Our View: Retails fate uncertain

The public should weigh in on the future of our commercial cores.

The Sears location in Langley is likely to be empty by early next year.

Sears isn’t the only retailer in trouble in Canada. Toys R Us is in financial difficulties, and while The Bay continues to expand, it’s struggled to turn a profit.

Things are not all doom and gloom in conventional retail, but big department stores and some brands of big box outlets are facing stiff headwinds of online competition.

Ultimately, it will be up to local landlords to decide what goes in the vacant spaces that will appear across the country.

But the communities around those former stores should take an interest, too.

If e-commerce and changing shopping patterns are altering our retail landscape, what does that mean for our physical landscapes?

Here we have a clear community interest. For centuries, the central feature of communities has included a place to exchange goods – from medieval market towns to modern shopping centres.

But if certain kinds of retail are becoming less important in the physical sphere, with what should we replace those huge buildings?

With housing? With smaller shops, serving more specialized clienteles? What about gyms, movie theatres, churches, vertical farms, kids play areas, or mini-golf?

Some of the possible ideas for our civic cores could require rezoning. Which means they need public input and become a question for the entire community to weigh in on.

It’s early days. But as Sears departs, think about what you want at the center of a community.

– M.C.

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