Sneaky plans underway?

I heard from a couple of neighbours that they have “known” about the London Drugs expansion for a long time. The office of our MLA, Shane Simpson, says they’ve been aware of plans since 2007.

London Drugs corporate headquarters wouldn’t deny there were plans to expand, but emphasized there was nothing “in writing”.

There is no formal development application as of yet. I hope that global economic melt-down means that plans like this will also magically melt away. But the strategy to clear the block of long-term tenants like Tevere Deli is obviously going ahead. When their leases are up, the rent is raised beyond the point that existing businesses can afford.

New businesses have been offered short-term leases, and are all aware that some kind of future development is coming. Whether that’s London Drugs taking over the block all the way down the Bank of Montreal, or London Drugs paired with an IGA grocery isn’t clear because nothing about this process is transparent.

Why in a global recession would you want to get rid of a great, little business like Tevere Deli? Perhaps because once long-term tenants are gone, and new tenants’ short-term leases expire, the opposition to  upcoming development plans is crippled and the way is cleared for expansion.

I’ve put in a call to the city to find out more about our community planning process and will share that information here.

Ultimately we as residents and small businesses and folks who work at organizations in the neighbourhood have to ask ourselves where we want to live and work?  Do we want a neighborhood that supports small, local businesses? One in which small business compete and co-exist with franchises and mother corporations? Or do we give the place over completely, as so many other communities have?

There is a cost. Main streets can and do die. I grew up in suburbia. I spent my 20’s on Vancouver Island when the big boxes sprouted up on the highways, destroying the downtowns. I lived near Broadway and Commercial as the small businesses left and the chains moved in. None of these places felt more safe, welcoming or prosperous as a result of the changes.

It’s bizarre to me, at a time when the business pages every morning give yet more stunning examples of the fragility of globalization and its accompanying money scams, that any of us still believe turning the block over to corporations would promise salvation from “seediness.”

I’m no more a fan of cheque-cashing businesses or pawn shops than most of my neighbours. They exist to exploit the poor. And clearly in Vancouver, where so many of us move too because of its beauty, we like things shiny and new, apparently prosperous. But when we dismiss it all as “seedy” we also dismiss viable businesses with dingy signs that reflect what  a new Canadian without much start-up capital can achieve.

But it’s not our choice what businesses choose to expand, some say. Well, why not? We have community plans, even a “Visioning” committee for our neighbourhood through the city? Do we want more small businesses like Wheelhouse Seafoods where you can bump into a local farmer dropping the meat she raised herself, or more of London Drugs selling more cameras and small appliances, manufactured way outside of Canada?

I’m interested in creative ideas of how to express those choices, ideas and visions for our neighbourhood  like the carrotmob actions where a network of consumers  buy products in order to reward businesses who are making the most socially responsible decisions. I’m following the work of entrepreneurs like Toby Barazzuol of Eclipse Awards and the Strathcona Business Improvement Association in the Downtown Eastside who spends time meeting with arts groups, and building green rooves to grow food, as a way of revitalizing his neighbourhood for business and residents alike.

More ideas please!


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2 Comments

  1. Good for you for keeping on top of this. One idea I can come up with is some kind of list of businesses that are locally owned and which support the local economy. Get this list out there and use flyers or something to alert people to the buy-local campaign.

    Nothing you wouldn’t have thought of, but a neighbourhood-based buy-local campaign might get some real interest and support.

  2. I like this idea along with the carrotmob idea already discussed.

    I like the idea of getting information out to the community – the sneakiness isn’t OK.

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