One of the news stories I missed while I was recently underwater was the Big Target Announcement.

Amongst the shopping class, there have been ongoing rumours for a few months that New Westminster was going to get one of the announced Canadian locations for the American crap-retailer Target. Some even suggesting that Royal City Centre was the chosen location. Then Royal Square. To me, these rumors had all the irrational hope that I remember from my teenaged years, when every new warehouse on the edge of my hometown was rumored to be “the new Costco”. No-one was sure how the population of 7,000 people with an unemployment rate around 20% was supposed to support a Costco, but the rumors persisted… Irrational hope.

By now we in New Westminster know the real Big Target Announcement was nothing more exciting than a big warehouse on the Queensborough waterfront lot that has been preloaded by a few million cubic meters of dredged Fraser River Sand for the last few months. That big sandscape to the east of the Queensborough bridge will soon feature a warehouse rivaling in size the new one 200m downstream that houses Kruger papergoods.

Apparently, this is Good News, so shame on me for being unenthused.

First off, the couple of dozen warehouse jobs will not replace the hundreds of high-paying jobs in the mills that used to sit on that space. However, the days of manufacturing wood products in Canada seem to be numbered as we become a full-fledged PetroState, and at this point a City like New Westminster cannot be turning its nose up at any increase in local employment. I get the feeling an actual Target retail outlet would employ more people… but I digress.

No, my cynicism gland is all swollen up by the fact that this is, yet again, another piece of prime waterfront land that belongs to Port Metro Vancouver that is not going to be used to take things on and off of the water. You know – the thing that Ports are supposed to do?

Instead, the Port, who keeps crying that it is losing access to waterfront across the region, is leasing a piece of waterfront land for use to move things on and off of trucks. But not to worry, the Port spokesperson says

“…it’s not anticipated that the site will generate any traffic problems”

Perhaps Target in their retail might has access to proprietary flying trucks, because I don’t see how else they and the other tenants service a 300,000 square foot warehouse moving retail goods without putting those trucks on Boyd Street, which already has a volatile mix of local resident, heavy truck and retail traffic straining its two lanes.

There is nothing the City can do about this, of course. It is Port Metro Vancouver land, and they can do whatever they please on it, regardless of whether it is actually Port Business. The Port are not required to build or improve the road infrastructure to support it, nor are they required to go through the same planning and development process that the Municipality uses to allocate resources and manage growth. They pay the City PILT (payment in lieu of taxes), but it is a fraction of what a light industrial business on the same lot within the City would pay. The Port is accountable only to the Port.

As long as they continue to define their business model as real estate development, not moving things on and off of boats, I feel little sympathy when young Port CEO Robin Silvester whinges about the need for an industrial land reserve, or tells us we don’t need farm land, because he can bring us all the food we need on his big boats.

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