Kensington Market is about to get a Loblaws as a new neighbour.
The grocery store giant has announced it will open a new "urban format" grocery store in the Toronto neighbourhood as part of a mix-use condo project at College Street and Spadina Avenue.
By "urban format," the company means a store much smaller than its usual size, which can be as large as 85,000 square feet. This location, nestled among the iconic Toronto community known for its versatile mom and pop shops, will be one quarter that size — at around 20,000 square feet.
A group known as the Friends of Kensington Market say that the presence of a large grocery store will do more harm than good for the neighbourhood and began opposing the proposed plans last winter.
Yvonne Bambrick of the Friends of Kensington Market says she is concerned about the impact on the vendors who make their living selling fresh food there.
"They are what make this place a market and why it’s so special to so many people," Bambrick told CBC News in an interview on Tuesday.
Bambrick also said she feels it is a "predatory" move to set up shop in an area that is already well-served by food retailers.
'Special, it's unique'
Now this announcement comes as the area continues its war against a proposed Wal-Mart store — which have since stalled — saying that letting in such big business risks hurting the existing smaller shops within the area.
"Why do we need a Loblaws in Kensington Market?" resident Stephanie Power said. "We have it everywhere else. Kensington Market is special, it's unique… people need to protect what they love. If not, what happens,everything ends up exactly the same."
But retail analyst Alex Arifuzzaman thinks Loblaws moving in can be seen as a positive for the neighbourhood.
"The area of Kensington Market is evolving as all these new condominiums come in," Arifuzzaman said. "The population is changing and evolving and Loblaws is coming in to meet the need."
Tribute Communities, the company behind the condo development where the Loblaws will open, believes that the forthcoming grocery store will not be out of place in Kensington Market.
"While we understand the concern of some of those in the community, Tribute believes that the introduction of a first class grocery store to the second floor will be complimentary to the surrounding neighbourhood," said Steven Deveaux, the vice-president of land development at Tribute Communities, in a statement emailed to CBC News.
The store will be located in the second floor of the condo complex and is expected to open in 2016.