Friday, April 19, 2024

Target Stores Closing Then What’s Next for Town of Aurora Community?

I am convinced that what happened to Target Stores in Canada since opening in 2013 is going to be a new trend in the retail industry. If it doesn’t work – pull the plug immediately. Target Stores Canada aggressively set up 133 nationwide stores promising Canadians to ‘Expect More. Pay Less’. Now after two years and a major $2B investment, Target announced that they are pulling the plug on their Canadian stores. So much for their love of Canada – remember their introductory campaign ‘Target Loves Canada’?

So what happened? In my view and experience, the promised ‘expect more’ was more like ‘expect more empty shelves’, and ‘pay less’ for what? Their supply chain and pricing scheme was not what we expected. We expected the same as in the US version Target stores. Zellers wasn’t the greatest store in Town but at least I know it lasted in Aurora for more than 15 years. So what does Target Stores closing mean for the Town of Aurora community? We’ll have to see; for now most are just curious if another chain will move in.

“… people, residents, people that will provide a market for the empty stores that are down there and allow business people to thrive.”

The other day we dropped by the Target Stores Aurora store on Bayview Ave to use up our Target Stores gift card. Some shelves still empty and I could only notice a low employee morale. About 17,600 jobs will be lost nationwide and 133 stores will be closed down. Approximately 130 retail jobs will be lost here in the Town of Aurora, Ontario. This also means that we are going to have another vacant building on Bayview Ave just like we had the Reebok warehouse for some time. One can also relate to the Canadian store Rona on Leslie Street that closed down and recently in its place there appears to be opening a different but similar product line store.

Target Stores

Just before we let another big box store retail chain take over the Target Stores location, perhaps the Town of Aurora economic development department may want to start really thinking about growing a ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’ community as emphasized in Aurora’s Business Retention and Expansion Action Plan Endorsed Q2 2014. Learning from the current experience with Target Canada we may want to think differently, we may want to make a note that even big businesses are not sustainable.

The question is, do we really need another retail chain store on Bayview Ave? This may be an opportunity for our Town to revisit other opportunities for the soon to be vacant large footprint building. It may be a good exercise to think about more community focused development.

Our community needs sustainability in business retention and local jobs.

Let me go through some ideas on how the space on Bayview Ave can be utilized in the near future.

First I thought, perhaps a community shopping mall with an indoor food court and indoor playground. I think that could be a great hangout place during hot summer or cold winter days for our stay at home parents or seniors. I can only speak for myself and I would love to have a place such as that.

Having multiple businesses under one roof and providing a sheltered shopping experience with a free indoor play area seems like a more sustainable community focused environment. There are many community benefits from social gatherings where different age groups have an opportunity to interact – seniors, younger parents, and their children. I believe this kind of social environment is much needed for all of us. I have seen it happen at one of the Tim Horton’s on Bayview Ave where a regular group of seniors and regular group of parents, some with children, hang around. And when you see them often enough it feels like you know them.

From the idea above I spanned to another scenario. When Target Canada announced closing of their stores I remembered Evelyn Buck speaking in general on high density developments in Aurora, Town Council Meeting Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

Affordable high density housing, perhaps even an affordable retirement home comes to mind after I watched her again. She said:

“We have on Yonge Street adopted a policy to have increased density of whatever we can get for residential development onto the Yonge Street core. That’s what is going to revitalize our downtown area. So we’re clearly open to the idea of mixed use residential and commercial. Residential provides a market for the commercial.We have a lot of vacant premises on Bayview and they have been vacant almost as long as the Reebok building has been empty. So, undoubtedly they will be occupied but they weren’t earning us any great revenue sitting there empty, they are not providing us any jobs sitting there empty. So the way I see it we are approving something that’s going to be more vacant stores. No jobs, no revenue, no life, no vitality. Condominiums would provide something of that into that neighbourhood, and I don’t think the whole stretch of Bayview, the west side of Bayview, is necessarily improved by having nothing but commercial strips on it. And by the way, founders have visions, they are not any better than anyone else’s visions. Meaning no disrespect Mr. Ramuno but anyone can have a vision about what would look good and what would sell out interest in that location. And my vision is people, residents, people that will provide a market for the empty stores that are down there and allow business people to thrive.

Watch former Cllr Evelyn Buck’s full speech here:

I am not in favour of more residential development around Aurora. I like green spaces, but that plaza is not a green space. However, high density residential with a commercial mix development would only make sense. Perhaps, an affordable retirement residence would be even better. The reason being is that as we tackle increasing population, traffic increases too. A retirement residence scenario may not have that much effect on traffic because if we keep everything accessible for seniors there may be less of a need for driving.

If we were to put a retirement community right in place of the Target store seniors already have most of the needs covered: grocery, pharmacy and banking, and not to mention walking distance to the Aurora Seniors’ Centre, access to public transit from Bayview Ave and five minutes away from Southlake Medical/Hospital. It could easily be affordable if the focus remains on a senior residential building without additional amenities.

A few months ago with my friend we walked Main Street in Newmarket. In one of the shops my friend asked ‘how does a business like this survive on Main Street?’. To our surprise the lady replied ‘we’ve been here since the 1960s and it is a real convenience store to seniors who come from the neighbouring retirement centers. They shop here regularly for medication in our pharmacy located in the back and buy small gifts from us. A lot of them can’t drive.’

I hope you can see my picture. Combining the scenarios above, the community shopping mall and affordable retirement housing may yield an ideal community based ‘place’. However, the unfortunate reality is there may not be anyone ready to invest in a community ‘place’ and it is likely that whoever comes first to open a business in place of the Target store will be served by the Town with few questions asked; it would be less work for everyone and it would fill a vacant space immediately – at least for the time being.

Evelyn Buck, formerly Town of Aurora Councillor, emphasized that people provide a market to retail businesses and allow businesses to thrive. I could not agree more with her. Something to think about.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON


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