Walmart Canada made the plans to expand its Courtenay store official this week, applying for a development permit that would allow for the renovation and expansion of the existing store.
Walmart Canada is proposing to renovate the existing building and construct an addition of about 2,780 square metres to the southeast toward Staples to create a Walmart Supercentre, which includes a full grocery department. The expansion will also provide an additional loading bay and an enclosed extension to the garden centre.
A future 2,787-square-metre expansion was considered at the time of the initial rezoning and development permit applications for the Anfield Centre in 2000 and 2001, according to the report by planning technician Erin Ferguson and planning services director Peter Crawford.
As part of the application, Walmart is proposing to contribute $8,000 toward the installation of street trees and landscaping along 29th Street to improve the appearance of the entrance into Courtenay from the Inland Island Highway, as well as to contribute $11,000 toward the replacement of the existing bus shelter, which would be maintained by the city.
Jeff Marshall, planning development manager for Walmart Canada, shared the company’s plans with council Tuesday.
“This is going to convert the existing discount store into a full Supercentre, which will include full grocery,” he said. “As part of the project, we’re going to make some façade modifications, which is going to include our rebranding with the new Walmart logo and new colouring. The garden centre is also going to be expanded a little bit, also enclosed with some roll-down doors so we can use that area for storage during some of the winter months. We are going to add another loading bay to the loading area, but it’s actually on the inside of the building, so it’s not going to expand the building in any way.”
The expansion was contemplated under the original approval, noted Marshall.
“The traffic, the stormwater, all of those studies included this additional square footage, and we continue to meet the overall municipal parking ratio for the entire project,” he said.
Marshall says the expansion will create 40 to 50 new jobs at Walmart.
Coun. Doug Hillian noted that, by his count, there are already five supermarket grocery stores in Courtenay, and he wondered what kind of studies Walmart has done regarding the viability of this operation.
“I’m always concerned when I hear that new jobs are coming that those new jobs may come at the cost of jobs at other places,” he said.
Internally, Walmart has looked at some of the adjacent stores and looked at some of its sales numbers, noted Marshall.
“We feel strongly with the area that this Supercentre can be supported here with the addition of the grocery,” he said. “We know those other stores are there, but we really feel there’s enough people that the market can support it. We’re really happy to be here, and we want to expand.”
Coun. Jon Ambler wasn’t overly concerned with Walmart adding to the grocery store market in Courtenay, noting we live in a free enterprise society.
“I think (Walmart has) a legitimate plan, and they’ve taken the time to deal with things that are important to us, like landscaping and the bus shelter,” he said.
Hillian questioned the rationale for the city being responsible for the maintenance of the bus shelter, and he wondered if the city could encourage Walmart to build the shelter quickly.
Walmart must provide the $11,000 for the construction of the shelter, which will replace the existing shelter, before it can receive a development permit, explained Crawford, adding it would then be up to the City to handle the construction.