It’s good to go.
Prince George city councillors approved third reading of a rezoning application that will see almost 60 acres at Highway 16 and Ospika Drive turn into the city’s largest retail area within five years.
The first phase of the development will begin construction this season, with the emphasis on opening a 120,000 square foot Wal-Mart store before Christmas.
The $70 million development was unanimously approved at a special session of council Tuesday.
Discussion in council chambers centered on the $1.6 million WestGate will add to the city’s tax rolls, as well as the $1.2 million it will contribute to city infrastructure through developers fees.
Councillor Bruce Strachan was blunt when he told Canadian retail giant The Bay that “if they can not compete they are in the wrong business.” The Bay, he says, could also “learn a lesson” from Wal-mart in the level of service they provide. Mayor Colin Kinsley was more forward.
“Their comment that the Bay is going to shut down borders on emotional blackmail,” said the mayor.
Calling the development a win-win development for city residents and the developers, Mayor Kinsley says council’s decision “sets Prince George off in the right direction for the 2st Century.”
As for the Downtown Business Improvement Association’s concerns, several councillors put in a plea for the downtown to get moving.
“The economic impact is so significant that there is no easy way or any rational way to turn it down,” says councillor Cliff Dezell. “We have up to five years before completion that’s sometime to work with the DBIA and others to make sure the DBIA move forward.”
Most of the land for the project will be purchased from the Roman Catholic Church for an undisclosed price, while the city will sell 8.5 acres at the corner of Domano Blvd. and Highway 16 for $2.67 million. The final cost to bring Wal-Mart to town to Prince George taxpayers will be just over $211,000. That bill does not include millions of dollars needed in 2005 and 2006 when the city begins construction of an intersection at Marleau and the highway.
As it stands now First Professional only needs to spend 9.4 per cent of the total bill, based on a highways ministry assessment of total traffic heading toward the site after First Professional builds an underpass allowing cars to enter their site without using either Domano or Marleau. The underpass would be located between the two intersections close to where the Diocese offices are now.
The outdoor mall still needs a development permit to pass fourth and final reading in council chambers this spring.
First Professional representative Darren Kwiatkowski says he now has to sell the final plans to the board of directors as well as prospective tenants, which he will not name.
Conceptual plans show room for three big box anchor stores, believed by most to be Wal-Mart, Home Depot and a big box grocery store, which will be marketed to Safeway, IGA and Overwaitea.