While I applaud the Victoria Airport Authority’s attempt to generate more income through such developments as the proposed Gateway Project, the project’s focus on retail and professional office use will only result in the hollowing out of downtown Sidney.
Across Europe and North America, countless towns and villages that have allowed the construction of large retail developments on their outskirts have seen their downtowns wither in a relatively short period of time. Is that what VAA wants on its record where Sidney is concerned? I would hope not.
I can understand why a retail development would look attractive to the VAA. However, the long term impact on downtown Sidney will be devastating because, as Talbot Consultants have pointed out, the development will siphon off a third of Sidney’s current retail sales. As to Omicron’s claim that the northern part of the Peninsula is underserved by retail outlets, I have one question: if that is the case why is it that Sidney’s retail vacancy rate is triple the normal rate across the province? And, by the way, that vacancy rate will only rise as new retail space associated with downtown apartment block construction comes on the market.
A more challenging but much better approach to the development of the Gateway property would be to seek out non-retail companies that would benefit from being close to the airport and a vibrant downtown Sidney, for example a hotel, scientific and technology research companies, professional consulting companies and the like. Such activities would complement Sidney’s downtown and further support existing and new businesses.
VAA would then be viewed as a supporter of Sidney rather than the agency that hollowed out the community’s downtown.
Adrian Kershaw, Sidney