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Two restaurants in mix as township clears commercial development in Elmira

A Harvey’s restaurant is pencilled in as one of the tenants at a commercial building planned for the Foodland property at the south end of Elmira. Construction could begin this spring, as Woolwich planners have signed off on the site plan and building permit application. The project, a 6,900-square-foot building with four units, is part of a larger development Sobeys Capital Inc. hopes to carry out on the site at Arthur Street and South Field Drive. Parts of the plan, including an expansion of the Foodland store, require zone change and Official Plan amendments that are still under review by the township. The new building fits into existing zoning on the property.

The Harvey’s and another restaurant, perhaps serving pitas, have been discussed for two of the units. Other tenants have not been discussed. The building will house four units, 2,100 square feet, 1,800, 1,510 and 1,465, plus space for a mechanical room. It will sit on the southwest portion of the property, adjacent to the driveway that runs off of Arthur Street, explained manager of planning John Scarfone.

A second new building on the site, to the north and closer to the Tim Hortons, is also in the works, though that project hasn’t moved along in the process. The company’s overall plan, submitted last year to the township, calls for an 8,000-square foot building, perhaps housing a Beer Store location.

The larger part of the plan would see the Foodland store expand into the vacant portion of the existing building, increasing in size to 47,000 square feet from the current 34,000. A 22,000-sq.-ft. addition would be built on to the current structure, some 9,000 sq. ft. for a retail outlet such as a dollar store and 13,000 sq. ft. for a mix of retail, services and offices, perhaps including a wine store.

The Official Plan and zoning changes requested by Sobeys would allow for the grocery store to expand and permit a wider range of uses on the eight-acre site.

The expansion of the grocery store is likely to be the biggest stumbling block, however. While the township has yet to make a decision on the application, the peer review carried out of the applicant’s market study raised several alarms.

The township engaged Robin Dee & Associates to review a study by Tate Economic Research entitled “Elmira Retail Market Demand and Impact Analysis.” Dee’s report shot down claims expanding the Foodland store would have no impact on the potential return of a supermarket to the downtown core – the former Foodland location at Arthur and Church streets has been vacant since November 2008.

The review also warned of the impact of moving the Beer Store from downtown to the southern end of Elmira.

“[I]t is my opinion that the Sobeys expansion as proposed will not serve to promote the core area as the commercial focus for the Elmira (settlement area) but rather will directly undermine that role by precluding the re-entry of a major food store into the core area and removing an important traffic generator in the form of the Beer Store.”

Woolwich would like to see more development in the core, including a grocery store, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley, adding the Dee report was fairly damning of the Sobeys plan in that regard.

“Mr. Dee’s peer review was pretty critical.”

Before his department makes a recommendation on the OP and zone change application, however, he expects more meetings with the applicant, which will offer a rebuttal to the township’s report, and with Dee – something of a back-and-forth can be expected over the next couple of months before the issue ends up back before township council for a decision.

On the development front, the township has heard nothing more about the proposed Canadian Tire store for the lot to the south of the Sobeys land. The last discussion, dating back to late fall, held the potential of some work getting underway in 2012.

In St. Jacobs, however, construction of a new Holiday Inn hotel could get underway as soon as next week. That 100-room project is slated for a site on Benjamin Road, immediately next to the Jack’s Family Restaurant location.

And the vacant former township hall on Arthur Street in Elmira could also see some development, as the township has received an offer on the building, deemed “serious” by chief administrative officer David Brenneman.

While no details are forthcoming – the offer is conditional at this point – there are indications of a potential use as a health, wellness or medical-type centre.

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  1. I agree with Mr.Dee’s report….taking everything out of the core of Elmira, and moving to “their property” (Sobey’s) will take the focus away from the downtown area…and I prefer to shop downtown, not have to drive out to the southend of town to do my shopping. I personally think, Sobey’s did a huge disservice to the community, and downtown, when they moved the store to where they are now…regardless of the 24hr shopping. There needs to be more shops in the downtown area…including a grocery store, for residents at this end of town.

    On a brighter note, it will be nice to have another restaurant in town…we need more variety. I only wish Swiss Chalet would consider opening a restaurant here…I’d be the first in line.

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