How much retail shopping is too much?

No doubt you’ve heard much over the past 10 to 15 years about how retail shopping is dying, and online shopping...

No doubt you’ve heard much over the past 10 to 15 years about how retail shopping is dying, and online shopping is taking over big time. I don’t believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an eBay person. I buy and sell on eBay all the time. I love it, but it’s more out of necessity than anything else. EBay can actually be an art form, but that’s a subject for another day.

The “online shopping is #1” mantra is nothing more than an urban legend, and I think I can make a pretty convincing case that “brick and mortar” retail shopping is rolling better than ever in Alberta and it is possibly causing some noticeable harm.

If, in fact, online retail is taking over the world, why are we seeing massive rural commercial developments popping up on both ends of the province?

Some years ago Albertans saw two gargantuan developments built outside Calgary and Edmonton.

CrossIron Mills shopping centre was opened in 2009 north of Calgary in the Balzac area. If you’ve never seen it, the development sort of looks like a freshly painted trailer park with overarching signs, dozens upon dozens of box-style stores and acres of pavement and concrete. The development is described as the largest single-level mall in Alberta, and one of the biggest in the country and includes 206 vendors. When built it gobbled up over 1.1 million square feet of farmland. Those of us who grew up in Alberta drove past that farmland many times. The mall was based upon an outlet mall formula popular in the United States.

At the other end of Highway #2 is what must certainly be one of the most confusing and baffling retail developments in Alberta, South Edmonton Common. This thing squats on the south fringe of the city and according to the mall’s website, “South Edmonton Common is Canada’s largest retail power centre and when fully developed it will spread over 320 acres (130 ha) and contain some 2,300,000 square feet (210,000 m2) of retail space, making it the largest open-air retail development in North America.” It’s a sprawling mass of boxes, confusing roads and badly designed intersections with lots and lots of parking stalls.

I’m not dumb, and the people who designed and built these developments aren’t dumb either. I guess they built these things because the market wanted them. What they don’t take into account though is the social and environmental costs of these monsters. People have to spend a lot of time behind the wheel to get to them, and get around in them. These things take up huge amounts of real estate, contributing to sprawl. Then there’s the runoff problem. Both Edmonton and Calgary endlessly whine about flash flooding, runoff problems and washouts. If approving authorities and developers want to continue to pave millions of square feet, expect flash floods. The water used to go into the ground. Now it’s got nothing to do but flow. Then there’s the aesthetic value of the malls. Old Alberta Main Streets, with their family-owned stores and quaint appearances, now have to compete with these monstrous commercial blobs that have the emotional appeal of a highway off-ramp.

Sadly, it seems this is just the beginning of the horrible U.S. style outlet mall mentality. CrossIron Mills won’t be alone for long. Horizon Mall, an Asian-themed outlet development that’s said to include room for 500 (!) vendors, broke ground last month right across the road from CrossIron Mills. It’s not clear how much land this thing will devour, but it will need at least twice as much as CrossIron used. Will most of that be farmland?

Then there’s Edmonton International Airport and its Premium Outlet Collection, an outlet mall currently under construction at the airport that’s said to include almost half a million square feet and about 100 vendors. The development was announced in 2013 and developers have boosted the size of the mall twice since then.

Is another outlet mall roughly 15 minutes from South Edmonton Common really needed? Is more farmland in the Leduc County area threatened by sprawling retail development? Does the area need more asphalt parking lots and concrete slabs?

All we can hope for, I guess, is that the municipalities we live in get decent tax revenue from these developments…enough to handle the flash flooding problem they’re contributing to.

Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.

 

Just Posted

Wolf Creek Schools raises Treaty 6 flag for first time

Chiefs, school officials took part in a ceremony that is aimed at acknowledging Treaty 6 land

Bonus RCMP officer for Breton region courtesy County of Wetaskiwin

Councilors examine details of enhanced RCMP officer for far-west side of county

County residents want to stop curve removal projects

Public meeting in Division 4 hears opposition to removal of gravel road speed curves

Soup and steak in Dora’s Kitchen this week

Get out your mallet for this Swiss Steak recipe

County council moves ahead on ‘speed curves’

Safety concerns, build standards basis for removing certain curves in county

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

16 people died when Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

VIDEO: Inside an eerily empty mall in Canada

Only nine of 517 retail spaces are open for business as the grand opening postponed to next year

Tens of thousands without power following tornado in Ottawa region

Hydro Ottawa says more than 170,000 customers were without power early this morning

BALONEY METER: Do Liberal policies mean a typical family is $2,000 richer?

MPs took to Twitter to talk how ‘typical’ Canadian families have more money due to Liberal policies

Most Read