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Expansion in the works for Penticton Walmart

By JOE FRIES
July 19, 2012 · Updated 8:42 AM
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Plans are being considered for the expansion of the current Walmart location in Penticton. The project would involve adding on to the north end of the building. / Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton’s retail sector looks to be in for a super-sized shakeup.

Walmart Canada has now begun acquiring the necessary approvals to expand its store here to include a bigger grocery section, while the Real Canadian Superstore is just five months from its anticipated opening date.

Anthony Haddad, the city’s development services director, said Walmart Canada just a few weeks ago obtained a development permit for the expansion.

According to information filed with the city, the plan calls for a 29,683-square-foot addition on the north end of the building to accommodate a larger grocery section, plus exterior upgrades, landscaping improvements and a new entrance. Full-grocery Walmart stores have been dubbed Supercentres by the company.

The issuance of a development permit means the concept has been reviewed by city staff to ensure it complies with form and character guidelines contained in the Official Community Plan for that particular area. The development permit is good for two years and the company has not yet applied for a building permit, nor has it indicated a timeline for the proposed build.

Haddad said the expansion would not trigger the need for any zoning or OCP amendments, and would therefore not need council’s approval.

Walmart Canada had little to add.

“At this point, we don’t have any new information to share,” spokesperson Susan Schutta said via email.

The company announced in February it plans to spend $750 million on 73 projects at its Canadian sites by the end of January 2013, which is expected to add 4.6 million square feet of retail space to its operations.

About half of those planned projects are upgrades of existing stores to Supercentres, while the other half involve converting former Zellers locations to Walmarts.

The Zellers in Penticton, however, is already in the process of being transformed into a Real Canadian Superstore, which will rival a Walmart Supercentre.

Parent company Loblaw said in a statement this week that the Superstore is expected to open in early December, and the company plans to keep its Real Canadian Wholesale Club in operation as well.

There has also been persistent speculation about Costco’s intention to set up shop in Penticton, but the company won’t address rumours.

“We can’t comment on whether we’re interested in going into a market or not, and it’s simple commercial real estate 101: As soon as we say, ‘Yeah, it’s an interesting market,’ then of course the price of land goes up,” said Costco spokesman Ron Damiani.

“And then if we say, ‘Are you kidding? We’re not interested in that market, it’s way too small or over-stored,’ then of course the people that are holding onto the land see the value of their property diminish.”

Meanwhile, a site on the Penticton Indian Reserve that is expected to one day become a big-box retail centre is still tied up in red tape.

The long-awaited Channel Crossing development off Green Avenue is stalled while the band wrestles with both the provincial and federal governments about the design of a new bridge across the Okanagan River Channel to handle increased traffic.

“Things are looking really good right now,” PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger said Wednesday.

He didn’t offer a timeline, but said the bridge design is “really close” to final approval.