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What's happening with the Kromer Radio building?

Posted by Chris Bateman / July 23, 2014

Kromer RadioThe former Kromer Radio building at Bathurst and Nassau streets has been vacant for close to two years, its brilliant electric blue sign disconnected and parking lot surrounded by a chain link fence. The property, now owned by developer RioCan, was a target for a controversial big box store, with Walmart identified as a prospective tenant.

The concept was roundly criticized in the neighbouring Kensington Market neighbourhood for its size--8,800 square metres over two floors for the anchor tenant--and more than 300 underground parking spaces.

RioCan fought for its proposal at the city's committee of adjustment, a citizen panel that rules on minor zoning variances, and the Ontario Municipal Board, a provincial body with jurisdiction over the city's own planning department, with little success.

toronto kromer radioIn February, local councillors Adam Vaughan and Mike Layton managed to brokered a compromise that reduced the building in size, cut the amount of retail space, and included a number of other nods to the neighbourhood, including a decorative rear wall, laneway access, and sidewalk improvements. As a result, RioCan said it would allow Walmart to "walk away" from the store.

The amount of retail space was reduced to 6,622 square metres and over roughly 10 stores. The four-storey building will also contain 6,502 square metres of office and (slightly) fewer parking spaces.

The scaled down plan was approved by city council in March and city staff are currently working grant the building site plan approval. Depending on RioCan's plans, construction could start before the end of the year.

Are you pleased with the compromise that's been reached on Bathurst Street?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo by drum118 / rendering from Turner Fleischer Architects

Discussion

16 Comments

Perry Como / July 23, 2014 at 10:12 am
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Please build a new honest eds
Logic / July 23, 2014 at 10:20 am
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If no one in the area wants a WalMart, then why fight to keep it out? Wouldn't the fact that it would have 0 customers cause it to go out of business and shut down on its own? Or is it that it'd be very popular but a few people don't want it?
v79 / July 23, 2014 at 11:10 am
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There was no reason to deny the initial proposal. A Wal-Mart is desperately needed in the low income/student neighbourhood. How is a large commercial building on the exact same footprint any different than the Kromer building before it? It's not remotely close to being a part of Kensington market, and the NIMBYers should have had zero influence on the decision. It's actually sickening to read in the City report how much of a voice was given to the Friends of Kensington losers/professional protesters.
Not Logic replying to a comment from Logic / July 23, 2014 at 11:12 am
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It may be very popular, but not necessarily with the folks who actually have to live with the increased traffic in the area. Wal-Mart is typically destination retail - their business model in the US is completely based on that idea. Their stores are usually ridiculously huge and located in some remote, exurban area, with the idea of capturing customers from a large radius surrounding the store.

Of course, as the chain got bigger they had to build stores closer to highly populated areas, and in Toronto, they're still mostly located in suburbs. The only stores that can fairly be considered to be located in "the City proper" at Gerrard Square in the East and Dufferin Mall in the West end. There's nothing central which is why the Kensington location was so desirable for them.

The issue isn't that people wouldn't go there - Wal Mart's overwhelming success is proof of the adage "build it and they will come" - it's that a significant number of people in the neighborhood are wary of the impact that store would have on local businesses and general congestion in an already congested area.

Are those views unanimous? Of course not. Much like with the "Smart Centre" battle in Leslieville (which Wal-Mart also lost, but then managed to take over the Zellers space at Gerrard Square, a much better outcome, in my opinion), there are undoubtedly folks in the area who would welcome Wal-Mart,, just like some of the opposition to it was probably pure snobbery against Wal-Mart in particular, but that's not the point. The point is, the proposal initially put forth was inconsistent with the zoning for the neighborhood, particularly as Wal-Mart's business model requires that it's stores be a size much larger than typical retail in that area. The proposal was challenged, Rio Can and Wal-Mart fought it, all the way to the OMB, lost and Rio Can was forced to come to the table with a more reasonable proposal.

Logical enough for you?

G. Lightfoot / July 23, 2014 at 11:18 am
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New recording studio for Perry Como's "Mama Loves Mambo".
SuperRichArea replying to a comment from v79 / July 23, 2014 at 11:29 am
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"A Wal-Mart is desperately needed in the low income/student neighbourhood."

College and Bathurst is a low income neighbourhood? It's not 1974, it's 2014. Time to catch up with the times.
Huuk / July 23, 2014 at 11:31 am
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@Not Logic: Everything you said makes sense, but the logic the locals used that it would have made traffic worse is insane. This is downtown proper and some of the highest density in the city, and with that comes traffic, there is no way around it. This Walmart would have serviced a huge urban population, one that may not even drive there.

The area that the locals are protecting is gentrifying very very quickly. Kensington will become what Queen St became; a corporate street devoid of any character, within 5 years. The Starbucks/Gaps/Zara and all other chains are knocking at the door of Kensington and as rents go up, they will take over.

In 5 years, the locals will be begging for a Walmart to move in.
Steven / July 23, 2014 at 11:54 am
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Encourage local business entrepeneurs to move in the building or property. Toronto is getting swamped by U.S.-owned businesses and it starting to look all the same everywhere.
Suicide_Boi / July 23, 2014 at 11:55 am
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I'd rather have the Wal-Mart.

Local grocery stores are too crowded and small (e.g. the Metro on Bloor).

The Wal-Mart on Dufferin is overcrowded too.

Could do with fewer parking spots though.
Evan / July 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm
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Walmarts don't service populations they service themselves.
TDotRome replying to a comment from Suicide_Boi / July 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm
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Oh yeah…….Wal-marts never have lines………..
Luckysod / July 23, 2014 at 02:10 pm
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I hope they carve up the ground floor into several smaller spaces, rather than selling it to a single retailer. This section of Bathurst deserves to be more lively, and lots of small shops there would bring people to the street, which is now more conducive to cars than pedestrians.
Gary / July 23, 2014 at 03:22 pm
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Why not build 12 stories of rental apartments or even condos, with retail on the first 3 or 4 floors? They can mix offices into it too. Just building retail alone is a wasted opportunity to provide housing for a growing city. That area of Bathurst could use the added density needed to make Bathurst a major retail street.

Bathurst Street from Queen to Bloor, is so god damned ugly, the retail/residential development can't come fast enough for me. Most of the buildings are in dreadful condition, so just tear the dilapidated things down and upgrade the neighbourhood. Put in some nice restaurants, bars and stores and suddenly, you have a nice district to enjoy.

Forget typical malls and parking lots. We need some serious city building that creates a lively, vibrant, downtown neighbourhood.
W. K. Lis / July 23, 2014 at 04:41 pm
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If, that is "if", Honest Ed's is closing down, then maybe a Wal-Mart, or Target, may have to come to this location. Unless the new building at Honest Ed's could get a reborn Honest Ed's in its place.
kn / July 23, 2014 at 06:14 pm
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Reducing the size of the sq/ft of each business, I understand and agree with, but to single out Walmart in particular is simply wrong. It's a business like any other business, end of story. If you want to ban them from Canada due to their business practices, that's a completely different issue.

As for the argument that traffic would become unbearable. This argument is laughable in the light of the 15-20 story condos that Adam Vaughan rammed down the throats of Alexandra park right around the corner (backed up by a supposed "professional traffic assessment" stating that an extra 5000-6000 residents would be reasonable density increase.) The idiots in Kensington market didn't object to this proposal.

Yes, Kensington market is gentrifying quickly, but Atkinson coop and Alexandra park coop, the local designated places for the poor, is one of the poorest areas of the city. So the statement that this area isn't "poor" is false too. It's got official poverty only designation by enlightened people like Adam Vaughan now.

If you are going to comment on this subject, at least have some basic understanding of the facts.
Local replying to a comment from Huuk / July 23, 2014 at 07:13 pm
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Huuk: How many truck loads of merchandise do you think a Wal-Mart receives a day? Don't you you think those trucks turning off Bathurst will affect local traffic? What about the cars waiting to turn into the underground parking? How about garbage pick up? All coming and going off of Bathurst. If you don't think this will affect traffic locally then you have never been to the area.

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