Wednesday, May 25, 2005

There is shopping I must do

Finally, a little bit of common sense on Ottawa's commercial zoning: Developers would be allowed to build stand-alone big-box stores in urban areas, but banned from putting them in industrial parks under a negotiated deal between city staff and area developers. The deal, which would see amendments made to the city's official plan, is intended to incorporate big-box stores into the city's urban landscape instead of confining them to the "never-neverland" of the city's outskirts, Ned Lathrop, the deputy city manager of planning, said yesterday in outlining the proposed amendments at a meeting of the city's planning committee. He emphasized that developers wanting to build big-box stores in urban areas would be subject to a variety of conditions. [....] Under the plan, big-box stores have to be attached to a major shopping centre if they're built in the general urban area. The proposed amendments, which include lifting some restrictions on where big-box stores can be built, are the result of these negotiations. It's not a dream come true, but it's something. There are lots of opportunities to restore some level of higher-density commerce to Rideau Street in particular, currently a low-density wasteland of tattoo parlours, used record stores, and head shops east of Dalhousie. I'd love to not have to go all the way down to the south end of the city any time I need something from Wal-Mart/Future Shop/Home Depot/et al. The downside, though, is that any kind of retailer opening a big-box location in Centretown or Lowertown would, under this compromise, pretty much have to be attached to the Rideau Centre (or, quite improbably, an office tower with enough stores on the ground floor to be deemed a "major shopping centre," like the C.D. Howe Building), and that seems unlikely considering their recently-announced expansion plans involving 90-odd smaller stores. That's not so great for solving my complaint, or cleaning up the scummier parts of commercial Lowertown.

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