Last Frontier for Big Box?
Rumours are swirling that Canadian Tire is planning to open in Liberty Village, at the base of the John Brunswick Building.
A spokesperson from Canadian Tire said the company currently has no such plans at Liberty Village (a 100-year-old heritage structure at the corner of Hanna Ave and Snooker Ave). Still, the rumour (from a senior level industry source) speaks to the larger issue of big box retail moving into the downtown core via new store formats. The issue came up again with Loblaws announcing recently that it was putting a smaller, 20k SF store into a new condo project on College (on the second floor). Not to mention RioCan’s proposed development where the old Kromer site presently sits on Bathurst, south of College. Walmart would take the upper two floors, in that scenario.
Peter Moore, a project manager for the city’s planning division tells us this has been a "key retail development issue over the past few years." The planning department is having J.C. Williams Group do a study on how the city should evaluate large retail developments near pedestrian shopping strips, in particular how much new retail development the city should be approving and what the max store size should be currently 86k SF. (Our neighbor just got a 87k SF flat-screen TV, so if we're to keep up, a new regulation better come along soon.)
Those who want to capitalize on downtown population density have to find a developer who can build mixed-use and accommodate their store. “There aren’t many developers who can do this,” he says. Even smaller boxes like Shoppers Drug Mart of the LCBO don’t necessarily fit well with the “fine-grained rhythm and flow of smaller stores” on the strips. How are pedestrians impacted by big walls of stucco, dark windows with few entrances? Providing for the "comfort and amenity of the pedestrian realm is a prime planning objective for these areas,” Peter says.