Walmart ready to open in Maple Ridge

Downtown Maple Ridge is to going to get a kickstart in time for Christmas as Walmart opens ...

Downtown Maple Ridge is to going to get a kickstart in time for Christmas as Walmart opens Thursday, Dec. 3 in Haney Place Mall.

The company took over the space from Target earlier this year after that retailer vacated the Canadian market.

The first day is being deemed a soft opening of the Walmart supercentre, with general merchandise and dry groceries, said an e-mail from Felicia Fefer, with Walmart.

The company will announce the date for the grand opening in the coming weeks.

As a supercentre, a full offering of fresh food will be in the grocery section of the store.

Ineke Boekhorst is pleased to hear it.

“I’m happy. I think it will keep a lot of shoppers in Maple Ridge. It’s fantastic for Maple Ridge.”

Boekhorst is executive-director of the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association and says that the association’s members also welcome the arrival of the retail giant.

“The merchants are saying the same thing, it will keep people downtown.”

Currently, there isn’t a store in the downtown where people can buy socks or underwear or basic housewares or everyday items.

“It’s fantastic for seniors who have to travel outside. The seniors just want to be able to walk to a convenience store.”

And shoppers in Maple Ridge’s suburbs no longer will have to drive to Mission or Coquitlam to get to a Walmart. It’s hoped people who made the trip will find their way to the niche stores throughout downtown.

“Anybody can see we need everyday supplies and that’s what a Walmart will bring.”

No other changes in the short term are being planned for the mall.

The retail space at the west end of the mall went through a major expansion and renovation in 2012 in preparation for the arrival of Target, the other major U.S. big box retailer that tried a brief but unsuccessful foray into the Canadian market.

Target expanded the store space at the west end of the mall to 10,334 sq. metres, at a cost of about $10 million after taking over from Zellers.

After Target announced its departure from Canada early this year, Walmart announced that it was taking over several of Target’s leases, one of which was in Haney Place Mall.

In July of this year, Smart Real Estate Investment Trust bought Haney Place Mall from a Vancouver company.

Boekhorst is happy with downtown as Christmas approaches.

“The bells are up today. Our Christmas lighting will be up shortly. Our downtown will be looking really Christmasy again.”

She said the 40-bed temporary homeless shelter run by Rain City Housing at 22239 Lougheed Hwy. is helping the downtown and winning support of local shops.

“I can tell you that the surrounding businesses are very pleasantly surprised that everything is going in such a positive way. The shelter is really dealing very closely with their clients.”

The area is clean and well lighted, people are being referred to counselling. Boekhorst visits the location often to see if needles are being left around, or if there’s vandalism.

“There is not. It’s absolutely settled down, quite a lot.

“They are being fed proper food. They are being taken care of. It’s actually very positive and the [Cliff Avenue] camp has gone so, yes, a lot has changed.”

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