IKEA is going to be in Aldershot for quite a bit longer than they had planned. There is trouble with the North Service Rd. location.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 23, 2012  It came up on the agenda as an employment lands issue but it really is a significant issue for the development of the mid-section of the city and keeping some of the larger business operations in Burlington.

IKEA announced in March of 2011 – that they wanted out of the location they are at in Aldershot.  They wanted more store space and they needed additional head office space.  They also wanted prime visibility and they really liked the look of the QEW with all that traffic going by.  The way you keep an iconic brand alive is to never let people forget  it is there – thus setting up shop on the North Service Road west of Walkers Line made all kinds of marketing sense.

All of the land along the North Service Road between Walkers Line and Guelph Line was described as under utilized..  The two lane road could not possibly handle the traffic IKEA would attract if they were to locate on the land that is adjacent to Walkers Line on the west end.

IKEA kept the city up to date on what they were doing in terms of the way the site on North Service Road would be  developed, how many parking spots there would be, where the trees would be planted and a look at what the buildings  would look like on the lot that is located west of Walkers Line between the North Service Road (NSR) and the railway line that crosses Mainway.  It’s a 25 acre piece of land that needed  some fixing up.

Is there enough land in this set back for an additional two lanes of road? The view is just outside the Leon’s warehouse looking west. If there isn’t then IKEA may have to look elsewhere for a new location. Outside Burlington? How did we ever let ourselves get into this kind of a mess? Ask the Economic Development Corporation

The project file was on the desk of a General Manager who is no longer with the city and was put in the hands of General Manager Community Services Scott Stewart, who had it on his desk for less than ten days.  He didn’t have much in the way of good news for anyone.

This is the view from the Leon’s warehouse looking west. Is there enough land for an additional two lanes of traffic – and if there is – is four lanes enough for the size of the operation IKEA wants to set up in this part of Burlington. It’s a great opportunity for the city – can we make it happen? Not with some of the thinking some people are doing.

Stewart set out in his typical blunt, direct manner just what the problems were.  The biggest problem is traffic – the North Service Road is a two lane road.  It sits right up beside the QEW so there is no room to expand that way – and while IKEA could use some of the frontage for the property they want to build on for the widening of the NSR – which would allow for a widening of North Service – there are other companies on that stretch of land that wouldn’t be as keen and maybe not even able to give up frontage.

So – there is your first problem.

Add to that mix the fact that Walkers Line will reach its current capacity sometime in 2021 which isn’t all that far out.

Then look at the documents coming out of the Niagara GTA discussions.  Among the options is to widen the QEW to eight lanes and a possible ten lane.  Where would that widening take place?  Not that much room on the south side – unless you got rid of the South Service Road.

Add to the mix some problems with Tuck Creek which is at the eastern edge of the property.

The cost of widening North Service and doing what has to be done to Walkers Line was put at “somewhere between $10 and $20 million – which is a really wide range but as Stewart put it – “we are really ball parking here” – we have nothing to work with in terms of either data or design.

And, the final piece is that the option IKEA has on what is called the Hopewell property expires at the end of August.

There are some serious problems for the parties involved in all this to take a long hard look at.  A lot of money is going to be needed to make all this happen and IKEA can only justify so much capital for the move they want to make.  The Ministry of Transport people – which is you and I – aren’t going to want to  pay for everything.

It was suggested that Hopewell, the owners of the property that is to be developed, might be able to bring some money to the table.

The most interesting comment made during these very, very early stage discussions was that many of the properties to the west of the Hopewell property are very under-utilized and that perhaps developers could be enticed to do some land assembly.  Medium rise office towers love sitting alongside roads like the QEW where they have great signage potential, excellent access to the highway.

So – who calls who to make that kind of thing happen?  Does our Economic Development Corporation have the kind of lines into the development community that would allow for a conversation?  Most people don’t think so.  It isn’t believed to have the capacity to work at quite that level.  There has to be an economic animator in this play somewhere and because Burlington stands to gain the most – one would assume the initiative would come from somewhere within the civic administration.

City Manager Jeff Fielding now sits on the Executive of the BEDC and will no doubt bring a brighter spark and higher level of experience to this situation.  It’s another one that got dropped on his desk which he has managed to slide over to Stewart.   Fielding’s experience in London with the university there had  him deeply involved in some very sophisticated cross partnership agreements with developers.

The IKEA problem set out in a single picture – not enough roadway for the traffic that would be generated if IKEA did choose to locate on the North Service Road. Is there enough land to the north of the North Service road to get in two additional lanes of traffic? That was the first question that should have been asked. We know what went wrong, we know who made the mistake – now competent people have to scramble to save a major commercial enterprise. This photograph was taken on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Quite why this problem was allowed to fester the way it has for more than a year is surprising and for the people at IKEA must be very disappointing.  The project sits right in the middle of Councillor Dennison’s ward.  Quite why he wasn’t riding this one is surprising.  He tends to be all over anything that has to do with economic development; it’s almost as if he was asleep at the switch.  Councillor Craven took much better care of his best commercial operation in Ward 1; something IKEA must miss deeply.

Stewart set out the issues in a paragraph that had less than 20 words.  “Development of a long term transportation solution with MTO (Ministry of Transportation) and IKEA are estimated to require 12 months.”  I’m pretty sure Stewart’s fingers and legs were crossed when he made that statement.

This is going to be an interesting one to follow.  There is within all this the very real opportunity that IKEA will find a location that meets all their needs – you know they have been looking.

Burlington needs to shape up in a number of areas – quickly.


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