Sunday, May 25, 2008

Don’t give up on your shopping dreams just yet…

While it seems more like political spin than concrete evidence, Mayor Pond is keeping some of the recently doused embers of commercial development in Prince Rupert burning just a little bit, with comforting words of shopping to come.

With Royop bowing out of the shopping scene in Prince Rupert a couple of weeks ago, the city is still expressing optimism that the big name stores that have had Rupertites salivating over the last three years may still one day call Rupert home.

The Mayor outlined some of the roadblocks to the recent Royop plans over the last year, as part of a story in Friday’s Daily News. It was an article that once again brought the always topical discussion on shopping in the city to the front pages.

High cost of site preparation killed project but other stores may come
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, May 23, 2008
Pages one and three

Even though the Royop mall is no longer happening at its proposed location, the City of Prince Rupert remains optimistic that big-name stores will be opening up in the community in the future.

"The deal between BC Hydro and Royop Development Corporation was not completed and it's really the cost of land development which is the challenge, which, of course, is a Rupert reality that we understand," said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

"We understand there is still a great interest from major retailers, but it has to be at a cost that makes sense to their business format. We just have to find the right sites, in the location they want, where the land development costs will make sense to their business format."

An obstacle for the national and multi-national chains is that they advertise prices of products at one price throughout Canada, and they cannot afford to have a rent situation out of line with other stores due to high development costs. Prince Rupert presents a particular challenge for development as there's a great deal of rock and muskeg that need to be removed from a site before meaningful planning and construction and can occur.

"We worked on it for almost three years, and it just isn't coming to fruition," said Melvin Foht, vice-president of development with Royop.

"We looked at two sites, mainly the BC Hydro site. Looking at the topography of the site there's a small creek we would have to remediate, there's quite a large hill, so we'd have to remove trees and then blast, and there's also some muskeg. The cost of preparing and servicing the site for somebody is higher than what potential users are willing to absorb, which is the bottom line."

The land for the proposed site is being re-zoned back to what it was prior to the development. As it will be zoned back to an Amenities Site, it will be zoned for a drive-in theatre, shooting range, marina, ski course, golf course, log booming and sorting, logging operations, quarrying and tire marshal.

Even though BC Hydro doesn't fit into those categories, they fall under what's known as 'existing non-conforming use' and are allowed to stay in that zone until such time as they cease their business.

"We're still optimistic, but we're rezoning the land back because the zoning was very specific to that [proposed] development, and obviously in the future, if somebody brings us a project on that site that matches what the community wants, we'll be quick to zone it appropriately as we have in the past," said Pond.

The public hearing for the rezoning of the land will happen at the next city council meeting. Pond said that if BC Hydro had another buyer or developer who wanted to do something with the property, the city would be excited to hear about it and work to make it a possibility. And Foht says that Royop hasn't entirely ruled out Prince Rupert as an option for development in the future.

"Prince Rupert has a great story, and your mayor has done a great job in bringing Prince Rupert forward," said Foht.

"He wants to see these stores go there, and I feel bad about not being able to deliver a site to these tenants, but it just doesn't work for them at this time."

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