Lansdowne redevelopment signals demand for malls near transit

More than 10 residential towers on 50-acre Lansdowne Centre site in Richmond proposed
Lansdowne Centre sits on a 50-acre site that owner Vanprop Investments wants to redevelop into a high- density residential-commercial hub with more than 10 towers of up to 15 storeys each | Vanprop Investments

When Vanprop Investments Ltd. last month announced a plan to tear down Lansdowne Centre in Richmond and redevelop the site, its executives signalled a desire to follow the path of others who own malls near rapid transit.

Vanprop wants to build what could be “a lot more” than 10 residential and office towers up to 15 storeys tall on a 50-acre footprint that is steps away from both Lansdowne and Richmond-Brighouse Canada Line stations, executive vice-president Jim Cox told Business in Vancouver.

“The mall will be there for at least 10 more years,” Cox said. “With 50 acres, we can probably do 10 years’ worth of development and not even touch the mall.”

When the 39-year-old mall eventually gets demolished, Cox said Vanprop would build a “comparable” amount of retail space to replace it.

Vanprop’s plan largely conforms with the City of Richmond’s official community plan, but it still needs city council approval.

Cox expects public consultation to launch later this year.

Feedback will help determine the number and height of towers as well as what amenities are necessary.

The 605,000-square-foot shopping centre is largely leased but had two major tenants leave last year.

First was Target. The retailer left 130,000 square feet vacant at the mall after its Canadian expansion flopped so badly that it pulled the plug on all its Canadian stores.

Cox said leasing agents are in discussions with an interested tenant.

Then there’s the empty former Future Shop location, which is also many tens of thousands of square feet. Best Buy Canada is still paying the lease on that site, and it’s unclear whether it will sublease it any time soon.

(Image: Best Buy continues to operate a store at Lansdowne Mall but it closed its Future Shop-branded store last year and is still making lease payments on that empty space | Vanprop Investments)

Best Buy already operates a Best Buy store 100 metres from the former Future Shop location.

No one from Best Buy Canada was available to comment by press time to say whether the company is seeking to sublease the space.

Fortunately for the mall, Sears Canada Inc. has no stores.

That retailer announced last week that it is exploring options for how to repurpose its weakest stores and has contracted CBRE to scale back underperforming real estate.

Sears has 95 traditional full-line department stores, 10 outlet stores and 40 home stores.•

Malls on transit lines are the future, say retail analysts

Retail analysts have told Business in Vancouver they believe transit-oriented malls are best suited to lure shoppers, and they remain skeptical of projects that are too far from urban centres and require parking.

Retail Insider Media Ltd. president Craig Patterson, for example, criticized the location of the Tsawwassen mega-complex that includes Ivanhoé Cambridge’s 1.2-million-square-foot Tsawwassen Mills and the 550,000-square-foot Tsawwassen Commons. Property Development Group (PDG) is developing the latter in partnership with the Tsawwassen First Nation, which owns the land.

“They’re trying to pull people to a peninsula, or the edge of a peninsula, by vehicle,” he said. “There’s limited public transit in that area.”

Ivanhoé Cambridge director of development Jeff Brown defended the mall as having strong transportation links to the Fraser Valley via highways 17 and 99.

(Image: Tsawwassen Mills is under construction and is slated to open October 5 | Chung Chow)

“We see the marketplace for Tsawwassen Mills as not just Vancouver and Richmond but the entire province of B.C.,” he said.

Patterson, however, would have selected a location in Langley if a developer wanted to build a mall away from public transit.

“A Langley mall would draw from a 360-degree radius,” he said. “You’d be pulling from all directions.”

No developer has proposed building residential towers near the two Tsawwassen malls, although Aquilini Development has been building townhomes in the area as part of its Tsawwassen Shores development.

Patterson said if residential towers are not built near the mall, it will be a missed opportunity, particularly because the Tsawwassen First Nation would be able to OK the projects without needing civic approval.

Still, he praised Ivanhoé Cambridge’s plan to expand its 574,000-square-foot Oakridge Centre, even though the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec subsidiary recently scaled back its original $1.5 billion plan because of costs associated with an underground aquifer.

The company still plans to add street-front retail space as well as 2,450 new homes in what now will likely be nine towers.

“They could probably triple the size of Oakridge and it would be successful as long as they got good anchors.”

Other mall owners with properties on transit are making similar moves to expand.

McArthurGlen plans to add a 140,000-square-foot second phase to its successful new 240,000-square-foot mall near Templeton station.

Shape Properties Corp. is expanding its Brentwood Town Centre property and expects eventually to have 11 residential towers on the site as well as 1.2 million square feet of retail space, which is more than twice the size of the current mall.

Shape’s master plan for its Lougheed Town Centre similarly calls for more nearby residential and office towers and a doubling of the 600,000-square-foot mall.

Shape CEO John Horton is so bullish on the future of shopping malls that he told a January 21 Urban Development Institute luncheon, when asked what he would do if he could have anything he wanted, that he would buy more local malls on transit.

(Image: Shape Properties president John Horton (right) was on an Urban Development Institute panel along with Reliance Properties president Jon Stovell (second from the right) and Wesgroup Properties president Peeter Wesik (left). Porte Communities president David Porte (second from left) was the moderator | Glen Korstrom)

“I like the asset class,” he said.

“I would phone up Ivanhoé Cambridge and convince them to sell me Oakridge. Then I’d get back on the phone to Cadillac Fairview and get them to sell me Pacific Centre. Then I’d phone up both Cadillac Fairview and Ivanhoé Cambridge together and get them both to sell me Richmond Centre.” 


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