London Drugs one step closer to Whistler? 

Municipality’s retail strategy goes public in new year

By Vivian Moreau

As Whistler council considers a draft retail strategy that will address what kind of businesses to allow in the village, London Drugs has ramped up its campaign to convince residents the B.C.-based store would make a good addition to the community.

In a four-page newsletter sent to Whistler households in November, London Drugs’ president says the company will donate $125,000 worth of equipment for the Whistler Library’s computer lab if a store opens in Whistler. Larco Investments, London Drugs’ potential landlord, will also make a $100,000 donation to Whistler Arts Council.

Wynne Powell said London Drugs has made similar donations to the Vancouver Public Library.

“And if we’re fortunate enough to come to the (Whistler) community then we would like to repeat history and help the library in Whistler, just as we helped the library in Vancouver,” Powell said.

Whistler council is set to consider a draft outline of recommendations for a retail strategy on Dec. 18. The strategy has been several months in the making. It was undertaken after Larco Investments applied for partial rezoning of 4,000 sq. metres of its Village Common property. London Drugs is prepared to lease the space in order to open a two-level 6,372 sq. metre store.

London Drugs’ potential move to Whistler has been a contentious and lengthy two-year proposition, prompting debates amongst candidates in the 2005 municipal election.

This year, Whistler’s planning department undertook a retail study that assessed a number of factors, including current retail and beverage space, trends in other resorts, visitor and resident expenditure patterns and inventories and rates of currently available Whistler properties. The study is necessary in order to formulate a retail strategy that will provide parameters for assessing future business applications, including London Drugs, according to the municipalities’ top planner.

Mike Kirkegaard said after council is updated on the retail strategy at the Dec. 18 meeting a public open house will be scheduled for January to present the strategy. After gathering public feedback the strategy will be taken back to council for final consideration.

“What’s coming out of the retail strategy is (an attempt) to create distinct nodes within the village with each having a different positioning and character and each offering a different (retail) experience,” Kirkegaard said.

London Drugs’ president said although the company has never waited this long to set up shop in a community, it understands the concerns of Whistler council.

“We’ve never gone into a community where we’re not wanted and we were prepared from the very beginning that this would be a very careful, measured decision,” Powell said.

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