Costco traffic implications ‘horrendous’

Attention shoppers!  You may have heard about a major development application to build a Costco store, conveniently located on Overlea Blvd. just around the corner from your Leaside homes, on the site of the heritage-listed Coca-Cola headquarters and plant. No need to travel to Scarborough or Mississauga to shop at Costco!

Unfortunately, while Costco may be known for their prices, what is proposed to be built on Overlea  is no bargain.

At least, not for Leaside and not for Thorncliffe Park. 

Aside from heritage-protection issues, we are looking at an application promoting a very large (over 156,000 square feet) Costco Warehouse Membership Club retail store, as well as a vehicle fuel station, and 607 surface parking spaces.

If approved, this would be a precedent-setting change in land use along Overlea, and the beginning of a transition from business and industrial uses to big (BIG) box retail/commercial. This is not good planning; it is wasteful use of space, and contrary to Toronto’s Official Plan. It would put more development pressures on the businesses in the Leaside Business Park.

Rather than providing just another shopping opportunity, it would be of more benefit to Thorncliffe’s residents if, for instance, it were converted to seniors’ housing, or into a multi-purpose economic development centre, giving its large immigrant community Canadian experience while using their skills and professional qualifications.

But wait – wouldn’t a Costco provide jobs and Canadian experience? Costco reportedly plans to create about 200 full- or part-time jobs at salary levels a bit above the minimum wage. But how many of these jobs would even go to local residents?

You may ask, why would the LPOA be concerned? — the proposal is for Thorncliffe Park, not for Leaside. Yes, but no:  a commercial development of this magnitude, and in that location, would have a major impact on Leaside.

Traffic implications alone are horrendous, with the major feeder streets being located throughout Leaside:  Southvale, McRae, Brentcliffe, Laird, and several North Leaside streets including Broadway and Glenvale. Many of these streets are already beset with volume-related problems. The catchment area would be from the lakeshore to York Mills, and Bathurst to Victoria Park.

Proponents of the Costco store and gas bar assert that all that’s needed to manage their traffic is traffic-signal phasing and perhaps additional lights, but the traffic statistics in the Costco proposal raise more questions than answers. Don Mills Rd. and Overlea already carry peak traffic loads. Impacts on a number of TTC bus routes (including the 88 South Leaside bus) would be significant.

Suggestions that the Eglinton LRT Crosstown would provide more customer access seem unrealistic, given how far north of Overlea the LRT is located, and since Costco shoppers tend to buy in bulk they are likely to need cars rather than take transit, in order to carry these bulk goods home.

Increased private car traffic is what this kind of major retail use will give us. And when you factor in the impact of the Costco gas bar on Thorncliffe Park Dr., featuring 16 pumps, and an estimated 320 cars per hour,  we are looking at a whole new definition of congestion.

So let’s have a careful think about what this could mean for us, in both Leaside and Thorncliffe Park. While aware of the benefits, we must consider the disbenefits of locating a Costco in our neighbourhood.

About Carol Burtin Fripp 140 Articles
Carol Burtin Fripp is Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, and is Chair of the LRA's Traffic Committee. Over the years, she has served on numerous East York and City task forces. Now a retired television producer (TVO and CBC), she writes Leaside Life's monthly LRA column, and has created a daily international current affairs newsletter read from Newfoundland to New Zealand.