Friday, January 29, 2016

Those Big Box themes start to percolate at City Council

One day the signs of pending of
Big Box dreams may soon be back on
the Prince Rupert horizon
There were ghosts of Big Box Stores past and visions of Big Box stores of the future at City Council on Monday evening.

As a discussion related to a proposed Small Business Advisory Committee got sidetracked a bit, exploring some of Council's thoughts when it came to protecting the downtown core business area.

And while there is to this point no indication that any Big Box outlet is even considering Prince Rupert as a destination, Council gave the topic about ten minutes of their time on Monday.

The topic came up almost by accident it seemed, with Councillor Mirau outlining the terms of reference for his proposed Small Business Advisory Committee and noted as part of his talking points that the City Council would want to protect the downtown area, and they wouldn't want to see Big Box Stores develop south of the Industrial site, or outside of the downtown core.

That seemed to open the door for a wider exchange of ideas on the theme of Big Box stores and where they should go in Prince Rupert, should those commercial interests ever decide to come to the community.

The main theme appeared to be to be a preference that any Big Box retailer be directed to the downtown core area of Second and Third Avenues, with some hesitation expressed at locations that may be outside of the downtown area.

Councillor Mirau noted that one of the key elements of his proposed Small Business Advisory Committee would be that those that would be a part of the Committee would have to subscribe to the philosophy of council to protect the character of the  downtown and protect the small businesses that operate on Second and Third Avenue.

That was a direction of the conversation that Councillor Cunningham suggested some caution on, stating that the City needs to find a balance on the topic of Big Box stores.

Making note of his travels to Terrace and how he frequently sees residents from Prince Rupert in the Big Box outlets of Terrace and that they are there because of that attraction, noting that there doesn't seem to have been a large impact on that city's small business sector.

Councillor Cunningham added that, while he doesn't particularly want to see Big Box outlets locating out on the highway, that if the residents of  Prince Rupert residents want Big Box outlets the City would need to listen to its them.

He further observed that rather than blocking something, Council should listen to the people and if the people want something out on the highway, Council needs to listen to them.

For his contribution to the discussion, the Mayor noted that it doesn't mean that the City doesn't want Big Box stores, it just reinforces the position that the city wants proper development of the downtown core.

Council had a short discussion on the
theme of Big Box stores on
Monday evening.
Councillor Thorkelson however expressed her agreement with keeping a focus on the downtown area, recounting how she started her political career on Council by fighting against the Shopping Village concept that had been proposed for the BC Hydro site back in the days of Mayor Herb Pond.

She noted that back during the discussion of the shopping village concept, she was concerned about the potential impact to the downtown area, fearing that the downtown area would dry up with the prospect of everyone moving out to the strip malls.

She reinforced for Council that she remains committed to protecting the Downtown area and making it grow, adding  that she does not want the City to look like Terrace.

The large scale development that had been proposed for the BC Hydro site in 2005 was officially put on the shelf by the Royop Development Corporation back in 2008, with little mention of it since.

You can look towards a one day Big Box future from the City's Video Archive, the discussion on what direction council may go should the time ever come starts at the 2 hour thirty eight minute mark.

For more items related to the city's commercial sector see our archive page here.

More background on topics of discussion at Prince Rupert City Council can be reviewed from our Council Archive page.

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