively looking for a grocery store as well as a full-service pharmacy.

The plan there is to see what is now a nearly-empty Bayside Centre fill in with a “modest amount of supportive retail,” he says.

But there are, if not ambitious certainly interesting, aspects to the planned redevelopment that Laschinger has talked about, including a transit terminal that would be located on the northeast corner (near George and Vidal).

There are also renderings for a market square that would be located where the current entrance is, south of the Imperial Theatre. The building that houses both Ravenous, a restaurant, and Temple Bar, has been bought and will eventually be demolished to make room for the market square part of the development.

Laschinger is also looking at the possibility of attracting an educational or institutional tenant, something he and his partners at Wilsondale have done in Windsor, where the University of Windsor has leased space, and in St. Catharines, where Niagara College has space (with discussions continuing with Brock University as well).

But another feature of the Bayside facility that continues to catch Laschinger’s attention is the 700-plus space underground parking.

“I don’t know the last time I’ve seen one that big and it’s quite an asset,” he says. “One of the things we want to do, along with opening up the hours of the mall is to open up the parking hours.”

The idea that most of the parking is “free” doesn’t bother Laschinger as much as one might think. “There’s nothing wrong with free as long as it’s benefitting other uses in the neighbourhood,” he says.

Besides Bayside itself, Laschinger’s company has purchased the former Taylor’s building and, quite separately, the Drawbridge Inn, which he says will be renovated.

He’d also like to see a newer LCBO store as part of a redevelopment.

Laschinger admits that many of the details remain fuzzy, but that’s because engineering studies are yet to be completed. For example, MIG and the architect have a pretty good idea of how they’ll build loft units above the Taylor’s building, but no firm plans are in place.

One thing is absolutely certain though. Laschinger says he’s in this for the long haul, with no plans to make a quick flip and move on.

“My kids might like it, but we’re here to stay.”

As far as dealing with municipal officials, Laschinger is pleased with what’s occurred and the help he continues to receive when it comes to answering questions or getting input.

“Everyone has been nothing but wonderful, whether it be city staff or the mayor. We’ve felt very welcomed.”

Laschinger’s group is also interested in hearing from various members of the downtown community. An open house that initially revealed some of the plans was generally positive but an ongoing survey (online at is available through January 28, 2016.

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