Friday, December 7, 2007

Are We Collingwood Ontario or Anywhere USA

Kudos to Councilors Foley and Chadwick for the recent positions they have taken regarding the expansion of retail space in the west end of Collingwood. In working with some of my real estate clients I have come to learn that several notable franchises want nothing to do with the Collingwood market at the present time. These companies ultimately feel that this area has seen so much retail expansion in recent years that there is in fact an over abundance in shopping capacity which will only result in market share wars in which no one wins. Retailers in particular have a history of over-expansion. For example: Movie Gallery a large corporation engaged in retail video sales and rentals and with a location in Wasaga Beach recently announced the closure of some 600 unprofitable locations across the U.S. Bigger is not necessarily better and sometimes even the smartest of corporations find this out too late to avoid costly write-downs associated with store closures and corporate restructuring necessiated in order to improve shareholder value.
There is absolutely no argument that growth in our area is inevitable and is in fact well underway. As both a REALTOR® and President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board for 2008, I am pleased to report that 2007 will be a record year for sales reported through our real estate Board’s MLS® system wherein total sales for the year will be well in excess of $500 million. Residential unit sales in Collingwood for the first 11 months of 2007 are up just 1.6% compared to a 25.5% increase for Wasaga Beach and 27.6% for Meaford. For the first time, the 12 month average price for single family residential homes sold in Wasaga Beach is now higher than in Collingwood, $247,000 versus $242,000. While there are a number of new home developments slated to come on stream in Collingwood potentially boosting consumer spending and the demand for more shopping venues, these residential units have not as yet been built and more importantly they have not been sold! This, combined with a loss of some 500 higher paying industrial jobs this year alone (Alcoa and Goodyear) and it doesn’t take much to ask one-self can our market successfully sustain 400,000 square feet of additional big box retail space at this time?
From another perspective, if in fact the market potential is here for the larger retailers to establish profitable, sustainable locations in our community thus increasing their overall corporate revenues, income and market share, then what is the “entry fee” they are willing to pay in order to enjoy these economic benefits? We all acknowledge that most of these companies have a corporate “identity” they wish to maintain but what about the community “identity” we need to ensure our future success and sustainability as a place where people not only want to come and visit but more importantly want to live. To this end, participation in the community’s economic future should include an “entry fee” in the form of adherence to specific architectural guidelines and other requirements as deemed appropriate and reasonable to meet the sustainability of the vision we have for our community at large. With rampant commercial growth consisting of retail venues with little architectural differentiation from other areas, we are quickly becoming a municipal entity that can be labeled as having an “Anywhere” Canada or USA image and appearance at a time when we can least afford it.
Ultimately what we need from Council is the vision and more importantly the leadership to accurately assess the need and timing for commercial expansion, along with how this expansion can be accommodated so as to preserve the very reason why people want to come here in the first place. In reality, the economic growth potential of our area offers significant leverage for Council to negotiate the terms of participation by the large retailers and or commercial developers rather than succumbing to any school yard style threats of “picking up their marbles” and playing elsewhere.

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Royal LePAGE Locations North (Brokerage)

330 First Street, Collingwood, ON L9Y 1B4


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Rick relocated to Collingwood from Toronto in 1985 through a transfer with Goodyear Canada. In 1987 Rick was recruited by a major client of Goodyear’s, managing their Canadian business based in Barrie before moving to Chicago in 1992 as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Upon returning to Canada in 1996, Rick ran an industrial products manufacturing company in Stratford, Ontario. In 1998 Rick returned to Collingwood with his two children. Rick is a licensed real estate Broker with Royal LePAGE Locations North in Collingwood and holds his MVA designation (Market Value Appraiser-Residential). He is an active volunteer in the community serving several years on the Board of Directors with the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce as Treasurer, 6 years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® of which he is the Past President (2008) and currently serves on a committee with the Ontario Real Estate Association. Rick is a diverse executive manager with extensive experience in strategic planning, manufacturing, finance, human resources and quality assurance management.