HomeDevelopers envision Vibrant Charlottetown

Developers envision Vibrant Charlottetown

Aug 2 2002

The Guardian
Aug 2, 2002

Charlottetown has experienced tremendous growth in its retail sector over the past five years.

An influx of big box retail stores like Wal-Mart, specialty retailers like SportChek, Future Shop and Indigo Books, Music & Café and several smaller boutiques, many of them locally owned, have dramatically increased the selection of goods and services available to the consumer.

But what do the next five years hold?

Developer Tim Banks, who watches the industry closely, says the retail market is soft now in both Canada and the U.S. That doesn’t mean companies have abandoned expansion plans, only that they’re increasingly cautions.

Tim Banks, president of APM, says a number of major U.S. players are beginning to test the waters in Canada. But he doesn’t expect any of them to establish a presence in this market in the foreseeable future. "It will be a while before we see any of those store here," Banks said. "We may see some of the restaurant chains, but I don’t expect you’ll see any of the big box retail outlets. Home Depot, stores like that, are at least a few years off."

Banks and others see great opportunities in Charlottetown for smaller retailers, particularly in the downtown core. But there’s a hitch. "You can’t take advantage of some of the opportunities out there until we address some key issues, like infrastructures," Banks said. "What is needed more than anything is better infrastructure leading into downtown Charlottetown. University Avenue must be widened from Belvedere Avenue in. I would also like to see the development of some alternate routes into the city."

Banks said the city has to make traffic flow more smoothly into the downtown core. He also suggests the elimination of parking meters would be a big plus. Once some of these issues have been addressed, he suggests the downtown core will see an increase in retail development. And much of that development, he believes, will be in the form of boutiques and specialty stores, where the emphasis is not on size but on quality and service.

He points to the recently opened Pilot House restaurant and pub as an example. "It’s a nice property and the owners stress quality and service. It’s packing people in. Their presence helps everyone in the area. Competition is good and helps breed success."

That Banks believes the retail sector can grow and prosper in Charlottetown is evidenced by his own investment in the former F. W. Woolworth building which he’s redeveloped to accommodate three retail operations under one roof in a unique open concept environment.

Just down the street lies Beyond The Beach, a new clothing store. Owner Dave MacSween, who’s spent more than 35 years in retail, says boutiques like his are attracting a growing share of the market.

"For a number of years it was all big box retail, MacSween said, "But I’ve noticed in my travels the last number of years that in larger cities like Montreal and Toronto people have started to drift away from that, and have been attracted more and more to boutique stores. In Montreal, its Sue St. Denis, in Toronto it’s Queen Street, both are packed with boutiques."

Based on what he’d seen MacSween decided to try and develop a new boutique here in the downtown core, away from the malls, a store that would be both fun and funky. "I wanted it to be fun and exciting with good brand names, good prices, good music, good service."

MacSween utilized professional designer Paula MacDonald to help give him the look he wanted, got the clothing lines he wanted and hired experienced staff who knew their merchandise and the value of good service.

MacSween said he and the store’s two co-managers, his daughter Jaime and Alan Kerwin, believe they’ve made the right move. "This is becoming the most popular part of the city. It’s a high tourist area, there’s as much or more parking here as anywhere else downtown and it’s an exciting area to be in. We’re committed to staying here. I think you’re going to see more people look at this area for their business.

This is the fifth in a series of articles designed to stimulate discussion on development in Charlottetown. Those who wish to respond can call 368-7784 or e-mail: harry@microagepei.com.

excerpt from the Guardian - Aug 2, 2002

Media Contact: MediaReleases@apm.ca