An empty store in downtown Sydney is getting a new lease on life

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An empty store in downtown Sydney is getting a new lease on life

The new owner of an iconic downtown Sydney building is making plans to revitalize it as a retail anchor resulting in one less empty storefront on the main street.

Smart Shop Place opened in 1904 as a clothing store. Located at the corner of Prince and Charlotte streets, it has over 20,000 square feet of space. 

Parker Rudderham purchased the building in 2013 but it now stands empty.

"I'll be the first to admit we dropped the ball on it and all of a sudden it's empty and you're busy with other stuff and and I don't like to see that," he said.

Rudderham said there is a glut of office space available so the property will remain largely retail.

Downstairs donated

He has donated the downstairs section to two organizations — the Sydney Waterfront District Association and the National Trust of Canada. He said both groups will use the space free of charge for the next 2½ years. 

Rudderham said his plans for the rest of the building include a possible Great Canadian Tea Company location.

"We're considering moving that into the Smart Shop as a retail location providing we can find another company that's compatible so they can operate side by side," he said.

Previously, artisans shared a space on the second floor to display and sell their handmade items. Rudderham said he may return to that concept "where they could go up there and for a very nominal fee display their wares."

Information session planned

An information session will be held in the next few months to gather ideas and speak to interested tenants.

Adrian White, executive director of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, said development would be "so good" for the downtown core.

"We're always looking for new ideas and new tenants to come into this area to bring other people with them," he said.

'A traditional shopping spot'

Scott MacDonald, who runs a shoe repair shop and retail outlet on Charlotte Street, said the area "needs every retailer we can get right now."

"Smart Shop to me represents an anchor store at the mall. It's a great location, high visibility and it's been a traditional shopping spot for Cape Bretoners for decades," he said.

"Any time you can add more retail space to a downtown core, it's a big improvement to the area as a whole."