The SmartCentres project at 70 Wicksteed Ave. is on hold.
At least for now.
After meeting with members of the Leaside Property Owners Association and Leaside Unite, the developer has agreed to defer its application to give the two sides more time to talk about the retail project that would bring an additional 15,700 square metres of big box stores to the area.
Leaside Unite spokesperson Graham Shirley said his group isn’t opposed to development on the site, but rather what such a large development might do to the surrounding neighbourhood.
“Our concern is specifically the negative impact on traffic in our community,” he said. “There’s underground parking as well, which would set a dangerous precedent for neighbouring developments.”
Shirley said that Leaside Unite, which launched an online petition against the development, would like SmartCentres to reduce the size of its as yet unknown anchor tenant, slated at 7,300 square metres, saying the development’s overall density is nearly double that of any neighbouring retail which include a Home Depot, a Canadian Tire and a Future Shop.
To deal with the potential traffic headache, Ward 26 councillor John Parker asked the city to conduct a comprehensive traffic study in the neighbourhood, with an eye toward extending Redway Road between Millwood Road and the Bayview Extension, which Shirley said would divert a sizeable amount of traffic.
Parker, who has been criticized for his support of the development, said he’s done his best to find a result that will satisfy community groups and the developers.
“I think it is well-designed, and a substantial improvement over the large parking lot shopping centres that were built in this neighbourhood in the past,” he said. “This application has been more thoroughly reviewed and analyzed … and limited than any application I’ve ever seen come to the floor of the North York community council.”
Before the proposal was delayed at North York community council, the city’s planning department recommended approval of the application, calling it consistent with existing economic growth plans.
Will it be Wal-Mart?
With a proposed size of 7,300 square metres, the identity of the anchor tenant for the new SmartCentres development is a matter of rampant speculation.
One retailer that seems to come up more than others, and to the grave concern of some area residents, is, of course, Wal-Mart.
“We don’t have a Wal-Mart in the area,” said Ward 26 councillor John Parker. “Target just moved in down the street, so it’s a perfectly fair question to ask what the anchor tenant will be.”
However, Parker, who has no inside information on the identity of the possible tenant, says that the site may not be what Wal-Mart is looking for.
“Wal-Marts tend to be large, and even though Wal-Mart is experimenting with smaller-format stores, I’m not aware of any that are as small as this proposal.”
The anchor tenant would also be on the development’s second floor, with parking underneath, which Parker said is not consistent with Wal-Mart’s business model.
“As the floor space becomes smaller, the additional operating costs of dealing with moving merchandise up and down begins to wear heavily on the profit model of a Wal-Mart in a way that it would not interfere with the profit of a store that deals with a higher profit-margin line of product,” he said.
The trade offs
As with all new development projects there are a series of pros and cons that must be carefully weighed to ensure that the community isn’t negatively impacted and receives some benefit from the development.
• The potential for loss of existing main street businesses on Bayview and Eglinton avenues.
• Increased traffic on Leaside streets.
• Too few parking spaces on site that could lead to shoppers parking on nearby residential streets.
• Too much commercial density in one place.
• The potential installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Laird Drive and Vanderhoof Avenue.
The potential benefits:
• Approximately 368 permanent jobs, including up to 160 of them in the anchor store.
• A possible $500,000 contribution from SmartCentres (through Section 37 funding) to help fund the expansion to Leaside Memorial Gardens.
[align=right]— Source: City of Toronto
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