We’re all for developing neighbourhood shopping that people can walk to.
This can help to create more self-sustaining neighbourhoods with better cohesion. Just ask anyone who has ever lived in a bedroom suburb where most of the residents do everything in their lives somewhere else — often people don’t even know the first thing about their neighbours.
It can also help get people the heck out of their cars and walking, which is good for the environment, neighbourhoods, and people’s general health.
So when we heard that there was potential for a commercial development at Berkey’s Corner, we were optimistic.
We remain so, even if there clearly are many logistics to be worked out, and serious consideration needs to be given to making it pedestrian friendly rather than a car magnet.
People who object to the development because there’s already a lot of unused retail space in the Duncan area have a good point. We don’t like to see those long-empty storefronts at Cowichan Commons or in downtown Duncan or at Duncan Mall.
But many of those spaces that remain unused are big, really big, and that makes a key difference in the kind of tenant they can attract.
It sounds as if the Berkey’s Corner development is not considering putting in big boxes — we would definitely be against any such move.
It sounds more like they are looking at putting in businesses that have the chance to thrive off of customers primarily living in the local area.
There are a few local businesses already located adjacent to the proposed development site, so it seems an organic way to develop, rather than scattering commercial businesses through the residential section.
The sports fields located right there also represent a potential customer base, as does the school.
Some types of businesses have already been restricted by North Cowichan council and will not be able to be part of the development.
There is still a lot of controversy about some other types, most notably the idea of a drive-through restaurant or coffee shop locating there, and we’re on the fence about this one.
Drive-throughs are idling factories in a community, and also work against the whole idea of getting people out of their vehicles to use the local shopping centre. There are also very real concerns about traffic.
A potential gas station is also obviously targeting drivers.
We believe that much should be done with this development to encourage people to get out of their cars.
We hope the municipality, and the developer keep this in mind as they move forward.