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St. Jacobs Walmart cleared to expand food offerings

Walmart will quadruple its food space and the St. Jacobs power centre will see the addition of a Value Village store under a plan given tentative approval this week by Woolwich council.

The Official Plan and zoning changes will be formalized following a new cross-border agreement with the City of Waterloo, which provides water and sewer services to the site.

While a Value Village store is a permitted use, current restrictions mean it couldn’t be built until the second phase of the entire power centre project. At the Walmart location, the grocery component is restricted to 6,000 square feet inside the 134,000 sq. ft. building, so the changes are necessary to allow that area to expand to 25,000 sq. ft.

In recommending support for the requests from King/86 Developments, Woolwich planning manager John Scarfone said the uses are consistent with plans for the power centre area.

Restrictions applied to the project a decade ago are no longer relevant, he added at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The limitations on the floor space dedicated to food at the Walmart store, for instance, were put in place when Waterloo was pressing for neighbourhood grocery stores, or for community/regional centres such as Conestoga Mall. The city still objects to the Walmart plans, but given that Woolwich’s smaller urban areas don’t have a grocery store, the location serves that function – “This is our community structure,” said Scarfone.

Walmart is the closest spot for people in St. Jacobs, Heidelberg and Martin Grove, for instance, noted Coun. Mark Bauman.

“I think it makes a lot of sense to capture that Woolwich market.”

For those communities, there aren’t many options, especially after 9 o’clock at night, added Mayor Todd Cowan.

A market-impact study provided by power centre operator Smart Centres found the expansion of the food store offerings would enhance the local residential needs. A subsequent peer review by a consultant for the township agreed there would be no short- or medium-term risk to Woolwich’s existing food stores or other food stores in Waterloo within the trade area.

The addition of the Value Village store at this point reflects slower-than-expected growth at the power centre. Phase one, which covers 230,000 square feet of the 305,000-sq.-ft. project, was anticipated to be built out years earlier. Currently, some 157,000 sq. ft. of space has been built. The addition of a 24,500-sq.-ft. building would bring phase one to about 80 per cent complete.

SmartCentres has identified the delay in getting the at-one-time-controversial development off the ground as a factor in the slower growth there. Over the years of delay, prominent would-be tenants found other locations to build or lease space, leaving fewer potential clients once the St. Jacobs centre got rolling.

As well, marketing studies have shown there would be no negative impacts on existing retail areas in Waterloo or Woolwich.

Formal approval is subject to a new cross-border servicing agreement with Waterloo. The deal, approved this week by council, could come to Waterloo council early next month, allowing for the issue to be finalized back in Woolwich before the end of the year.

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