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Gateway Park/Sportsworld Retail Area
#1
Gateway Park/Sportsworld Retail Area

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A thread to discuss the progression and state of retail in the Gateway Park/Sportsworld Area of Kitchener - the Region's first collection of 'big box' stores.
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#2
I bought appliances from the Sears Home store a few weeks ago, and was surprised to see last weekend that it is yet another large store that will be pulling out of this area and is having a liquidation sale. I also noticed that the foundation for the unfinished building at Sportsworld Crossing is being demolished. This foundation was poured a few years ago and sat since without the steel superstructure framing, likely due to low demand for tenants. Two not so good signs.

As the Region's first big box store area, this area peaked and had its heyday in around 2000. However, as more power centres have sprung up much closer to higher population concentrations since then (i.e. Sunrise Centre, The Boardwalk, BridgeCam Smart Centre, St. Jacobs SmartCentre, Fairway Road box stores, various box stores around Conestoga Mall), this area has clearly fallen behind.

Let's take an inventory of the stores/restaurants that have closed and left for good in the last few years (feel free to add to list if I'm missing anything):
  • Staples
  • PetsMart
  • Kelseys
  • Curry's Art Supplies (moved to The Boardwalk)
  • Future Shop (moved to Sunrise Centre at the time)
  • Calvin Klein
  • Rickis
  • Marble Slab Creamery
  • Sears Home (to close late summer 2015)
I think once the new VIP Cineplex opens on Fairway Road and the Costco opens in Waterloo on Erb Street in the coming year or two, it will further the decline of this area as fewer people will have a reason to come here and the former exclusivity of the area wears off.

It is interesting to note that the City of Kitchener initially planned for this area to be a major employment area in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but when Price Club (now Costco) came to town, it was considered a big land for the City and blurred the lines between business/industrial uses with it's membership "warehouse" business model. Once Costco went in, it more or less set a precedent for the other box stores with Aikenheads (now Home Depot) and Future Shop's relocation from a small locationn on Fairway Road following shortly after. Perhaps it is time to revert this area back to it's intended use from 30 years ago.
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#3
A lot of those closures can be chalked up to conditions beyond the area itself. PetSmart acquired SuperPet and ended up with a surplus of stores in the area; with a former SuperPet on Hespeler Road and a PetSmart on Fairway Road, one of them had to give. Staples is down to change in market trends; people are buying their tech online more and more nowadays. Same with Future Shop (which is now a Value Village, and not an empty building like the lead photo suggests). If they hadn't closed it two years ago, they would have closed this spring. Marble Slab was probably a case of over-expansion; I think they've pulled out of a lot of places that opened at once. There was talk of Home Depot closing or becoming a warehouse for the other stores a while back, but they put a lot of money into the place so it looks like they're here to stay.

The Sportsworld people made a mistake in removing the mini-golf when the rest of the park closed. If they'd left that they'd have a guaranteed moneymaker.

What the area really needs is a grocery store. Right now there isn't one between the Stanley Park Zehrs and the Zehrs on Holiday Inn Drive (or the No Frills at King and Bishop), and Costco doesn't count.
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#4
(08-13-2015, 09:05 AM)DHLawrence Wrote: The Sportsworld people made a mistake in removing the mini-golf when the rest of the park closed. If they'd left that they'd have a guaranteed moneymaker.

YES!  Let's take a moment to remember the greatness that was  Sportsworld mini-golf.
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#5
(08-13-2015, 09:05 AM)DHLawrence Wrote: What the area really needs is a grocery store. Right now there isn't one between the Stanley Park Zehrs and the Zehrs on Holiday Inn Drive (or the No Frills at King and Bishop), and  Costco doesn't count.

Longo's would be nice. 

This would be an alright area for an Ikea too.
_____________________________________
I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
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#6
It's about the right size for the neighbourhood too. Not sure where it would go - Sportsworld or the Sears Home building are the only contenders I can think of.

An update: the former PetSmart location is now the home of Smitty's furniture, poached from the Holiday Inn Dr section of Cambridge. The store next to (former Curry's) has always had a full and empty cycle going on, so that one being empty is par for the course.
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#7
An Ikea would make sense - they like to be centrally located, with easy access by both highway and public transit. If they could convince Smitty's to move again, all three structures between Home Depot and Boston Pizza could be knocked down to make space for a building of their size.
My Twitter: @KevinLMaps
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#8
(08-14-2015, 10:31 AM)KevinL Wrote: An Ikea would make sense - they like to be centrally located, with easy access by both highway and public transit.

Is that true about public transit? Thinking of the Burlington Ikea, there's one Burlington Transit bus that passes on Plains somewhat frequently, but doesn't have a stop right in front of Ikea but anyway would be separated from Ikea by their huge parking lot.
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#9
(08-14-2015, 10:47 AM)MidTowner Wrote:
(08-14-2015, 10:31 AM)KevinL Wrote: An Ikea would make sense - they like to be centrally located, with easy access by both highway and public transit.

Is that true about public transit? Thinking of the Burlington Ikea, there's one Burlington Transit bus that passes on Plains somewhat frequently, but doesn't have a stop right in front of Ikea but anyway would be separated from Ikea by their huge parking lot.

Um, yeah. I can see no evidence that they locate for public transit.
They have however, in Toronto and Ottawa, managed to score locations where subways and LRTs were (or are going to be) built.
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#10
Everyone wants an Ikea. And a grocery store. Smile
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#11
(08-14-2015, 11:06 AM)Markster Wrote:
(08-14-2015, 10:47 AM)MidTowner Wrote: Is that true about public transit? Thinking of the Burlington Ikea, there's one Burlington Transit bus that passes on Plains somewhat frequently, but doesn't have a stop right in front of Ikea but anyway would be separated from Ikea by their huge parking lot.

Um, yeah. I can see no evidence that they locate for public transit.
They have however, in Toronto and Ottawa, managed to score locations where subways and LRTs were (or are going to be) built.

IKEA's North York store offers a free shuttle bus between it and the Leslie subway station. An IKEA here could offer a similar shuttle from the LRT southern terminus until phase 2 runs the LRT direct to the store.
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#12
(08-13-2015, 09:05 AM)DHLawrence Wrote: A lot of those closures can be chalked up to conditions beyond the area itself. PetSmart acquired SuperPet and ended up with a surplus of stores in the area; with a former SuperPet on Hespeler Road and a PetSmart on Fairway Road, one of them had to give. Staples is down to change in market trends; people are buying their tech online more and more nowadays. Same with Future Shop (which is now a Value Village, and not an empty building like the lead photo suggests). If they hadn't closed it two years ago, they would have closed this spring. Marble Slab was probably a case of over-expansion; I think they've pulled out of a lot of places that opened at once. There was talk of Home Depot closing or becoming a warehouse for the other stores a while back, but they put a lot of money into the place so it looks like they're here to stay.

The Sportsworld people made a mistake in removing the mini-golf when the rest of the park closed. If they'd left that they'd have a guaranteed moneymaker.

What the area really needs is a grocery store. Right now there isn't one between the Stanley Park Zehrs and the Zehrs on Holiday Inn Drive (or the No Frills at King and Bishop), and  Costco doesn't count.

Regarding the stores that have vacated their (often purpose-built) spaces and sometimes relocated elsewhere, it has each been a case of an "A" level tenant being replaced with either a "B" or "C" level tenant. Take Value Village occupying the former Future Shop, Mothers Pizza taking the former Kelseys, or Smitty's taking PetsMart and doing very minor renovations (little more than a new paint job with a different colour). If this area was still a prime regional retail area, you would have seen the big and new retail lands this Region has got repurposing these buildings, such as Farm Boy, Teppermans Furniture, Marshals or Mastermind Toys. Instead, these stores chose other more prime locations to open.

Also, when you look at the relocations (i.e. PetsMart, FutureShop (then), Staples), they would have analyzed all of the stores in the market/trade area, and closed the least profitable or relocated to an area with greater market share. If these former locations in Gateway were doing so well, don't you think the corporate head offices would have chosen to keep them open and close the locations on Fairway Road, Hespeler Road or Sunrise? I highly doubt it.

I'm with you though on the developer who bought the Sportsworld property - they should have kept the mini-golf. Definitely would have been a better bet on this area.

I really think the City of Kitchener should study this area further, possibly with a new secondary plan to make it more mixed use. A transit station (GO, aBRT, future LRT) could be a significant component. If nothing is eventually done, I think we will continue to see stores leave/relocate and landlords continue to struggle to fill vacancies or find tenants.
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#13
It seems to me that the LRT stop will be on the other side of the expressway. 

This is going to be a very inconvenient location for everyone.
_____________________________________
I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
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#14
I think it's meant to serve the Cherry Blossom/Maple Grove commercial developments more than Sportsworld. Even knowing that I still think it's a mistake. They've made passengers accustomed to changing buses right at Sportsworld and now they're suddenly going to change it.
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#15
You do realize the cost of having the tracks cross over the highway?
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