On Tuesday January 22, Peterborough City Council’s Planning Committee met to discuss the controversial relocation of the current Shoppers Drug Mart on Aylmer across the street, to a new building immediately south of the Peterborough Public Library.
The existing buildings are to be demolished, leaving the local businesses like Jim’s Pizzeria, Charlotte Paint and Paper, and the Lady Barber to relocate. The proposed building design and site plan features a 38 space parking lot at the corner of Charlotte and Aylmer with the Shoppers building taking up the other half of the block.
Many citizens are concerned that a car-focused, monolithic building and parking lot is not consistent with the existing and aspiring character of downtown. Rather, new buildings downtown should encourage a pedestrian-focused and diverse streetscape, so as to encourage walking over driving and promote a sense of community, in contrast with other commercial areas such as Lansdowne or Chemong Road.
A representative from Shoppers Drug Mart spoke at the meeting to defend its design plan arguing that “everybody drives” and “it’s not the end of the world” to have a parking lot at that corner. Some Councillors offered examples across Ontario where cities required Shoppers to design a building in keeping with the downtown. Concerned citizens include Professor Stephen Hill of the Environmental & Resource Studies program who wrote that, “the citizens of Peterborough deserve planning that holds enduring value for Peterborough taxpayers rather than serve the immediate interests of Toronto-based developers.”
In the end, council was divided evenly on the plan, with some arguing that this represents economic development and others wanting a plan that serves Peterborough. The meeting ended with a motion to refer the site plan back to city staff to see if some common ground could be found.
The motion on this referral comes to Council again at 6:30pm on February 4.