Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Shopper's Drug Mart Osborne Village Part Deux
Shopper's Drug Mart and Vietnamese restaurant Vi-Ann
After the first expansion plan went poorly, Shopper's Drug Mart is putting forward another plan. This time it has found two willing sellers to facilitate growth up Osborne Street.
Already there is neighbourhood resistance. The city's board of adjustment will look at the proposal in a meeting at City Hall on December 21. Expect a lot of concern.
Two things emerge from the genesis of this plan: The first is that Movie Village might not be long for Osborne Village. If the owners are looking to sell and are unsuccessful, it doesn't means that the movie rental shop will stay open.
The neighbourhood has already lost Blockbuster. This would be a major hit for the non-car drivers living in the area.
Now, some people will say no loss...things are going digital anyways but people forget that the seeing movies via TV or computer still requires cable, satellite or high speed Internet connections all of which cost money. Then you have to pay for content. This can end up more costly than a TV, DVD player and a rental.
However, this isn't about video stores. If Movie Village wishes to sell or close, it is their right to do so. However, it would be wrong to assume the store will remain a video store by resisting Shopper's expansion.
If Movie Village does close, chances are something would go into the location. Just not a video store.
The one business is this endeavour that is at the mercy of the property owner's is Vi-Ann. The restaurant doesn't own the building it is in and if it is sold and redeveloped, they might not have options about going somewhere else. This is a sad situation but one we see often repeated with businesses that lease space. Sometimes the owners of the property push you out in favour of other things.
Once again, stopping Shopper's to save Vi-Ann may not work if the owners of the building looks to re-develop on their own.
Both Shopper's and Vi-Ann face out to Osborne Street and have entrances to it. Movie Village has long turned its back on the street and looks on to the more lucrative Safeway behind it.
The street behind Osborne, more of an alley, really has become the choice route for pedestrians. It is a long stretch of street from Shopper's to the Liquor Commission where you don't see the same vitality as you do in the blocks after. With only two businesses having any access to the street, there is very little presence there.
So, what exactly happens if Shopper's gets its wish? Well, we lose two beloved businesses, both of which might be in danger regardless if the proposal is turned down. Will it affect Osborne? Probably no more than what is happening now. In fact, with a good zoning ruling on the proposal, maybe Shopper's can be persuaded to be more street friendly on Osborne. Ditching the frosted glass might help.
If resistance to the Shopper's proposal is about "fighting the man", it is as wrongheaded as resistance to Safeway's expansion in the Village.
Outright resistance to Safeway ignored the fact that the neighbourhood was successful because there was a large grocery right in the area. Some homes were displaced in the area for expansion but Osborne Village's entire history has been marked by development and increasing density. Dogged resistance to change would have left the neighbourhood a low density section of the city. Who knows? Had activists been at the ready long ago, it still might be a barracks.
I am in the middle on this. I am not against Shopper's expanding for the sake of saying no to a large corporation. I am also of a mind that no one should roll over. If Shopper's get the green light, significant consideration needs to be looked at on zoning to make sure Osborne Street is vital. The look of the building is worthy of consideration. Entrances, windows, colours should be appealing.
Perhaps one aspect that might be promoted is: Can floors above the Shopper's be built? Now isn't that a novel idea? A residential component, offices? Wouldn't be rather neat if the floors above a Shopper's contained a restaurant like Vi-Ann? Just saying...
We'll see what happens next week. An open mind will be good. Don't resist, don't roll over, be constructive.