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Though the property owners and a company spokesperson said this week that they couldn’t confirm anything, it appears a Shoppers Drug Mart is being planned for part of the space that was eyed for London Drugs in the failed rezoning attempt three years ago.
Mike Kirkegaard, the municipality’s manager of resort planning, has been involved in discussions about a proposal for the store, which is expected to occupy slightly less than 5,000 square feet already zoned for retail in the Village Centre complex.
In contrast, the proposed London Drugs was almost 17,000 square feet and required rezoning for the underground space, which is not zoned for retail, he said.
Kirkegaard said the Shoppers is expected to go into the former Guess clothing store location as well as the stores beside and behind the adjacent Starbucks, including the former Whistler Optik, Surefoot and Rasoee restaurant. He said as far as he knows the interior demolition to make way for the store is already complete and the building permit has been issued.
Kirkegaard said he’s not sure when the store might open.
On Monday (May 3), a Shoppers Drug Mart spokesperson said she couldn’t confirm that a store is opening in Whistler and indicated that real estate negotiations are still underway.
Jonathan Lazar of property owners Larco Investments said on Tuesday (May 4) that he is not able to confirm that a Shoppers is coming to Village Centre.
Kirkegaard said the property owners approached municipal staff with the proposal for the store because of bylaws that are being prepared to address restaurant zoning in the Village and establish a maximum store size of 5,000 square feet. He said there was previous interest in the Shoppers also taking over the Starbucks location, but the municipality wanted to protect the food-and-beverage space and associated outdoor patio.
Larco has complied with the municipality’s guidelines, he added.
The expected arrival of a chain drug store in Village Centre comes about five years after London Drugs owners first started to pursue a Whistler location.
London Drugs applied for rezoning to allow retail in almost 13,000 square feet of space in an underground section of the Village Centre complex. With another 5,000 square feet at ground level, the total proposed 17,000 square feet would have been smaller than the average London Drugs, company officials said at the time.
Despite strong public support for the London Drugs store, petitions in favour and other local efforts, the council of the day voted unanimously in February 2007 to deny the rezoning application.
At the time, councillors commented that allowing the large store would change the “unique” character of the Village, and that Whistler should stay away from looking like a suburban mall.
Council suggested that London Drugs consider a 5,000-square-foot store, which they said would be better for Whistler.
At the time, company president Wynne Powell said, “we couldn’t bring that special magic that London Drugs brings in that size of store.”
A smaller store means departments would have to be cut, putting London Drugs’ ability to draw customers into the store at risk, he said.
A 30,000-square-foot London Drugs opened in Squamish in November 2009.