Plans to bring an A&W to town have seemingly gone cold. Cold, like what happens to the burger family meals after a long drive back from the A&W in Terrace, according to staff of the Pollyco Rupert Square Mall.
The Northern View first reported A&W’s plans to open a Prince Rupert location in 2012. Since then, Pollyco staff describe an ongoing email correspondence between themselves, A&W’s architect and the City of Prince Rupert.
There have also been in-person meetings, including a presentation Pollyco staff said indicated that A&W’s annual taxes to the city would be about $25,000, and the facility would employ 20 to 30 full-time employees as well as 10 to 15 part-time employees.
“The city has met with representatives from A&W and the mall, and has conveyed the issues with the selected location and site plan both verbally and in writing,” communications manager Veronika Stewart confirmed on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert.
Then in September 2018, the city wrote a letter to notify Pollyco that the development permit application had been closed, citing Pollyco’s inability to satisfy zoning bylaw requirements.
Hugh Carter, general manager of the Pollyco Group, and Pollyco CEO Steven Tao, said they met with Mayor Lee Brain and City Administrator Bob Long in October 2018 to request that their application be reinstated, since it was never withdrawn.
In January, Mayor Brain responded in writing, thanking them for their proactive approach, but explaining that the proposed project does not meet local traffic, parking or view cone requirements.
“We’re just getting stonewalled by the city,” Carter told the Northern View on a recent conference call.
Meanwhile, Stewart says the city remains “open to the option of having A&W locate in Prince Rupert.”
According to both sides, here are the main issues that have slowed progress on putting a free-standing fast-food chain in the northern part of the mall parking lot.
Traffic safety and congestion
Stewart told the Northern View that the location proposed for the A&W raises “a number of concerns with respect to traffic safety and congestion.”
“The proposed location is next to the mall’s north entrance, which opens onto 1st Avenue, an area that already suffers from congestion and regular traffic infractions,” she said.
Pollyco staff said that, while their proposed location for the A&W has more or less stayed the same, they conducted traffic studies in 2014, modified the traffic flow layout and proposed an all-way, stop-controlled intersection at the entrance to the lot.
According to Pollyco staff, their efforts to satisfy the city’s concerns have failed and traffic safety discussions broke down over a difference of opinion on the need for a new traffic signal on 2nd Avenue.
Stewart said the proposed location also does not meet land use regulations regarding parking — it takes 17 spaces away from the mall — while Pollyco staff argue the upper lot is underutilized.
On the conference call, mall manager Maggie Viviers added that people who park in the upper lot often do so illegally, an issue the mall has been trying to crack down on.
“They’ve claimed that we’re taking parking away and we’ve demonstrated that it’s an underutilized part of the parking lot,” Carter said, adding that Pollyco has done a parking study. “We’ve got the approval of the anchor tenant, the Walmart, Shoppers and the bank to put this restaurant there.”
Stewart also said the proposed location does not meet a Downtown Development Permit Area regulation regarding the obstruction of view cones, a guideline meant to preserve, enhance and restore street views of the harbour and its surroundings.
“These are important considerations that must be taken into account when evaluating development proposals,” she said, emphasizing that decisions made today will impact generations to come.
Pollyco staff argue they revised their architectural and site plans to allow a clear view down Third Street to the water.
“They’re concerned about the view corridor next to the Chevron, down to the waterfront, so we did actually move the A&W over a bit and changed the canopy so that we’d maintain as much of the view corridor as we could,” Carter said. “We’ve tried to accommodate them on a number of fronts … but we’re still not getting across the finish line.”
While Carter said Mayor Brain and Long have suggested considering an alternate location for the restaurant, he added that A&W is set on locating in the upper mall parking lot.
“The city manager and mayor even suggested that maybe they consider an alternate location in town and they’ve been clear, no, this is where they want to be,” Carter said.
“I hadn’t anticipated we’d be at this point, to be honest.”