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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Retail compatibility : a problem for comprehensive planning of the central business district Merlo, Albert Lino

Abstract

The retail sections of central business districts of municipalities of British Columbia have a low degree of retail compatibility. Many unrelated commercial and other land uses that exist within the prime retail areas of central business districts weaken the degree of retail compatibility of the prime retail areas. The hypothesis of this study is that planning measures can and should be taken to improve the low degree of retail land use compatibility existing in the central business districts of municipalities in British Columbia. The need for study of this subject is justified on the basis of the importance and concern placed on central business districts. The improvement of a central business district must include the improvement of the retail section which comprises a vital component of any central business district. The decline of the shopping function in central business districts has been the cause of serious concern to planning and city officials alike, and needless to say, to the affected retailers as well. The convenience factor can be increased appreciably in a retail area which is planned or partially redeveloped to increase the degree of retail land use compatibility. Similarly, the tax base of the municipality would be improved because of the increased viability due to greater retail compatibility in the central business district. The central business districts of the three municipalities of Duncan, Grand Forks, and Castlegar in British Columbia are investigated in the study. It is shown that the degrees of retail compatibility in the central business districts of the three municipalities are poor. The main objectives of the study are to identify and analyze certain planning measures which could be implemented to improve the degree of retail compatibility. The reclassification of the widely-permissive general business type of zoning category is desirable in order to improve retail compatibility. The objective of reclassification is to direct the grouping together of compatible retail land uses, as well as other commercial uses commonly found in central business districts. On the basis of analysis of the attitudes of the three municipal councils, it is concluded that reclassification is politically feasible and it is strongly recommended that reclassification to be seriously considered by planning agencies for recommendation to their respective councils. The elimination of nonconforming uses that constitute "dead spots" in the retail areas of central business districts is urged strongly. It is revealed that this problem has been neglected to date by the selected municipal councils as reflected by the lack of enforcement of the statutes of the British Columbia Municipal Act to control or eliminate nonconforming uses. It is suggested that amortization approach to eliminate nonconforming uses which is used in parts of the United States should be added to the British Columbia Municipal Act. It is suggested that it is necessary for the municipal councils to review their policies in relation to reclassification of general commercial zones and in relation to the elimination of "dead spots"' within a comprehensive central business district planning program. The use of Federal Urban Renewal Legislation to improve commercial areas is a distinct possibility to achieve a higher degree of retail compatibility. It is recommended that the objectives of a central business district urban renewal scheme should coincide with the objectives of a comprehensive central business district planning program. The inclusion of a scheme to improve retail compatibility within a central business district renewal scheme appears to be politically acceptable. Also, the potentially affected retailers appear to be in favor of schemes to improve retail compatibility. It is concluded that planning measures can and could be taken to improve the low degree of retail land use compatibility existing in the central business districts of municipalities in British Columbia.

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