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Big box retailer plans 2005 opening.

Retailing giant Wal-Mart is coming to Parry Sound.

It was recently announced Wal-Mart Canada is planning on initially opening a 72,000-square-foot store, part of a more than 200,000-square-foot proposed commercial development by Effort Trust at the corner of Bowes Street and Pine Drive.

Town of Parry Sound director of community development Iain Laing says the project is divided into two phases with the first phase already zoned. It provides for the 72,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, future expansion of Wal-Mart by an additional 30,000 square feet. There would be yet another building housing a currently unnamed tenant or tenants who would take up an additional 15,000 to 20,000 square feet.

Phase Two is not currently zoned so it will require a rezoning and official plan amendment. It is projected to house a number of different "boxes", bringing the total square footage to between 200,000 to 240,000.

"The developer is going to have to go through a process and there is no guaranteeing he will come out the other end with a total or even partial success," cautions Laing. "There are provisions in the existing plan to do certain things such as marketing studies to show that what he is planning to do will not impact planned functions of the downtown. There will be issues related to Phase Two abutting up to an existing low-density residential zone. There are access issues relating to traffic generated by such a large development.

"In addition to that, there is the opportunity that other interests in the Town appealing (to the Ontario Municipal Board)," he adds.

Kevin Groh, manager of corporate communications for Wal-Mart Canada says the company is planning on an early 2005 opening.

"There are a number of reasons why we chose (Parry Sound)," says Groh. "We are very cautious about the communities in which we locate and you can be rest assured we did our research into Parry Sound and found there was a customer demand for the store. We are confident in Parry Sound as an investment. There is an economy that is advancing and a retail environment we can add to."

Wal-Mart anticipates incurring a number of costs associated with the building of the store, including purchasing land, construction costs as well as charitable donations to local organizations, the priority of which will be set by people hired from the area, he says.

"By the time we open our doors in Parry Sound, we will have injected about $15 million to $20 million into the local community, which will include about 150 construction jobs," he says. "From about 90 days after opening our doors, we will be actively recruiting associates to work in the store."

Wal-Mart has drawn criticism in the past from retailers who have viewed the stores as a threat to their core business. However, Groh says the phenomenon has been studied, including a report by Ryerson University's Centre For The Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA) which states that the effect actually runs in reverse.

He says it has been observed in other communities that, rather than purchasers spending their money in other areas, it draws shoppers to the region.

"There are many things smaller retailers can do that we can't pretend to do and smaller retailers are great at customer service and knowing people individually," says Groh. "It's a relationship and its something that we would have a harder time duplicating. The reality is, we do the things we do very well. Small businesses that do what they do well will likely benefit from Wal-Mart's arrival and the offshoot benefits of increased customer presence."

"This positions Parry Sound for future development," says Tonia Blenkarn, president of the Parry Sound and Area Chamber of Commerce. "You look at other communities that have been growing quite a bit in the last few years and we have not been growing quite as rapidly. By bringing a development like this, plus our new hospital and the recent announcement by Canadore College that it is going to be working with the community to bring in more educational opportunities, it sends the message to developers that Parry Sound is open for business."

By ANDREW WAREING

Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:Parry Sound
Author:Wareing, Andrew
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:700
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