Crews work to clear the trees at Evergreen Mall. The felling of the trees marks the beginning of the mall’s development. (Tim collins / Sooke NEws Mirror)

Work begins on Sooke’s Evergreen Centre expansion

More trees will be planted to replace those lost

The long-awaited redevelopment of Sooke’s Evergreen Mall has begun.

It’s been a long road to get to this point since a fire gutted a two-storey building at the 6660 Sooke Rd. shopping mall in 2013.

The property was first cleared and left vacant (used as a parking lot) until the owners, Partners REIT, pitched redevelopment plans in 2017. Those plans included a 6,400 square foot single-storey commercial building adjacent to the B.C. Liquor Store.

But those plans fell by the wayside as, in 2018, Partners REIT divested itself of its western Canadian properties and ownership passed to Ontario-based real-estate development trust, Skyline REIT.

“We are moving ahead with our development now and we expect to be finished by the early Spring of 2020,” said company president Gordon Driedger.

“The only tenants that we are prepared to reveal at this time is Tim Hortons, but I’m confident that this development will be a great boost to Sooke.”

In an ironic twist, Sooke’s Evergreen Centre first steps toward the planned mall expansion came with the removal of a series of–you guessed it–evergreens.

The four large Douglas Fir trees, estimated by one tree faller at about 50 years of age, were located at the entrance to the mall and had provided a singular profile to the municipality’s main street.

“It was necessary to take those trees out, but there will be considerable landscaping done as part of this development so, in the long run, there will be many more trees and plants brought in than what we’ve removed,” said Driedger.

Crews from Tomohawk tree service arrived early Monday morning and taped off a significant portion of the entry to the mall before setting to work limbing the four largest trees at the entrance to the mall as well as a group of about a dozen smaller trees on an adjacent roadway.

By noon, a half dozen of the larger trees were denuded and the first of the towering conifers were sent crashing to the ground.

RELATED: Initial plans for the Evergreen Mall fell through

Aaron Gray, the owner of Tomahawk Tree Service was on hand to supervise the felling of the trees and acknowledged that the removal of large trees in an urban centre was hazardous work.

“We have a lot of safety protocols in place and we’re taking every precaution for the safety of passers-by and our staff,” said Gray.

“This can be very dangerous work, but safety is always our primary concern.”

It was expected that all the trees would be down and cleared away by the end of the day.

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