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Red flags raised about more retail space

Council to consider London Drugs through new lens



By Alison Taylor

The long-awaited retail strategy may not be the panacea London Drugs was looking for in its quest to find a home in Whistler.

“Certainly it’s hard to find much in the retail strategy that supports the approval of London Drugs,” said Mayor Ken Melamed, following Monday’s council meeting which saw the release of the Whistler Sustainable Retail Strategy.

London Drugs president Wynne Powell disagrees. While he believes there is some confusion around the study’s recommendations, he said key findings in the study are met by adding a London Drugs to the village retail mix.

“The report says rightly there’s a lack of effective retailing in the village,” said Powell. “The report also says that the village lacks diversity and merchandise offerings and needs more basic necessities at a great variety of price points. It then goes on and says the village needs to attract more foot traffic in all seasons.

“When I look at that, and obviously I’m biased but I believe London Drugs will do all of these things.”

The study, however, specifically recommends that no new retail space be created except for existing zoned and undeveloped space. In particular, it calls for the space London Drugs is hoping to occupy to remain under its current zoning — restaurant, entertainment, office, storage. In other words, non-retail space.

The report states: “Similar types of uses to those achieved at the cinema space should be considered for remaining underground spaces that create a new activity while adding to the street front experience.”

“There already is a significantly large amount of retail space,” said Chris Le Tourner of Thomas Consultants who presented the study and its recommendations at the council meeting.

“It’s about repositioning and enhancing what you have in terms of the amount of space.”

Powell said the strategy is not clear in its recommendations.

“I would say that we’re confused by the report and we’re not really sure what the conclusion is,” he said Tuesday, the day after this week’s council meeting.

“Every non-retailer that we’ve looked at that has occupied that space has failed.”

While he is looking for more clarity on the strategy’s findings, he remained upbeat that it didn’t definitely rule out the possibility of a London Drugs.

“It’s not a turn down of our situation so that’s encouraging, I think that’s very encouraging,” said Powell.

London Drugs is looking to open a two-level 17,000 square foot store but needs council to amend the zoning in the lower half of the Village Centre property, below the Eddie Bauer location, to allow retail.