On Nov 18 1992, Price Club opened it's doors in the the Bayers lake Industrial Park, and the park has been rife with controversy from the start from $1 land deals and then last year the Washmill Lake overpass to aliviate traffic. Have we benefitted from the BLIP? Or has it just hurt downtown?
an article that was in the Globe & Mail
HALIFAX Retailers fight breaks for megastore mecca
BY KEVIN COX TEN kilometres west of the city's historic downtown, publicly funded earth-movers are working on a controversial business park that many recession-ravaged Halifax retailers say is a serious threat to their futures.
In front of one field, a sign boasts that in 1994, a building centre to be operated by the Irving family's Kent Homes will provide "two football fields of home improvement values all under one roof."
A few metres away, another sign advertises the future site of Atlantic Canada's largest sporting-goods outlet, and yet another billboard offers 500,000 square feet of retail space in what is called a "power centre" being leased by the Ontario-based Trinity Development Group.
Downtown on Barrington Street, where merchants have plied their trade for 2-1"2 centuries, there are other signs of the times that read "For lease" and "Going out of business sale." The Downtown Halifax Business Commission said in a recent statement that the "economic and social deterioration" in the city core is costing $5-million a year in lost tax revenues.
Many retailers in Halifax are furious about the tax breaks and cheap land they say has been offered to the megastores by the Halifax Industrial Commission.
The business group, which includes Zellers, IGA, Sobeys Stores Ltd. and local shopping centres, vented its rage publicly this week, complaining at a news conference that the city was luring retail competitors to the rocky scrub bush in Bayers Lake by selling land for $60,000 an acre that cost the city $140,000 an acre to develop.
They also alleged that the city is providing tax breaks so that a million square feet of retail space in the park would pay $135,000 a year, compared to $225,000 for an 80,000-square-feet store in downtown Halifax.
"We are concerned that the city is proceeding with plans that will significantly undermine its commercial tax base, create a net loss in jobs and significantly compromise existing Halifax businesses by creating an unfair advantage using tax dollars generated from our businesses," said Fred MacGillvray, general manager of Bolands IGA-Group and spokesman for the business group.
Mr. McGillvray said the group is not upset about increased competition, but is enraged that the new businesses, all of which cut prices by selling large volumes of goods, will be able to offer lower prices because they are paying lower taxes and land prices than existing businesses.
In many parts of Canada and even of Nova Scotia, existing businesses have tried to stall the advance of the discount outlets by launching formal complaints about proposed developments to government tribunals. But no such public hearings were held on the Bayers Lake development, because the provincial Shopping Centre Development Act excludes shopping malls in Halifax and Dartmouth from such scrutiny.
The establishment of a Price Club discount warehouse in Bayers Lake has already caused major traffic headaches in the nearby suburb of Clayton Park as shoppers flood onto the main road and pass three schools on their way to the shopping mecca.
Gordon Pollock, head of the local residents association, said the group has tried for 18 months to get a public airing of their concerns about the transformation of the industrial park into a shopping centre.
"We've tried for a year and a half to have our concerns addressed and we've just been stonewalled," he said.
The business group, the Halifax Homeowners Association and the Clayton park residents all say they haven't been able to get details of the transactions at the Bayers Lake development or answers to their questions about who is overseeing the project.
Neither Halifax Mayor Moira Ducharme nor representatives of the commission returned telephone calls from The Globe and Mail.
As the Atlantic region's first 'power centre' begins to take shape in Halifax, a group of local retailers, developers, and residents is up in arms.
Trinity Development Group Inc. of Gloucester, Ont. is turning a 58 - acre site into a $45 million low - cost retail shopping mall in the Bayers Lake Industrial Park -- 15 minutes from downtown. Three hundred and fifty thousand sq. feet are slated to open in Septem ber 1995. According to Michael Watson, marketing director of the Halifax Industrial Commis sion, this first phase of the power centre is 85% committed. Trinity's first cadre of tenan ts includes a 75,000 sq. ft. Loblaws grocery store, a K - Mart, a Club Biz and Magicuts.
Fred MacGillivray, president of Bolands - IGA Ltd., is chairman of a group of businesses that oppose the development. MacGillivray says the threat of competition is not the i ssue.
We as business people are very upset that the City is using our tax base to bring new retail development into our city," says MacGillivray. "Municipalities should not be in the shopping centre development business. The Halifax Industrial Commission sold the land at $60,000 to $80,000 an acre, when it cost them $145,000 to assemble, and the latest land sold for $1 an acre in December."
(On paper, Trinity paid $60,000 an acre for 30 acres in March, 1993, but the City credited the developer with $59,999 for the cost of clearing and rough - grading the site .)
MacGillivray says competition is healthy, but only when there's a level playing field. Instead, he and other Haligonians are paying for the leveling of power centre land. Furth ermore, he argues, the shift in retail trade to the power centre will herald a net decrease in the number of jobs because high - volume retailers like Price Club (located next door to the p ower centre) offer less service than traditional outlets.
Although there tends to be an initial shakeout in the economy," argues Watson, " it tends to rebound very quickly. There's a power centre with over seven million sq. ft. out side Chicago and there hasn't been a noticeable downturn in other retail establishments in th e area."
But MacGillivary questions whether power centre retailers give anything back to the community. "Do you think Price Club will sponsor the City Parade next year, or the local ba sketball team? Those kinds of things are important to the quality of life."