Developers RioCan bought the parking lot at the corner of Queen Street West and Portland back in 2005. Immediately, rumours started to circulate that a big box store, like Home Depot, was going to be built at the site. At the time, The Globe and Mail reported that RioCan planned to start building in 2007. Which is now. So what’s happening with the project?
In August 2006, Spacing Wire reported that activists had met at the Cameron House to voice their opposition to big box development. They hoped that development would be thwarted by a city-owned, right-of-way that cuts the lot in two. It wouldn’t be easy building a big box store with a four-metre lane running through the middle of it (building over the right-of-way would still require city permission). Others have been actively campaigning to get the parking lot a heritage designation (possibly as the place where the Kids in the Hall filmed their Naked for Jesus sketch). Nothing happened for a while, and it seemed like the big box building had been averted.
Flash forward to May 2007, when The Star reported that RioCan were proposing a condo for the site. While technically not a big box development, it would feature two large retail spaces (one, three storeys high) that would likely be occupied by a chain, like Home Depot, and a supermarket. How will they get around the right-of-way issue? Some say that RioCan will simply buy up the buildings that share the lane. So far, that hasn’t happened, but plans have been drawn up for multi-storey retail spaces. While the site is not yet leased, RioCan is actively courting tenants. At the moment, local business people seemed resigned that whether it’s a Home Depot or a Future Shop, some big international retailer will be setting up shop at the site.