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Lakehead shopping developments get the nod.

Planner cites the benefits of competition

Competition could be the medicine Thunder Bay needs to counter the ailment of cross-border shopping.

With two of three proposed shopping developments ready to begin construction, it will not be long before Thunder Bay offers a more rounded and competitive shopping experience.

The first project involves expanding Intercity Shopping Centre by 40 to 50 more stores and increasing the Sears store to 120,000 square feet.

Campeau Corp. had the expansion plans approved by the city before it sold the mall to Cambridge Leaseholds Ltd. in July.

"We'll be going ahead with the established Campeau plans in the next 18 months," says Cambridge developer Dave Lockwood. "Thunder Bay is a good, stable market, and we're excited about the expansion which will offer a new and better-rounded shopping environment."

The Intercity area will also become home to a Real Canadian Superstore. Construction is set for next year now than an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) objection has been withdrawn by the owner of McIntyre Mall.

Westfair Properties Ltd.'s future Superstore will be about three to four times the size of an average grocery store and will sell food, small electronic items, junior clothing and toys.

A third shopping centre proposed for the area has been delayed by several objections filed with the OMB. The owners of McIntyre Mall and Keskus Harbour Mall have filed objections to the development proposed by RGL Enterprises.

The OMB in Toronto says there is a backlog of appeals, meaning it could take a year for RGL's proposal to get a hearing.

The 300,000-square-foot RGL complex planned for Fort William Road and Central Avenue is to include a shopping centre with Woolco and K-Mart stores as anchors, a multi-screen cinema and an eight-storey suite motel. The original plan also included a 40,000-square-foot A&P grocery store, but competition from the Real Canadian Superstore forced A&P to pull out, making way for K-Mart.

RGL consultant Jeff Sommerville says his future tenants are still committed to the project.

"There's no risk of RGL pulling out of Thunder Bay because of these objections," he says. "We've already been working on this project for four years."

Sommerville says RGL is in the process of re-entering negotiations with the objectors.

Phillip Wong, manager of long-range planning with the City of Thunder Bay, says the city has approved everything for the RGL development and will defend its position to the OMB. The city had hired an independent retail analyst to study the impact of the new shopping centres on existing facilities.

"The city has the capacity for these new centres without affecting the long-term viability of existing shopping centres," Wong says. "There is no question that in the first few years the new projects would take business away from the existing malls, but they would have to reposition themselves and find their niche in the market. Some businesses are already preparing."

For example, in anticipation of the new Real Canadian Superstore, Safeway tore down a relatively new store to build a Safeway Superstore. The 57,000-square-foot Safeway Superstore is now under construction at the corner of Arthur and Edward streets in the city's south end.

"The city is concerned for existing shopping centres, but there is time to anticipate and plan for the competition," says Wong. "But the city also recognizes the need for growth and the benefits of competition in this city. More competition means better business, more variety and lower prices which, in turn, helps the problem of cross-boer shopping, boosts the economy, creates jobs and promotes tourism."
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Author:Rapino, Robin
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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