The public is being encouraged to provide input on a proposal to build a shopping centre along the Trans-Canada Highway through Revelstoke.
“I think this is a really important development from the community,” said councillor Connie Brothers during Tuesday’s council meeting. “I’m all for people putting in their comments as soon as possible to give council the feeling how the public feels about this.”
Hall Pacific Enterprises proposes to develop a shopping centre that would include a grocery store and a pharmacy as anchor retailers.
“Its a retail shopping village that’s highway oriented,” Fraser Hall, the principal partner in HPE, said in an interview.
The shopping centre would be located on two large empty lots off the highway along Bend Road. The area was previously the proposed site for a hotel and restaurant development until property owner Steve Platt dropped his plans several years ago, citing an unfavourable development climate at city hall.
Hall says Platt approached him about the potential to develop the site. They then approached city hall to see if the mayor and staff were supportive of the idea.
“We both had words with the planning staff and mayor, and they think the time might be right to make this happen,” said Hall.
According to a preliminary site plan, the proposed development would include a grocery store, drug store, liquor store, auto mechanic, bank, two restaurants and four other storefronts on 9.5 acres of land along the highway.
Hall said he had interested retailers but would not reveal the identity of the potential anchor tenants. “I don’t have anyone on paper,” he said.
The development would look to capitalize on passing highway traffic.
“In terms of the numbers, it comes to the metrics of how many cars are driving by on the highway,” said Hall. “They’re very high numbers and they’re attractive to these tenants.”
Before proceeding, the property needs to be re-zoned to allow for grocery, pharmacy, and health & welfare services uses.
The proposal was discussed by the city’s advisory planning commission last Tuesday, July 7. Fraser Blyth, the chair of the APC, said committee members expressed concern that it would it lead to increased car use in town, which is counter to goals outlined in the Official Community Plan.
“We all hope something happens with this piece of land, and we think there are a lot of uses in the current zoning to allow something good and creative,” he said. “We’re approaching it with the OCP as a background and the input from community members that sit on the APC, and we’re questioning if the proposed amendments are the best use in this location.”
Speaking from his perspective as a planner, Blyth said he didn’t think the highway was the best location for a new grocery store and pharmacy.
“As a community, part of what makes Revelstoke great is we don’t have a tonne of this kind of development,” he said. “As a community, do we want a strip mall?”
Council had a brief discussion about the development at its July 14 meeting. There, Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development services, explained the property is already zoned for commercial development, and that the application was solely to change the allowed uses. He also noted that the plans put forward to council were early drawings, and detailed plans would be provided as part of a development permit application, that would require council approval.
Strachan said the re-zoning amendment bylaw would be brought in front of council at it’s next meeting, on Tuesday, July 28, and a public hearing would likely be scheduled for September. The official public consultation period would take place between those dates.
Coun. Aaron Orlando echoed Brothers in encouraging people to take part in the public process.
“I do encourage community members that if they have something to say, to come out and say it,” he said.
One concern is the impact the development could have on downtown businesses.
“I think it’s going to be one of those 50-50, 60-40 splits, where some people are really passionate and think that new development and more tax dollars are good, and others will think it will spoil the downtown,” Judy Goodman, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, told the Review. “I’m not sure it would spoil our downtown. I think our downtown is so strong.”
She said talked to the proponent about having a small visitor centre or video kiosks inside stores to encourage people to go downtown.
At the same time, Goodman said new development was good, especially on a big site that’s been sitting empty for years. “I would have loved to see a hotel — that’s what it’s zoned for — however this is what we’ve got,” she said. “I’m on the fence on this one.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the public thinks.”
Hall said the development would get people to stop in Revelstoke and then consider going into town. “I’m not sure the concerns are that founded,” he said, adding: “It is a concern and one that has to be heard, and council will deliberate on. I don’t want to build something the locals don’t want.”
Hall said he hopes to begin construction next spring, with completion for 2018. He didn’t provide a price tag for the development.