Canadian Architect

Feature

Super Markets

A redesigned supermarket environment offering a high degree of amenity realizes benefits for a large grocery chain.

September 1, 2001
by Canadian Architect

Loblaws, Dupont and Christie, Toronto

Rebanks Architects Inc.

The Loblaws supermarket chain has for some time been a leader in its industry, developing and marketing a wide variety of innovative, mostly upmarket products to an increasingly cosmopolitan and discriminating clientele. Over the last five years, the grocery giant has also addressed the supermarket environment, creating a series of urban superstores in Toronto that challenge the paradigm of the big box surrounded by a sea of parking.

The first of this new generation of stores opened in 1996 in a transitional neighbourhood straddled by residential and ever-decreasing light industrial uses. Initial plans for a conventional supermarket model were rejected by City planning staff and local ratepayers’ groups. In response, Loblaws retained Rebanks Architects Inc.–recently restructured as Rebanks Pepper Littlewood Boyd Architects Inc.–to provide a revised scheme. The result is a building whose main elements–material treatment, heights of gutters and roof lines, and window proportions–reflect the materials and scale that typify the surrounding area.

Although the building footprint, at over 50,000 square feet, is larger than most conventional supermarkets, the building mass is divided into discrete bays, reducing its bulk on the street. And while a large surface parking lot to the east of the supermarket occupies most of the site, the building itself makes some judicious urban design gestures, including a generous glazed canopy over a wide sidewalk, establishing an inviting pedestrian environment in sharp contrast to the usual blank walls of conventional supermarket design.

In addition to the Loblaws grocery component, the supermarket also contains a Mvenpick March, whose caf, bakery and prepared food sections animate the street-related south faade. Additional services such as the Kittling Ridge wine shop and The Dry Cleaner help to complete a broader range of retail offerings than the traditional supermarket.

The immediate success of the new store led to Rebanks Architects’ next foray into rethinking the Loblaws supermarket environment. The Queens Quay store is on the Lake Ontario waterfront, in an area with much as yet unrealized development potential. In contrast with the Dupont and Christie store, which is located in an established residential neighbourhood, the Queens Quay store is intended to act as a catalyst to future development and a destination for shoppers from around the city. Just a few blocks south of the St. Lawrence Market and one block east of the main store of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and its specialty shop, Vintages, the Queens Quay location was poised to benefit from an already established retail destination.

The Queens Quay store expands on the “one-stop shopping” retail strategy explored at Dupont and Christie. In addition to the Mvenpick March and The Dry Cleaner, Queens Quay includes a Club Monaco Everyday housewares outlet, an LCBO store, Loblaws Gardens, Bell Mobility, Moneysworth & Best shoe repair, a Moving Store kiosk, PrintPost mail supplies and services, President’s Choice Financial ATM, Photolab, the Travel Counter, Picnet Internet access, and a Holy Smokes tobacconist.

The urban design strategy is stronger in the second store, with the elimination of the large surface parking area. The grocery store is elevated onto the second storey, with the ancillary shops–Club Monaco Everyday, LCBO, and Loblaws Gardens–creating a street-related perimeter concealing grade-level covered parking beneath the store. A ramp escalator brings shoppers up to the grocery store level, where they arrive at a dramatic double-height skylit food hall reminiscent of European market halls. (A recent California study suggests that skylighting in retail environments leads to dramatic increases in customer satisfaction and sales–see page 38.) The hall is surrounded on three sides by a mezzanine, which offers seating for the March where customers can sit for lunch or coffee and enjoy a view out to the nearby lake, as well as a kitchen-classroom and “community room.”

Like its predecessor at Dupont and Christie, the Queens Quay store includes a glazed pedestrian canopy at its grade-level storefronts. Though pedestrian traffic in this area is sparse, that may change with future development. Also like its predecessor, it takes its cues from its surroundings, using its proximity to the lake as a point of departure for a vaguely nautical, maritime expression–crisp white steel finishes, large shuttered windows, and the elegantly simple truss over the skylit food hall. Its spaciousness and generous daylighting contributed to Wallpaper* magazine’s listing Loblaws Queens Quay as one of the five “best stores in the world.”

Many of the same strategies were applied to a third store at the mid-town location of St. Clair and Bathurst. Once again the wide array of retail services are brought together under one roof, with most of the parking concealed behind a grade-level perimeter of stores with the main grocery store space on the second level. And again, a generous mezzanine provides ample seating and community space, this time with a view, rather than to Lake Ontario, of a well-treed ravine across the street.

The St. Clair and Bathurst store doesn’t break new ground to the same extent as its predecessors, adopting many of the elements that emerged from the first two. Again a generous glazed canopy is provided, but as with the Queens Quay example, there isn’t a high volume of pedestrian traffic. However, the new store does include one significant innovation in that it is perched directly above the existing St. Clair West subway station, providing convenient access to an alternative to the automobile.

Based on the success of these urban stores, Loblaws asked Rebanks Architects to develop a prototype for greenfield suburban locations across Eastern Canada, which are being implemented in outlets from Thunder Bay, Ontario to St. John’s, Newfoundland. While these don’t benefit from street-related urban design strategies to the same extent as those in the city, they do include a number of the amenities–such as community rooms for public use–pioneered in the Toronto stores.

Project: Loblaws, Dupont and Christie

Client: Loblaw Properties Inc.

Architect team: Leslie Rebanks, Jan Petrykowski, Chris Boyd, Lee Taylor

Structural: EmR Engineering

Mechanical: Leipciger Kaminker Mitelman

Electrical: Hammerschlag and Joffe

Landscape: Ferris + Quinn

Retail design consultant: Perennial Design; Joe Jackman, Vern Gomes, Jim King

Contractor: Carwell Construction Ltd.

Area: 51,842 sq. ft. ground floor, 2,820 sq. ft. mezzanine

Budget: withheld at owners’ request

Completion: April 1996

Photography: Lenscape

Loblaws, Queens Quay, Toronto

Rebanks Architects Inc.

Project: Loblaws, Queens Quay

Client: Loblaw Properties Inc.

Architect team: Leslie Rebanks, Jan Petrykowski, Chris Boyd, Lee

Taylor, Rob Harmsworth

Structural: C&V Engineering

Mechanical: Leipciger Kaminker Mitelman

Electrical: Hammerschlag and Joffe

Landscape and Civil: IBI

Retail design consultant: Perennial Design; Joe Jackman, Vern Gomes, Jim King

Retail fixture planning: Turner Fleischer Architects

Contractor: Carwell Construction

Area: 22,500 sq. ft. ground floor galleria, 65,000 sq. ft. grocery store, 18,000 sq. ft. mezzanine

Budget: withheld at owners request

Completion: April 1998

Photography: Lenscape

Loblaws, St. Clair and Bathurst, Toronto

Turner Fleischer Architects/Rebanks Architects Inc., Design Consultant

Project: Loblaws, St. Clair and Bathurst

Client: Loblaw Properties Inc.

Architect team: Russel Fleischer, Gino Devisio, Jeremy Pope, Leslie

Rebanks

Structural: Jablonsky Ast and Partners

Mechanical: Leipciger Kaminker Mitelman

Electrical: Hammersc
hlag and Joffe

Landscape: Terraplan

Retail design consultant: Perennial Design; Joe Jackman, Vern Gomes, Jim King

Contractor: Carwell Construction Ltd.

Area: 19,500 sq. ft. ground floor galleria, 65,000 sq. ft. grocery

store, 19,000 sq. ft. mezzanine

Budget: withheld at owners’ request

Completion: October 1999

Photography: Peter Sellars




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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