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Red flags raised about more retail space

Council to consider London Drugs through new lens

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The previous council commissioned the retail strategy more than a year ago in response to the hot-button application for the London Drugs store.

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden reminded council of the history as she asked Le Tourner how confident he was with the strategy’s statement that large format value discount stores are one the least preferred formats for the village.

“That comes straight out of the consumer survey,” he answered.

And that survey was done before the two big box stores, Home Depot and Wal-Mart, opened in Squamish, added Wilhelm-Morden.

Powell said this London Drugs proposal is much smaller than a traditional “large format value discount” store. Their surveys show that there is 70 per cent support for the store in the community.

And their proposal has the bulk of the store located in the basement level.

But more than a guide for the London Drugs proposal, the strategy provides an overall direction on how to deal with the resort retail experience.

It calls on Whistler to create retail nodes and define the characteristics of each node. For example, the skiers plaza area with the Longhorn and the GLC should continue to be a high energy food and beverage area, whereas the Upper Village at the base of Blackcomb Mountain should harness its upscale hotel accommodations to continue to attract boutique shopping and luxury retail brands, along with fine dining.

But what can council do to control what comes and goes from the retail mix they asked?

“We do live in a free enterprise society,” said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler as he looked to Le Tourner for answers about council’s role in controlling retail.

There are many recommendations for local government to improve and enhance its retail offerings.

“Where the municipality can really do something is in the public space,” said Le Tourner.

He used as an example interactive features throughout the village, such as fire pits, and dancing fountains — things to draw to people into the town. He also suggested more encroachments of outdoor patios on municipal property, and more events and animation to draw people through the streets and ultimately into shops.

One way to entice more local independent retailers to the mix is to limit the size of the stores. The strategy calls for council to consider maximum retail and restaurant size guidelines for storefronts at grade level. Generally large multinational stores aren’t interested in setting up shop in small retail spaces.

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