Daily Archives: July 5, 2009

Enhancing Edmonton: Big Box Retail?

This is a question asked by a Councillor and responded to by administration about the Municipal Development Plan. It’s publicly available here:  http://edmonton.ca/city_government/city_organization/council-committee-meetings.aspx

Big Box Retail

1.              In what way does further big box retail contribute to the vision and goals in our strategic plan?

Big box retail development is characterized by large sites on the periphery of cities where land is less expensive and provides quick access from major highways.  These developments are usually automobile oriented and not accessible via other transportation modes.  Big box stores and “power centres” are cheaper to build than enclosed shopping malls as they include no central spaces, features or services.  They impact communities because small businesses cannot compete with the high volume sales and low overheads of big box outlets.

Further big box retail development does not contribute to the vision and goals in the Strategic Plan.  On the contrary, further big box retail development perpetuates the trend towards urban sprawl and encourages and is dependent on more travel by private vehicle.    Maintaining strong vibrant neighbourhoods becomes more difficult when small commercial centres are forced to compete with the low prices that big box stores can offer. Diversifying Edmonton’s economy by encouraging independent entrepreneurs to set up business will not be successful if big box outlets are in competition. Big box development is the antithesis of high standards of urban design and best land use practices that are key to livable communities.  There are no public spaces in which a strong sense of community can thrive.  All these characteristics show how big box retail development is not in support of most of the elements of the Strategic Plan vision and goals.

Gordon Price’s excellent newsletter “Price Tags” deals with the issue of “Streets and Roads” in Issue 19.

This is particularly interesting in the context of South Edmonton Common. The $300 million 23rd ave interchange has shown us that the role of these auto-dependent, big box stores need to be re-evaluated as we consider what Edmonton will look like in the future.