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Response to rumours of Canadian Tire's expansion to Sooke reveal town's desire for commercial services

A small footprint Canadian Tire store nearing completion in Calgary, Alberta. Rumours have been swirling that Sooke had been sighted by the national retailer as part of its growth strategy on southern Vancouver Island.  Canadian Tire Corporation

Response to rumours of Canadian Tire's expansion to Sooke reveal town's desire for commercial services
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Rumours of a Canadian Tire expansion into Sooke are just that, according to the Ontario-based retailer.
 
A vacant parcel west of Otter Point Road between the 6700-block of Highway 14 and Eustace Road has long been envisioned as a future retail hub for the community of 20,000, and most recently the talk about town has led some to believe Canadian Tire Corporation was interested in opening its newest south Island store in Sooke’s town centre.
 
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That is not to be, at least not yet. The organization has confirmed to Citified is it not presently pursuing an expansion west of Langford. What may have gained the rumour legs is the chain’s decision to anchor a new commercial plaza on the northern-most tip of the Saanich Peninsula in North Saanich (near BC Ferries’ Swartz Bay terminal). A store in the western-most tip of the Capital Region, therefore, seemed quite plausible, particularly with the company's expansion into the smaller-scaled brick-and-mortar sector.
 
The lack of commercial and retail service for a community (comprised of Sooke-proper, East Sooke, Otter Point and Shirley) that is larger in population than any of Central Saanich, Colwood, Esquimalt, Highlands, Metchosin, North Saanich, Oak Bay, Sidney and View Royal – not to mention quite removed from the remainder of the West Shore – has been a hot-button topic among residents who are heavily reliant on Langford for all but the most basic of services and retail options.
 
But change is coming, albeit slowly.
 
The town’s main retail complex, known as Evergreen Centre, is undergoing an expansion that will deliver 6,400 square feet of new retail space with frontage onto Sooke Road’s traffic circle at Brownsey Boulevard. The building will stand on what was once an RBC Royal Bank branch (now situated on the south side of Sooke Road across form Evergreen Centre) and offices that were destroyed by fire about a decade back. Tim Hortons plans to open its second Sooke drive-thru coffee shop in one of the retail units with H&R Block occupying another; a third remains for lease.
 
In mid-2019 the T’sou-ke Nation opened a joint Tim Hortons and Petro Canada gas bar east of Edward Milne Community School along the 6000-block of Sooke Road. Future plans for the property may include a medical and dental facility.
 
Back in the town centre local pharmacy chain Forbes Pharmacy will be opening its latest location near the intersection of Sooke Road and Otter Point Road. The business will join Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmasave as purveyors of prescription drugs, and make space available for health practitioners.
 
Meanwhile the Sooke branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) is awaiting its construction start on Wadams Way at Townsend Road. The 14,600 square foot, two-storey building was slated to begin in 2019 but work has yet to launch and no anticipated construction windows have been communicated by the VIRL.
 
As a further nod to a town as sizable as Sooke dragging its heels on local amenities, BC Transit has recently acknowledged that Sooke’s inter-community transit options are the least developed of any British Columbia community of its size. As part of a service review now underway, the transit operator plans to launch several local routes and a new Sooke-Langford-Victoria connector that will operate as an added layer of regional service to the existing #61 trunk route. Currently residents have no formal transit services other than those offered by a small loop by the #61 as it terminates its run to Sooke, and limited rural connectors that run a handful of times per day.
 
The new transit services will coincide with $86 million in improvements to Highway 14/Sooke Road, which will see an approximate one kilometre-long expansion to four lanes in the 17 Mile Pub area and several kilometers of shoulder widening between Otter Point and Shirley. The project starts this summer.
 
Despite the present-day challenges of a growing community faced with limited services, the silver lining is things can only improve, and judging by the reaction to the news of Canadian Tire shopping around for a new space, the improvements are long overdue. C

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