Nearly 51,000 people have signed a petition demanding a stop to real estate developer Riocan’s application to build a three-story mall including a Walmart on the western outskirts of Kensington Market.
Riocan announced last week they had applied to the city for re-zoning to allow construction of the mall. The petition was launched shortly after by long-time area resident Dominique Russel on Change.Org reaching nearly 25,000 signatures within its first day.
The City Committee of Adjustment rejected Riocan’s previous application in May 2012, and the Ontario Municipal Board rejected a subsequent appeal in December 2012.
The proposed mall would stand at 129,000 feet, making it “130 times larger” than existing shops in Kensington and on College street, according to the Petition homepage. The city’s official plan doesn’t allow for these developments to be built in such close proximity to residential areas, which prompted the original application rejection.
Signatories are dismayed by plans of this new development seeing it as “wholly inappropriate” to be in such close proximity of a neighbourhood known for it’s eclectic mix of independent businesses and historic significance to the city.
“Toronto’s city planners must decide if they want to be seen as respecting their own city plan, by-laws, and the wishes of the community, or as caving to the desires of developers and chain retail,” says Russell. “It’s an important choice as it will send a message to the rest of the city as to whether the planning department values neighbourhoods or believes developers can essentially do what they want, regardless of the official plan.”
Previous threats to Kensington Market by major developers have prompted similar campaigning. Russell feels this petition may be the most significant yet as a means to preserve the city’s heritage and protect small businesses.
Councillor Mike Layton told CBC News, “If you bring a Wal-Mart that’s able to undercut the price, that preys on the other businesses.”
Another campaigner, Lauryn Drainie, commented that the quick support gained for this campaign in a short time reflects that a construction of a Walmart “is a real flashpoint for many people in Toronto.”
The petition will be delivered to Liora Freedman, the city planner responsible for the file, at a public consultation arranged for Thursday, June 6 at 7pm.
To see the petition visit www.change.org/SaveKensingtonMarket
For more information on Friends of Kensington, visit their Facebook page here.
Sana Malik is rabble.ca‘s news intern.