next year Vancouver will get its first Walmart Store as Costco is moving out.
Wal-Mart has finally found a home in the City of Vancouver.
The world's largest retailer is expected to announce today that it will open its first Vancouver store within a year on a 2.5-hectare east Vancouver site currently occupied by Costco.
McLean Group president Jason McLean, whose company owns the site at Grandview Highway and Skeena, said the switch to a new retail occupant doesn't require city council approval because it conforms with existing zoning.
Wal-Mart will build a new store off Grandview Hwy.
Costco has operated at the location for more than 15 years, but is leaving to open a new store in nearby Burnaby.
"It's a situation where one large-format retailer is replacing another," McLean said.
Wal-Mart lost a protracted and controversial battle in 2005 to open a new Vancouver store on Southeast Marine Drive when city council rejected the concept.
McLean said Costco will leave the Grandview and Skeena location by July 1 before Wal-Mart retrofits the 106,000-square-foot space for its unveiling by early 2009.
He said Wal-Mart has a long-term lease on the property, and believes they are an "excellent fit" for the area.
"I feel very good about it, and I think the community will respond well," McLean said. "[The company] really wants to be here, and I think Vancouver shoppers want them too."
Wal-Mart representative Kevin Groh said a "huge number" of local customers will be keen to shop in the new store rather than drive long distances to suburban Wal-Mart stores around Metro Vancouver.
"By finding an existing retail building and filling it with a retail operation, we know we have found a good fit," he said in an interview.
He said Wal-Mart stores can range from 75,000 to 215,000 square feet, so the new east Vancouver store will be a mid-sized outlet. B.C.'s first "super-centre" Wal-Mart store -- with a full line of grocery merchandise -- recently opened in Duncan with 175,000 square feet of retail space.
"Opening a modern-format operation in an existing retail building will require some creativity on our part," Groh said. "But there's a lot of excitement about being part of the Vancouver market, and we've demonstrated again our willingness to be creative."
He said Wal-Mart wants to open more Vancouver stores, but the Grandview project remains its focus right now.
"We still own the Southeast Marine site, and we still love it as a retail site and we still plan to develop it," Groh said. "We've made it clear that we would rather be right than fast on Southeast Marine Drive."
Vancouver retail consultant David Gray said the city can almost guarantee there will be a backlash against Wal-Mart's entry into the Vancouver market.
"They tend to be welcomed with open arms in smaller communities, but more affluent urban settings have been a challenge for them," he said. "Vancouver is a very politicized city, and a lot of people will feel a need to protect smaller retailers."
Gray said Costco doesn't have the same broad appeal as Wal-Mart, so the new East Vancouver Wal-Mart store could have a significant impact on local retailers.
"But that's not always a bad thing," he said. "We have this nostalgia for Mom-and-Pop retail, but a lot of it is pretty crappy retail and often it exists because of a lack of a convenient alternative."
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