Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Story Target Polo Park

2 Story Target in Minneapolis

2 story Target in East Liberty, Pittsburgh

It seemed obvious that the 97,000 square feet on second floor occupied by Zellers in Polo Park was a poor choice for a Target store. The site was too small and poor for carts laden with groceries and goods to move about on a snow packed and crowded upper parking deck.

As much as Polo Park might have loved to have them to be in the mall, owners Cadillac Fairfiew probably saw the problems it might pose for for the store and for them. With that in mind, Cadillac Fairview partnered with Shindico for Plan B.

This plan entailed offering to buy the Canad Inns Stadium following the end of this season, demolishing it and trying to entice Target to build a Super Target on the site. A purchase offer was agreed upon and a initial plans were drawn up but no firm commitment was made until now.

Target has now confirmed they are the anchor tenant on the old Winnipeg Stadium site. However, since the initial design was introduced, Target has now changed things up and adopted a style that has been used for more urban locations.

Back in June, I said Target had abandoned Polo Park for the stadium site and in August, I mentioned how Target was developing an urban design. In many cases, the new stores were re-developments of older buildings for a particular type of shopper that needed certain things. The stores were smaller, often a few stories and geared to take Target to markets it had not been in before.

What I wasn't aware of was that Target had created another little pilot project in retailing that was suitable for northern climates and melded some of the ideas it was using in its urban stores.

In 2011, Target created a new concept store in Pittsburgh's East Liberty district. Since the 1960s, city planners and local business developers failed in a plan to support the area with catastrophic choices that destroyed a million square feet of local businesses, re-routed roads, turned many one way and then to added unattractive and low income housing complexes rising 20 stories high.

The largely black neighbourhood of East Liberty was a logistical nightmare of roads that were difficult to navigate, devoid of businesses needed in the community and with housing complexes that were both ugly and dangerous. The area was blighted.

It is not surprising that the Pittsburgh neighbourhood welcomed a new concept Target that the retailer proposed for the area. Local officials first had to offer subsidies, building loans and revert one way roads back to two way.

And what Target built in East Liberty was a two story building with parking tucked under its footprint and something that their suburban stores didn't have: windows on all four sides. They also made a commitment that the store would have fresh produce, a welcome addition for those making the store one of their primary grocers. At 144,000 square feet and around 250 jobs, the store was large enough to serve the needs of the community as a whole.

Now, let's be clear: Polo Park is no East Liberty. For the last 50 years Polo Park has a going concern and the most successful retail area in Manitoba. The location at one point may have been considered a suburb but now it sits sort of at the halfway point between the downtown and city limits. It is close to two major roads: Portage Avenue and Kenaston Route 90. The mall is also surrounded on three sides by residential development and occupies the southern tip of an airport industrial area.

As most will attest, the roads that generally support the airport industrial area are narrower as befitting a business park. The commercialization of St. James as a retail centre has accelerated in recent years and the traffic has gotten to be a headache. The old Winnipeg Arena is gones as is the old CKY building. Both have been swallowed up by Polo Park extending its reach to Maroons Road. The area is now being developed as a mix of retailing and offices.

The Canad Inn Stadium is not long for this world. Two more games remain of the Blue Bomber season and the play-offs this year is not in the cards. As soon as everything is packed up in the dressing rooms, the site will be demolished to make way for the the sale of the site for Target and two other stores. The $30 million dollar price tag will pay for $20 million of road upgrades. Other money will be allocated to the Active Living Centre at the University of Manitoba.

So what will this Target look like? Well, it won't look like any of the other thus far planned in Canada. The retailer has decided that Polo Park is an "urban" location and as such in need of a more urban design. Although East Liberty, Pittsburgh and Polo Park, Winnipeg are far removed in many circumstances, they share the fact that they are in established neighbourhoods, in northern climate and with only so much space to work. The above pictures of East Liberty's Target are what we will see in Winnipeg.

There will be some differences. The store will use red brick in construction and feature a Target logo on the roof which will be easy to spot for air traffic. However, the design will be essentially the same: 145,000 square feet, windows on all sides and parking tucked under the footprint of the store.

SuperTargets are generally around 175,000 square feet. However, regular Targets are around 126,000 feet. This will be a different animal and probably be one of the first of this new breed of stores for Canada in established neighbourhoods.

In terms of size comparison to other future Target sites like Grant Park mall, the size of the Zellers there is 116,000 square feet.

There are a number of hurdles to cross yet not the least of which is what to do with the roads. The road in front of Canad Inn Stadium now is a rutted mess. Empress and Milt Steagall Drive and good candidates for making one way streets. However, making one ways all over the place will create its own problems of accessing businesses and the like.

There will be many who complain about are car-centric country. It is hard to disagree with what is being said. However, change does not happen in a vacuum. Try to force people what to do and they will vote with their feet. Vancouver prevented Wal-Mart from locating in the the city and residents there simply went to suburbs and beyond.

The best thing to do is to keep working to improve areas a bit at a time. Mass transit connections, bike paths, density, mixed use buildings and trying to use a smaller footprint. Cars are not going to disappear because we want them to but because they have become too expensive or less convenient.

The new Target at Polo Park addresses a few things in design and footprint that might make it a lot better retailing experience. To be sure, it will be welcomed by consumers in this city who have long not been overly impressed with Zellers over the years.

The city has to do its part on infrastructure and roads and to push more strongly for design improvements and service roads inside a major development. All in all, a good development this far. And let's not forget, the space in Polo Park that Zellers vacates might be ideal for H&M to finally come to the city.

1 comment:

Evan said...

Interesting read. It's too bad to see so many Canadian retailers get swallowed up by their American counterparts crossing the border. That being said though, I haven't been very impressed with Zellers either recently, IMO many of their Winnipeg locations just seem, well, dumpy.