Sorry for the change of topic but I just read this in today's Standard:
Copied from www.stcatharinesstandard.ca
web site Friday, November 24, 2006 - © 2006 St. Catharines Standard
Wal-Mart: The Next Generation coming soon ... maybe
Friday, November 24, 2006 - 09:00
Herod's Column - Get ready, east St. Catharines.
Big-box bliss is in your future.
As expected, a developer has formally submitted plans to rezone former Ferranti-Packard property to make way for a new power retail centre, bordered by Bunting Road, Dieppe Road and Neilson Avenue,
The anchor tenant would be a huge, next-generation Wal-Mart store (19,350 square metres) with a significant grocery component (4,050 square metres).
By comparison, the existing Wal-Mart store at the nearby Lincoln Mall is 14,500 square metres and the Pen Centre Zehrs grocery store is 5,400 square metres.
In addition to demolishing the old Ferranti-Packard factory, the landscape-altering proposal involves tearing down NG Cash and Carry and TST Overland Express, both of which front on Bunting Road.
The development also calls for eight other new mini- to mid-sized box stores on the 31.8-acre (12.8-hectare) property. The existing Staples store and small adjacent plaza on site will remain. There will be parking space for more than 1,700 cars.
Now before people start polishing up their resumes for Wal-Mart greeter jobs or investing in asphalt, it should be noted St. Catharines East Developments Inc. has some regulatory hurdles to jump before its plans can be realized.
(St. Catharines East Developments Inc. is an arm of Smart!Centres, formerly First Pro Shopping Centres, the gang that brought us the Louth Power Centre on Fourth Avenue.)
First and foremost for the developers is convincing St. Catharines city council to rezone the land in question from industrial to commercial.
The public meeting to deal with the rezoning isn't expected until some time next spring.
However, there is a preliminary public information session set for Jan. 31.
Smart!Centres, which pines for the visibility a QEW service road offers, had sounded out city planners earlier this year about its proposal, and received a guarded response.
Concern was expressed by planners about the city giving up potentially prime industrial land along the QEW, the pressure for change such a huge commercial development might have on other nearby industrial properties and whether it would lead to an oversupply of retail space in the immediate area as well as the rest of the city.
The developer was asked to commission studies that would address these points as well as traffic and servicing questions.
The city only received the reports earlier this month and is still working through them.
However, to no one's surprise, the developer-funded studies support the re-zoning application, arguing there's room for more retail space in the city.
The project would result in the expansion and modernization of the existing Lincoln Mall commercial node, and could help persuade the owners of the eyesore known as the Adelstein scrapyard on Welland Avenue to relocate, the developer's consultants say.
Don't worry about the impact on the downtown, either, they add.
The proposed east St. Catharines development and downtown stores appeal to different consumers.
They also suggest the city is backing a loser if it continues to market the site for renewed industrial activity. There are plenty of more attractive industrial properties elsewhere in Niagara. The city is better off promoting its available industrial land in west St. Catharines.
And the city can't afford to rest on its laurels as the retail and commercial service hub of Niagara.
"In the face of increasing competition within Niagara region arising from proposals in Niagara Falls and elsewhere, it is important that St. Catharines encourage the upgrading and modernization of commercial facilities within the municipality," reads a report from a Markham-based retail consultant.
OK, that's the developer's take.
City planners, councillors and other parties have yet to weigh in.
Expect some wringing of hands from the usual suspects about how we're being big-boxed to death.
And can't we convince Research in Motion to take over the old Ferranti-Packard building?
Somehow, I see Wal-Mart winning out.