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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Supportable retail capacity : a downtown Vancouver case study Turner, David Samuel


Planning for the provision of retail growth and change within our increasingly complex urban areas is a challenge facing all large urban areas in Canada. The purpose of this thesis is to highlight the need for retail market analysis and its use as a tool for policy makers in predicting the consequences of long range planning policy options. This study suggests that the notion of supportable retail floorspace is a concept which relies to a significant extent on non-market forces and as such, meaningful forecasts can only be achieved based on clearly defined regional and local government planning policy. The literature review discusses the major theoretical contributions in retail evolution and modelling techniques to provide a context for the step-by-step approach to retail market analysis conducted in the case study. This is followed by a review of major trends in retail supply and demand which will affect retail development over the next decade. Lastly, a theoretical review of commercial development trends and an analysis of trends in the G.V.R.D. over the past decade is presented, highlighting the growth of regional town centres. The case study applies the principles discussed by conducting a trade area analysis to develop a detailed retail expenditure potential model from which supportable retail floorspace estimates for the Downtown Vancouver peninsula are derived. The study utilizes secondary data sources including Statistics Canada, the G.V.R.D., and the City of Vancouver, as well as data from numerous other public and private sources. From the range of "planning options" or market share scenarios run, it becomes clear that the amount of retail floorspace supportable on the downtown peninsula depends to a large extent on regional market and non market forces outside the control of Vancouver planning authorities. Conclusions derived from the analysis are of both practical and theoretical significance. From a practical standpoint it is clear that Vancouver's downtown peninsula will support additional retail growth over the next decade. However, the wide range of supportable floorspace estimates obtained through the five scenarios run highlights the need for both municipal and regional government to more vigorously identify the role that Downtown Vancouver should play within the regional market into the next century. This would enable the city to be proactive rather than reactive to retail development initiatives and proposals from developers by narrowing the supportable retail capacity to a more meaningful range. From a theoretical perspective it is demonstrated that the step-by-step approach to market analysis is a useful tool in highlighting the market effects of long range planning options. It is also noted that retail models typically deal almost exclusively with the econoomic aspects of shopping activity and to be truly meaningful retail policy must also include social criteria relating to shopping activity. Furthermore, it is recognized that retail models are best used as a part of a wider analysis for an evaluation of the costs and benefits of retail development which also takes into account other policy fields and issues such as municipal finance, transportation planning, urban form and environmental considerations.

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