Wal-Town, the doc on how Wal-Mart is contributing to the cycle of poverty in neighbourhoods across Canada, couldn't have come at a more poignant time for the 50 gathered for a screening at the Ralph Thornton Centre on March 14.
With chatter of big-box development on land soon to be vacated by Toronto Film Studios at Eastern and Pape, many residents are concerned.
Says Charles Braive of Friends of the Studio District, "We think it would be detrimental to the businesses along Queen and Leslie."
Stoking those fears is the fact that half the space in question was sold last September to SmartCentres, the Vaughan-based outfit notorious for big-box development (see Leaside and Downsview Park). The Rose Corporation, a real estate investment group operating film studios, seniors centres and hotels, owns the other half.
The city continues to battle a rezoning request for mixed commercial-residential at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). On March 9, the landowners gave notice that their intentions for the site comprise "a wide variety of uses including, but not limited to, industrial, hotel, residential, commercial, retail, automotive and parkland."
Area councillor Paula Fletcher says residential is out of the question. The land is contaminated, and remediation would be very expensive. The site also happens to be the last reserved for employment and industrial purposes in the downtown core. "Is big-box retail what you really want your employment lands to become?"
A Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire already loom large in the area. Is this what SmartCentres spokesperson Flavio Volpe means when he says the developer intends to build "in keeping with the tone and needs of the community we're entering"?
Fletcher is gathering her forces to plead the community's case at the OMB. "It's not an automobile culture here," she says. "Big box just doesn't fit in the equation."