Dundurn, is it the retail capital of Saskatchewan?

The most famous line in the 1989 film Field of Dreams is "If you build it, they will come." In the context of the film, it refers to building a baseball diamond in a corn field to attract ghost baseball players. Out of context, it is the likely inspiration behind a proposed megamall being planned for Dundurn.

That's the only possible inspiration for the project, which would be the largest mall in North America, and among the top ten largest malls in the world. This would be an ambitious project in any city, but Dundurn is not a city, it's a town of about 700.

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It stands to reason that the mall is not expecting support from just residents of Dundurn, and that's not really its purpose anyway. It's a wholesale marketplace, and the idea is that it will mostly be a place where large companies can broker deals for wholesale products. Many of the stores will have direct links to factories in China, and the hope is that retailers will fly in from all over North America to go to Dundurn, and make large product deals with the various retailers. The selling points are that Dundurn is closer than China, which is accurate, but the entire project is still kind of confusing.

The problem is that we're talking about a project that is going to be built essentially in the middle of nowhere. It's close to Saskatoon, but it's still not actually in the city, and it's essentially inconvenient for every major retailer who might want to make a deal. There are similar malls in Shanghai, for instance, but that's a major metropolis with millions of people, and most of the major retailers have some form of office there. Dundurn isn't anyone's corporate headquarters.

Proponents of the project point out that it's all air traffic anyway, which might be true, but you're still not in a town with an airport, close as it might be to Saskatoon. The project is supposed to bring in 1,000 jobs, which is great, but there aren't even 1,000 people in the town. It's going to double their population, and dwarf the actual town as it sits now. Dundurn might be a fine little community, but it's difficult to prepare for a project so massive in size that it's going to dwarf what's currently there.

Which is not to say that I don't think Saskatchewan has room for massive retail projects, just that they have to actually consider where they're building. Saskatoon or Regina could probably pull off having something similar, given that they have all the infrastructure in place and could support things like new corporate offices which would be necessary to keep this enterprise viable. Yes, Dundurn is near Saskatoon, but you've got to consider travel time to a small community which would have nothing else of interest to big business, apart from this giant mall.

It will be interesting to see if anything actually comes of the massive yet ill-considered project. It is highly improbable that it will work, but it might not actually be impossible, depending on how much retailers want to travel to Dundurn to set up massive retail deals. It is still a risky move to rely solely on business that does not have any presence in the small community, and I believe that the site might have been chosen due to lack of expense, rather than actual suitability. If nothing else, maybe some baseball-playing ghosts will set up shop.

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