Toys R Us opens, start of big changes at Willowbrook Shopping Centre

Interior facelift getting underway and now-empty NW corner of mall to be transformed

MONIQUE TAMMINGA

Times Reporter

A large crowd gathered early in the morning to be the first ones in to the relocated Toys R Us at Willowbrook Shopping Centre on Saturday.

Dozens of young visitors were greeted at the front doors by Toys R Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe and TV show cartoon characters Shimmer and Shine, and later by Lego Batman. Captain Starlight from Starlight Children’s Foundation, (Toys R Us’s chosen charity for kids), delighted the crowd.

Toys R Us kicked off its grand opening celebrations at 8:45 a.m. Saturday with a ribbon cutting and announcing the three lucky winners who got to go on shopping sprees through the giant toy store.

The festivities continued all weekend long with giveaways and appearances by kids’ favourite on screen characters including Paw Patrol.

The new store, located where Target used to be, includes 45,000-square feet filled with the hottest toys and everything for baby. It also includes dedicated play areas including a Nerf target range and interactive stations for kids from Playdoh to Lego.

The relocation of Toys R Us and Sport Chek is the first step in a major renovation and expansion of Willowbrook Shopping Centre.

Bentall Kennedy, that manages Willowbrook, had brought a proposal to Township council last year, asking for a development permit to make more than 100,000 square feet expansion to the northwest corner where Toys R Us and Sport Chek used to be.

The expansion would include a new outdoor shopping experience and pedestrian corridor. It would also include 1,200 parking spots in a new underground lot.

Built in 1979, the mall’s most recent renovation took place in 2007.

An interior facelift is supposed to get underway later this summer and will likely carry on through into 2018, said Tony Segaric, vice president of operations and construction at Bentall Kennedy.

“We intend to create an upscale, contemporary environment,” said Segaric.

The updated concept designs will be put on display at an upcoming public open house later this summer, followed by the displays put up at the mall.

The shopping centre’s major tenants include Hudson’s Bay, Sears, Sport Chek and Toys R Us.

Willowbrook has 150 stores and roughly 6.9 million shoppers visit annually, said the Willowbrook Shopping Centre website.

Although they are still in the process of securing new tenants, the outdoor mall at Willowbrook will likely include a grocery store, restaurants, coffee shops, local retail and fashion stores, and will have “somewhat like a Park Royal village feel.”

There isn’t word on which new stores they are trying to secure. Shoppers said they would like to see stores like H&M, Forever 21 and Aritizia.

“We are in discussions with many new and exciting retailers. During our pre-application open house hosted at Willowbrook Shopping Centre in June 2016 we received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those that attended and later visited our website about the addition of much-needed community gathering place where the residents of Langley can shop, eat and socialize,” said Segaric.

“The retailers we’re targeting are those that were identified by residents that they would like to see here — ones that are not yet present in Langley, along with local and unique food and beverage operations — but it’s too early in the process for any official announcement.”

In the future, there is even potential for mixed-use residential but that is dependent on many factors, mainly rapid transit in the vicinity, he said.

A timeline for all this work will be better known later and presented to Township council in the early fall, said Segaric.