Kensington Market residents stepping up fight against Wal-Mart

TORONTO – Some Kensington Market residents, skeptical of a developers study saying a new Wal-Mart wouldn’t harm the neighbourhood, are raising money for a study of their own.

That would make three studies, including another from the city, into what kind of development should be allowed on Bathurst Street.

Friends of Kensington Market, a local community organization, is attempting to raise $120,000 to fund a study demonstrating that a large retail store in the market would be “out-of-scale, congestion-inducing and will crush surrounding neighbourhoods.”

The community organization has set up the fund on Projexity, a Canadian company similar to Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. They hope to raise $60,000 by August 31 so they can start the study.

Dominique Russell, a volunteer with Friends of Kensington Market and helped organize the crowdfunding effort, says Riocan has given studies to city planners saying there will be no negative effect on traffic or the neighbourhood.

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“That really goes against what the 86,000 people that have signed on feel instinctively,” Russell said. “The city will look at those studies and really, to level the playing field, we need to have studies, independent studies, that look at those issues: What’s going to happen with traffic? What are the effects going to be on Kensington market? On little Italy?“

City officials tell Global News that Riocan has submitted a transportation study and is working on a retail market analysis – a city requirement – that speaks to how the development would affect the retailers in Kensington Market. That study is expected to be completed at the end of July.

Riocan, one of Canada’s largest real estate developers, is working on plans to build a two-storey shopping centre at Bathurst Street and College Street that would include a large Wal-Mart.

But the city is completing its own land-use study and has temporarily halted new development along Bathurst Street from Queen Street in the south to Dupont Street in the north.

“What we want to do is come up with an overall vision for what Bathurst Street will be like,” said city planning manager Linda Macdonald.

Russell said that stretch of Bathurst Street isn’t zoned for large retail space under the city’s official plan.

Macdonald is trying to figure out what the area should be zoned for.

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“Bathurst is a bit of an anomaly. It’s sort of the boundary from a planning perspective between the downtown and then getting into the rest of the city,” Macdonald said. “We’re looking at an overall vision so that we can plan for that street, when people come in and want to make new developments. And we may end up coming up with a different vision for different parts of the street.”

City staff is expected to release the results of the study to the public in early 2014.

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