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Developer seeks expansion at Elmira retail centre

More floor space and an expanded range of uses would bring new tenants into the Foodland-anchored retail centre at the south end of Elmira, says the property’s new owner.

Skyline Retail Real Estate Holdings Ltd., which purchased the development from Sobeys Capital Inc., is looking to increase the retail floor space available at the 315 Arthur St. S. property to 97,000 square feet from the existing 51,500, including adding 10,000 sq. ft. to the Foodland grocery store, which currently occupies 34,000 sq. ft.

The plan also calls for a wider range of retail uses, including the potential relocation of Elmira’s LCBO outlet or Beer Store.

To move ahead, the company needs official plan and zoning amendments from Woolwich Township, which five years ago turned down a similar proposal by Sobeys. The requested changes were the subject of a public meeting Tuesday night in council chambers, where only the applicant’s representatives spoke – no objections or other comments were heard.

Under the plan, total building coverage on the 8.2-acre property would increase to 27 per cent from 14 per cent.

That’s in keeping with the industry average of 25 to 30 per cent, said planner Scott Arbuckle of the IBI Group.

Currently, the site isn’t being used to its potential, added Jamie Tate of Tate Economic Research, hired by Skyline to conduct the required market assessment in Elmira.

“The site is underutilized,” he said, noting the developer has had difficulty finding tenants because of the limited range of uses currently permitted there.

In response to a question from Coun. Larry Shantz, Tate noted the impact of moving the Beer Store or LCBO out of Elmira’s core would likely be minimal.

Neither store is centrally located in the downtown, and surveys and traffic counts at both stores showed absolutely no cross-shopping with other downtown stores: people drove up, went into the store, then got back in their cars and drove off, Tate explained.

Due to the small size and limited offerings at both Elmira stores, a significant number of residents travel to Waterloo for better selection. If a new, larger store was to open up at the south end, there would be an opportunity to keep more dollars in town, he suggested.

Arbuckle noted the changes requested to accommodate an LCBO or Beer Store outlet are for a potential move, as there are no plans in place just now.

“At this point, there haven’t been discussions with the Beer Store and LCBO,” he said.

The proposal would see additions constructed on the north and south sides of the Foodland building that also houses Dollarama and Pet Valu stores, along with a new separate retail space closer to Arthur Street, between the existing building that’s home to restaurants and a dental office and the neighbouring Tim Hortons location.

The new plan is a variation on a 2011 proposal ultimately rejected by the township and taken by Sobeys to the Ontario Municipal Board. A pre-hearing settlement saw a compromise that avoided an expansion to the Foodland building – and put off an increase in the size of the grocery store – and saw the addition of the second structure on the site, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley told councillors.

This week’s meeting was for information purposes, with council making no decisions. After studying the plan and receiving public input, planning staff will come back at a later date with a recommendation on Skyline’s requests.

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