London Inc. Weekly 12 • 21 • 2018

Gateway to leave Western Fair for south location

AFTER MORE THAN a year of negotiating expansion plans with Western Fair, Gateway Casino and Entertainment has signed a lease agreement for a Wonderland Road property in southwest London.

Rob Mitchell, Gateway’s director of communications and public affairs, confirmed earlier this week that the company inked a deal for land at the intersection of Wonderland and Wharncliffe roads, and would be starting from “ground zero.”

The Burnaby, B.C.-based firm had proposed a $140-million casino complex for the fairgrounds, with 1,200 slot machines and approximately 50 live table games. The plans also called for a hotel, restaurants, breweries and retail shops.

In an interview with 980 CFPL, Mitchell said the vision for the new site is in the early stages, with few finalized details.

“I believe that the [N-J] Spivak cement plant will be vacating, and there’s the opportunity to demolish that and essentially look at it, for want of a better word, as a greenfield site,” he said.

The private casino operator said it has been frustrated by slow-moving negotiations involving city hall and the Western Fair District, as well as a series of development issues that kept arising at the fairgrounds.

In a statement from Western Fair District released yesterday, Western Fair president Hugh Mitchell said, “We’re not shocked but we are disappointed, our preference would have been to have Gateway remain here.”

The release went on to say the failure to reach a deal with Gateway also leaves the future of harness racing at Western Fair in jeopardy and impacts thousands of people as Standardbred racing at The Raceway generates an economic impact of more than $50 million and supports well over 5,000 jobs in the region.


Retail cannabis stores given green light

CITY COUNCIL VOTED in favour of allowing bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores in London on Tuesday night. Council voted 13 to one—Michael Van Holst opposed; Stephen Turner abstained—to opt in to allowing private retail marijuana shops to operate in the city under licensing rules laid out by the province.

Ontario municipalities have until January 22 to decide if they want to opt in to allow private pot retail stores to operate in their cities. Municipalities that opt out can later reverse that decision, while those that opt in cannot go back. Those opting in will also receive a certain portion of the federal excise duty.

At this point, however, it is unclear how many, if any, cannabis shops will open their doors in London come spring. Months after saying it would not cap the number of licences for retail pot shops after cannabis was legalized, the Ontario government recently reversed course, saying it will now only be able to issue 25 licences by April.

The province says it plans to take a “phased approach” to authorizing retail cannabis outlets because of “severe supply shortages” across the country.

Only a limited number of licences will be handed out for the launch of private retailers on April 1, with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario implementing a lottery system to determine who is eligible. The results will be announced in January, the government says.


City council blocks private zoo at Westmount Mall

A PLAN TO bring a reptile zoo to London slithered away after city council voted against a motion that asked city staff to draft changes to the city’s business licence bylaw in a way that would allow the city to regulate private zoos.

A motion to refer the matter to staff for study was defeated five to nine on Tuesday evening.

The motion came as a result of a plan by Reptilia, which operates zoos in Vaughan and Whitby, to establish a 25,000-square-foot zoo at Westmount Mall, which is in the midst of a $25-million transformation. A 26,748-square-foot section of the former Target location will become a Fit4Less health and fitness centre in the first quarter of 2019.

Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen said Reptilia would be a good addition to Westmount Mall as it gets set to begin an extensive overhaul. “I see this as a win-win,” he said. “This is a reputable company.”

Others, however, including councillors Phil Squire, Mo Salih and Elizabeth Peloza, spoke against the motion, citing concerns about animal welfare.

In the end, the motion fell with Mayor Ed Holder and councillors Van Meerbergen, Michael Van Holst, Jesse Helmer and Maureen Cassidy voting in favour of the staff referral.


Development charges to be waived for industrial conversions

CITY COUNCIL VOTED unanimously this week to recommend development charges be waived for projects converting old industrial buildings into commercial uses.

Development charges are intended to cover the costs associated with a growing city like new roads, libraries and fire halls. But most industrial to commercial conversions do not increase demand for municipal service.

A recent example of such a conversion is 100 Kellogg Lane, where the former cereal factory is now home to entertainment complex The Factory, with further plans to establish a hotel. Development charges on the project would exceed $5 million, a price owners say would have deterred the purchase of the former plant. 

Staff will report back with a bylaw for council consideration.


Featured Business Event

2019 State of the City | January 24, 2019 

Mayor Ed Holder delivers his first State of the City address. Highlights of the address typically include economic forecasts, news about job creation and growth, as well as the strategic direction that is being taken by council. 

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