On November 18, 1992, the Price Club (Costco) opened at 230 Chain Lake Drive, and for better or worse the face of retail in HRM changed forever
The opening was not without a whole lot of drama; First off, Price Club had initially signed a deal with Joe Ramia to construct their new warehouse beside the already built Gallery 1 in Highfield Park. The finality deal had a line in it that said final approval was contingent on approval from Price Clubs Board of Directors. However, before that approval, another deal was stuck with the City of Halifax. What a different scene it would have been for the future of Highfield, Dartmouth Crossing and Bayers Lake. Ramia 5 years later received an undisclosed out of court settlement.
The second controversy then stemmed from the land deal with the former City of Halifax. The City bought a 16-hectare piece of land at the time referred to as the Lacewood Extension for $3.2M and then paid $2.1M to pave and prepare the land. They sold 5.7 hectares to Price Club for $1.65M
After the store was finished, the property assessment was set at $5.5M (the Province initially assessed the property at $2.64M, but the City appealed) Their 2017 property assessment is set at $10.8M. The Downtown Halifax Business Commission also questioned why the City was pouring $27.5M total to develop what is now Bayers Lake and investing an additional $19M over five years.
(If you want to figure out in 2017 the inflation calculator from 1992 to now is ~1.55)
The third controversy was resistance, the Urban Development Institute (developers) and Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (Sobeys, IGA, Loblaws) leading the charge. The latter was telling the public that Price Club would be hiring 250 people at minimum wage with no benefits. Today we know Costco is known as one of the best retail employers with good pay, benefits and staff retention.
“Grocery distributors, it’s hard to understand why they’re hostile. Basically all
we’re doing is bringing product to the marketplace at a price consumers always wanted to pay. Why they would not want to do that is hard to believe.”
he further went on to say
“They don’t enjoy that because they’ve always had a monopoly within the marketplace.”
Then Price Club President – Daniel Laugevin
After the store was opened and after calls from then Dartmouth Mayor John Savage and a coalition of developers, retailers and homeowners, led by ten Bolands-IGA president Fred MacGillivary convinced the Halifax Industrial Commission to have an inquiry into how the City deal was handled, but no wrongdoing was found.
Price Club at the start was intended to be a wholesaler to business owners, they thought if they sold to the general public they would be competing with their customers, By the time it reached Halifax it was open to a “par-public” customer base, which included small business, civil servants, union members, members of professional organizations and the media. Today membership is open to all. Costco and Price Club merged in 1993, and by 1997 all stores had been rebranded to Costco.
Back to the present we now have a 2nd Costco 2.5km from the original proposed Highfield site. We have the monster that is Bayers Lake and a spinoff controversy of the Washmill Overpass. Costco is now also the measurement that we use to judge how busy stores are during retail peaks. Though I’m in for the $1.50 Hot Dog and Pop!