The owner of the Mayfair Theatre refers to it as “Doomsday.”
© Cole Burston
Kunstadt Sports owner Eric Kunstadt.
It’s not the latest movie adorning the marquee of the independent theatre Lee Demarbre owns in Old Ottawa South but an all-too-real scenario to which he will have to adjust when a larger competitor opens up the street.
Lansdowne Park will bring about six football fields’ worth of new retail space to the neighbourhood when it opens next year.
Businesses along Bank Street in the Glebe and Old Ottawa South will have to immediately start competing with the new stores, which include restaurants, a grocery store and a 10-screen movie theatre complex.
Mr. Demarbre isn’t particularly optimistic about his chances when the Empire movie theatre chain begins operating sometime in the second half of 2014.
But he believes he still has some advantages over his soon-to-be neighbour to the north.
The biggest, said Mr. Demarbre, is that he’s closer to his customers than the bigger chains. He knows which movies will and won’t work and can allow them to play for longer if they end up being popular.
Having a management team that actually works in the theatre helps as well, he said.
“The image looks great and the sound looks great because we have eyes and ears inside the theatre,” said Mr. Demarbre. “The chain theatres have automation … if it looks bad or it sounds bad, no one knows except the customer.”
Not everyone feels the incoming retailers will have the same negative effect, though.
Ion Aimers, the owner of ZaZaZa Pizza just a block north of the new development, believes the new stores at Lansdowne will be positive for his business. The company believes in its product, he said, and he sees no reason why his business won’t be able to compete with any new restaurants that go in. Lansdowne will likely even lead to increased traffic for his business, he said.
Kunstadt Sports, located on Bank Street close to Clemow Avenue, will also have to deal with a direct competitor when Sporting Life touches down at Lansdowne. The two stores sell basically the same goods – bikes, skis and apparel – but that doesn’t bother owner Eric Kunstadt.
His business went through a similar process when sporting goods retailer Bushtukah set up shop down the road from its Kanata store.
Kunstadt noticed a drop in traffic when the new store opened, but loyal customers quickly returned to the confines of a store with which they were already familiar, he said.
“We’re able to overcome our competition by having better service,” he said, sitting in a small office in the store’s basement.
“So when you come into this store or any of our stores, you always will be greeted by someone with a smile on their face, eager to put a bike underneath you to go out for a test drive.”
Some Bank Street retailers have in the past expressed concern that the new development will overwhelm the area’s parking capacity and create a logjam of cars along Bank Street.
That doesn’t worry Mr. Kunstadt, since his store is one of the few to have a large supply of parking reserved for customers.
What’s opening up at Lansdowne?
Many of the Bank Street businesses don’t know what to make of the new development at Lansdowne, partly because it still isn’t clear which retailers are going in.
Trinity Development Group, which is responsible for the retail at the site, has released few details about which stores have signed up to move into the area and previously refused to discuss the matter with OBJ.
Trinity’s website lists retailers Whole Foods, the LCBO, Empire Theatres, Sporting Life as well as restaurants Joey, Il Fornello and Local.
Earlier this year, Rexall, BMO and TD were published on Trinity’s website, but subsequently removed.
Glebe BIA also representing the new stores at Lansdowne
The organization that represents merchants in the Bank Street area is set to welcome several new members when the retailers and restaurants arrive at Lansdowne Park.
The catchment zone for the Glebe Business Improvement Area includes the space at Lansdowne Park. That means the new retail outlets will automatically become dues-paying members of the organization when they open their doors.
The BIA has, in the past, clashed with the City of Ottawa over concerns the retail at Lansdowne would take customers away from the stores on Bank Street and eventually force many of them out of business.
Christine Leadman, the BIA’s executive director, said it’s too early to know how the new members will integrate into the organization alongside the mostly independently owned stores along Bank Street.
However, she believes having all of the businesses under the BIA’s umbrella will help market Bank Street and Lansdowne Park as one destination to shoppers through streetscaping initiatives such as wayfinding and signage.
“It’s looking at the strengths of both areas and how they’ll complement each other,” she said, adding she won’t know more about how to integrate the new members until the full list of tenants is released.