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by Don Butler

A proposed $200 million-plus expansion could make the St. Laurent Shopping Centre a “major powerhouse” within Canada’s retail industry, says the company that owns the 42-year-old mall.

Morguard Investments has filed a rezoning application with the City of Ottawa seeking the expansion, which would boost the centre’s gross leasable area to about 1.3 million square feet from 971,000 square feet.

That would catapult St. Laurent, Ottawa’s largest mall, into 10th place on the list of Canada’s biggest malls. St. Laurent, with 195 stores, is currently No. 27.

But bulking up isn’t the rationale for the expansion, Scott MacDonald, Morguard’s vice-president of retail, said Monday. Rather, it’s to make St. Laurent “the best it can possibly be.”

“There’s tremendous potential to enhance that property,” he said. “It could be a major powerhouse in the retail industry here in Canada.”

Morguard’s proposal comes as Bayshore Shopping Centre gears up to challenge a city zoning bylaw that prevents it from growing much beyond its present size. The Ontario Municipal Board is scheduled to hear the case in October.

Bayshore’s owner, Ivanhoe Cambridge, has proposed a $130-million expansion that would add up to 150,000 square feet of retail and concourse space and 421 new parking spaces to the mall.

A third Ottawa mall, the Rideau Centre, dropped a proposal for expansion in 2006, but expects to proceed with one within three to five years, according to general manager Cindy Vanbuskirk.

“We have two prime development sites in the heart of the nation’s capital, and we will definitely be developing them at some point,” she said.

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