Tuesday, 17 September 2013

News: RioCan Appealing Bylaw Freezing Proposed Bathurst Walmart

What's next for proposed Kensington Market Walmart site?

The Kromer Radio site on Bathurst Street
Big-Box developer RioCan had proposed a three-storey retail complex (with Walmart as the anchor tenant) on the former Kromer Radio site at 401-446 Bathurst Street. Kromer Radio closed in 2012 after 55 years in business leaving a prime patch of real estate close to both Kensington Market and Little Italy.

The proposed complex would house up to 10 retailers with small format shops on the ground level, and Walmart occupying the second and third floors. The site which is currently zoned as Mixed Use Commercial Retail allows it to be used for retail use. RioCan has stated that its proposed development is near but not in Kengsinton Market and would offer a different mix of retailers than is currently found in the area.
RioCan's proposed retail complex

Rendering of proposed development at 401-446 Bathurst Street
"We believe our proposal to build a three-storey urban-format retail centre will be a significant improvement to the current site. At the same time, we remain considerate and respectful of the needs of local communities." Said RioCan via a website they launched asking for public input. RioCan's urban properties include the RioCan Shoppes at Queen and Portland (which houses Winners and Loblaws) and the Stockyards currently under construction on St. Clair Avenue.

Not surprisingly the proposal has stirred local residents who fear the impact a large retailer would have on a neighbourhood defined mostly by small stores and independent retailers. Friends of Kensington Market have set up an online petition aiming to stop RioCan's development plans.

Location of proposed development
 "Riocan’s application for re-zoning is part of a disturbing trend in our city," Says the online petition page. "If the communities around Bathurst and College win this fight against Riocan we will have set a precedent that could empower other neighbourhoods in Toronto to face down developers in the future. It's a battle we can't afford to lose." The group also has an online petition against a proposed Loblaws on College Street (in far closer proximity to Kensington Market than the Kromer Radio site) which hasn't garnered the same level of support.

Local City Councillor Adam Vaughan has been a vocal opponent of the project and in July City Council passed a bylaw which blocks big-box retail in the area for a year as the city completes further study. RioCan has now appealed that decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. The OMB is an often controversial unelected body to whom planning and development decisions can be appealed.

[Renderings via RioCan]