By Sindi Skenderi
Spring Garden Road will not be the same after Winsbys Shoes and the Rockport Shop closes its doors for the final time this Saturday.
Rick Pratt, the owner of Winsbys, says the building will be demolished on April 1, with a seven-storey building taking its place.
“It’ll be a sad day when we close… we’ve had our tears,” says Pratt.
Pratt, 63, has owned Winsbys since 1993. He says the 1980s were the boom years because back then the retailers’ biggest problem was having enough product to sell to customers.
But the problem, now, is that everybody has as much product as they want, and probably more.
“Customers that are looking at shoes and boots now mostly buy them online, and most of the clothing stores sell shoes,” says Pratt.
Dealing with a higher number of competitors, and an unsustainable monthly tax addition, Winsbys could no longer survive. “Taxes in, the rent for the lot would be over $25,000 a month,” he says.
What’s to come
Westwood Developments Ltd. owns the property. Danny Chedrawe, who heads the company, says the new building will be seven storeys, with three levels of retail and four levels of residential apartments on the floors above.
Westwood Development bought the building so it could transfer the Bank of Montreal from its current location on Spring Garden to where Winsbys is now, and then put in a new tenant in that property.
The bank is located for the time being at 5435 Spring Garden Rd., right across from the new Halifax Library.
Chedrawe refused to comment on what client will take the spots downstairs, but did say the apartments upstairs will be more modern and cater to a young, professional demographic.
Chedrawe is also responsible for moving the TD Canada Trust branch down the road on Spring Garden in 2012, along with several other developments on Spring Garden.
He says they plan for 12 months of construction.
This will result in the sidewalk on Birmingham Street to close down, while a new sidewalk will be built around the construction site on Spring Garden Road and onto the street.
That means Spring Garden Road will be six feet smaller on that side of the lane, so frequent buses on the street will have to wait for oncoming traffic to stop, and steer around the new sidewalk.
Along with the construction of the new library, just one block from Winsbys, as well as the parking lot right behind Winsbys, Spring Garden Road will be a busy place for construction workers.
But, Reinhard Valgarosson, owner of Cintamani, the Icelandic outdoor clothing a clothing store across from Winsbys, thinks the area it will not be a busy place for shoppers.
Embrace or reject the change
“Spring Garden doesn’t need more banks, [it] doesn’t need more restaurants. We need more stores to bring people here to shop,” says Valgarosson. “It’s gonna going to be bad for about a year,” he adds.
Pratt feels the street will have a tough time for the next five years, saying, “Retailers that cannot survive will have to leave.”
Nancy Tissington, executive director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association says, “Speaking on behalf of the board, we’re embracing change and we’re rejuvenating the area.”
On whether all the new construction will affect the popularity of Spring Garden, she says, “Fingers crossed, if you’re gonna come in and do your banking, chances are we’re gonna get you into a restaurant or coffee shop.”
Pratt says downtown needs to be updated, “I’m confident that (Mayor) Mike Savage or someone will take the bull by the horns and revitalize downtown.”
But he acknowledges there will be growing pains from all the construction.