Walmart-mall wisdom from Rick X

legacy view of North Shore mountains from Garden City Lands, including the damaged area where the mall developers have killed trees and deposited sand

Rick Xavier, Friend of Garden City, wrote Richmond council about the Walmart mall and got a bafflegab reply from staff. I love Rick’s response to that, but what do you think? Here’s the exchange, courtesy of Rick.

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Dear Councillors,

So I hear city council is debating whether to approve development of a Walmart store, and possibly a strip mall, along Alderbridge across from the Garden City lands. We have plenty of opportunity to admire large scale urban architecture in Richmond, must we have a large view-dominating eyesore next to this natural space? My opinion as a Richmond resident, for what it’s worth, is no. Big box stores so close to central Richmond seem a little out of place – in fact a waste of opportunity for urban coolness. Please use the Lands for more natural purposes on a more natural scale.

Rick Xavier

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Planner-Brian-to-RickXLike others we’ve heard from, Rick got back a mind-numbing form message from Brian, a senior planner in the Richmond development department. The core bit of information was this:

The Alexandra Neighbourhood Land Use Plan establishes the vision of a complete and balanced community for the area bounded by Garden City Road, No. 4 Rd, Alderbridge Way and Cambie Road.

To read the rest, just double-click on the thumbnail version at right.

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Here’s Rick’s reply:

Brian,

Thanks for the history of the proposed development.

 The “… vision of a complete and balanced community for the area bounded by Garden City Road, No. 4 Rd, Alderbridge Way and Cambie Road” sounds reasonable as the city’s response to developing the neighbourhood. City Council should be congratulated for adopting such a framework. That sounds to me like diverse retail and amenities in a central location, or along a thoroughfare, or even a couple of small malls at corners. The shape obviously depends on available properties. Bringing services to a community sounds like a good idea.

On the other hand, the proposed location of “large floor plate” stores along main city arteries on the fringes of the neighbourhood does not sound like a good idea. A store on the scale of Walmart is not designed to serve a local neighbourhood. It would attract industrial scale traffic to the fringes of the neighbourhood—and right next to the Garden City Lands. There are already suitably zoned large stores nearby along Bridgeport Road sufficient to service that area, if not all of Richmond, with that kind of commerce and aesthetic.

So, does the Rezoning Application meet the standards for the West Cambie Planning Area? It certainly does not meet the standard of contributing to a “complete and balanced community”. In fact it undermines that assurance of balance, not just for that neighbourhood, but for adjacent neighbourhoods as well.

 Rick Xavier

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My reaction: “Wow!” The planner’s form message stated the planning goal, implying that the Walmart mall is in keeping with the goal. Rick Xavier’s straightforward logic shows the opposite: it defeats the goal. Thank you for sharing your clear thinking, Rick! After reading that, I’m thinking maybe I’ve been much too tolerant toward the Walmart mall.

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