NEWS

Wal-Mart opponents pack public meeting

06/07/2013 08:50 EDT | Updated 08/07/2013 05:12 EDT
More than 200 people attended a packed public meeting Thursday, many to voice their opposition to a proposed Wal-Mart store on Bathurst Street just west of Kensington Market.

The meeting held at College Street United Church was full even before it began. Many who came stated their opposition to the proposal being put forward by RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust.

The proposal calls for a three-storey building which would include a Wal-Mart among other stores. The store would be located at the former Kromer Radio site on the west side of Bathurst, just north of Dundas Street West.

The project would require zoning amendments but a petition against the development has gathered almost 70,000 signatures in less than a week. The city's committee of adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board have already rejected the required variances.

Many of those opposed say the development would ruin the flavor of the nearby neighourhoods of Kensington Market and Little Italy.

Not a 'good fit' councillor says

Coun. Mike Layton said the proposed development, in its current form, is not a “good fit” with the neighbourhood.

"The community has some serious concerns about putting a large big-box store right next to a strong commercial neighbourhood," Layton told CBC News. “People want those parts of our city protected."

Alex Arifuzzaman, a retail marketing consultant, told CBC's Metro Morning earlier this week that the RioCan development could help revitalize the strip of Bathurst, which he said is in need of redevelopment.

“There’s going to be a development at that site no matter what. The question is: ‘what will it be?' The retailers in the area will have to evolve and adapt, but I think that it definitely won't destroy [Kensington Market].”

Arifuzzaman also pointed out the proposed site is “a few blocks away” from the market.

Linda Rosenbaum is opposed to the project.

"I don't know how you could consider allowing a big-box store into a neighbourhood like this,” she told CBC News. "Neighbourhoods are what Toronto is known for, it's what makes the city special."

RioCan says it is listening to the public's concern.

Another meeting about the project will be held in Toronto council chambers on July 9.

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