February 5, 2019 10:42 pm
Updated: February 6, 2019 7:49 pm

North Edmonton community calls on Sobeys to act on long-vacant lot

WATCH: A north Edmonton community wants a grocery chain to either sell or develop a lot that's been sitting vacant for years. Albert Delitala reports.

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A north Edmonton community wants Sobeys Inc. to either sell or develop a property that has been sitting vacant for years.

The empty lot, on the southeast corner near 97 Street and 137 Avenue in the Griesbach neighbourhood, has been vacant for about six years.

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Sobeys bought the land in 2013, according to the Griesbach Community League, with plans to become the anchor tenant for the development. It received restrictive covenants on the surrounding land, prohibiting any business from opening that would be in direct competition, such as flower shops, bakeries or butchers.

Soon afterward, Sobeys acquired the Safeway chain, which has a location just across the street. The lot has remained vacant ever since, with the restrictions blocking competition still in place.

“We were sold a vision of a pedestrian-friendly walking area. You could go shop at little boutiques and stores,” said Brad Tilley, the community league president. “We bought this vision, and unfortunately, it’s never transpired.”

Coun. Bev Esslinger, whose ward includes the community, said the experience has been frustrating to residents.

“It’s vacant, it should be a grocery store there. There’s not, and by not having it, they’ve also sterilized that mall so many of the services that the community would like cannot be in there,” Esslinger said.

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The community league believes Sobeys is holding onto the property — and the restrictive covenants — to reduce competition. It is asking area residents to complain to the Competition Bureau, which it hopes will recommend a path forward.

“We’re hoping that one day they plan to build, but if they’re not then the only real reason is to limit their competition,” Tilley said. “Otherwise, they would release this covenant.”

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In a statement to Global News, Sobeys said it has not made any announcements regarding its plans for the land.

“The area is well served with grocery options including one of our own Safeway stores across the street from the property,” director of external communications Jacquelin Weatherbee said in an emailed statement.

“We are continuing to work with our property manager to ensure the property is maintained and kept safe and clean in the community.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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