New owner of Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo has big redevelopment plans

New owner of Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo has big redevelopment plans
WatchThe new owner of Woodgrove Centre has sold a shopping mall in China to make way for a new life and plans on Vancouver Island.

A new owner has taken control of Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo and she has some ambitious plans in mind.

Weihong Liu, an investor from China, has lived on Vancouver Island for six years and says she’s fallen in love with her new home. And now she’s investing millions of dollars in multiple properties, including Vancouver Island’s largest covered mall.

Liu, speaking to CHEK with a translator, she has plans to transform it to become even more of a destination for seniors, children and tourists alike.

“In the next one to three years, I’m planning on changing the retail format by developing a total increase of 40-thousand square feet for both catering service and children entertainment facilities. The catering services will include food from all over the world,” she said.

Liu and her brother moved to Vancouver Island six years ago from China.

She sold a much larger shopping mall in China to purchase Woodgrove Centre, which they took possession of on Sept. 1.

They’ve already submitted some redevelopment plans to the City of Nanaimo that would see a new garden area and opportunities for religious ceremonies or parties.

“They think the garden above the building is pretty awesome and we’re trying to attract more visitors from around the world. The shopping centre with a different variety and different culture will be a lot different than the current shopping centre we have at Woodgrove centre right now.”

Woodgrove Centre’s employees now working under the new owners are welcoming the changes.

“Very excited. We’re looking forward to working more with the team. They’re very dynamic,” said Amber Cronk, the centre’s administrative assistant.

“I feel very lucky to be very part of the team. Everybody’s been very welcoming and there’s a lot of exciting changes coming to the future,” said Ally Merluk, who also works for the mall.

The mall sold for an undisclosed amount of money but the 62-acre property is assessed at nearly $260 million.

Liu says she doesn’t believe retail is dead and she’s also optimistic about Vancouver Island’s future, having also bought the Arbutus Ridge golf course in Cobble Hill among other properties.

Liu also plans on learning English and becoming a Canadian citizen. She says Vancouver Island is now home.

On Monday Woodgrove Centre became the first shopping mall in BC to require masks and temperature checks before entry.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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