Do You Think Wal-Mart Will Affect Port Credit?

 

A little over a year ago, there was a (rightful, I'd say) outcry surrounding developer RioCan's plan to build a Walmart in the crunchy, hippie mecca that is Toronto's Kensington Market. After much protest from locals and like-minded city councilors, the plans to build the discount superstore were quashed.

It was the right decision.

The Walmart would have not only hurt the area's carefully curated vibe, it would have cut into the modest coffers of some of the long-running small retailers.

Why am I bringing this up when it has nothing to do with Mississauga?

The revitalization of the Lakeview district -- an area just east of Port Credit -- is going to change the city's landscape and bring a few big box stores to the area. One of those stores is, in fact, a Walmart.

In a lot of ways, the development (or gentrification, I guess) of an existing community is a good thing. When areas are targeted for growth, local economies tend to benefit from an influx of both profit-making and employment opportunities. More shops and restaurants draw new visitors, funneling more money into the community. The downside?  Development can, in some cases, spike property values, pricing some people out of their communities. It can also attract higher-end retailers, making it difficult for shoppers with more modest incomes to find affordable goods in their area.

All that said, gentrification can help people who have been sitting on properties get more bang for their buck if and when they do sell. It's not necessarily a bad beast, even if it doesn't help everyone. 

The case of Lakeview is a little different because it's too soon to tell what (if any) negative effects the development might have on current residents. What we do know, however, is that some people in Port Credit might worry about a nearby Walmart potentially drawing business away from local and indie retailers.

So, back to Walmart and the Port Credit connection.

The Walmart, which will be housed in a developing plaza on Lakeshore Rd. E. just west of Cawthra, is set to open next fall. It will obviously be part of the Lakeview neighbourhood and not Port Credit, but district boundaries aside; it could affect the village's retail scene.

As of now, Port Credit residents who want discount goods have to travel to Square One to get them. If there's a closer superstore, they might be more tempted to forego pricier independents who will most likely sell all those necessary goods -- food, clothing, home goods, electronics, children's toys, etc. -- for a little bit more.

Although I brought up the Kensington Market comparison earlier, I don't actually think you can really compare Kensington to Port Credit. While PC has a ton of indie shops and restos, it's also home to a huge array of chain and big box establishments. If you walk down Lakeshore, you'll find Subway, Rabba, No Frills and Pizza Pizza. Even Smoke's Poutinerie and Burger's Priest are technically chains. The big guys are just as ubiquitous as the family-owned restos and chic infused olive oil shops.

That's not the case in Kensington, where retailers sell Japanese sketches and kumquats and Buddhist prayer flags and Ovaltine smoothies.

But, to be fair, PC is a walkable area that welcomes and promotes small businesses -- some of which are protective of their neighbourhood (and their place in it). We recently heard a disturbing rumor about local businesses protesting the possible opening of a Cafe Diplomatico along the waterfront. Why? Who knows, but it probably has a little something to do with fearing competition.

Even though the Walmart won't be in Port Credit, it will be close enough to exert some influence on local shoppers. It might also change the overall area's vibe, as Walmarts tend to be monstrous concrete goliaths that are anything but quaint. Although they're great for people looking to spend less on onesies and greeting cards, they can rob an area of its perceived artistry and originality.

So, what do you think?

Should PC worry?

Should Lakeview worry?

Should we be promoting small businesses over major chains?

Let us know what you think!  

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