Dozens of people crowded inside the Tsawwassen First Nation Recreation Centre Wednesday evening (Jan. 11) to learn more about a proposed mega mall development.
The public information meeting was intended to give the surrounding community the chance to ask questions and express opinions in advance of a TFN members’ vote Jan. 18 which will determine whether or not the project moves forward.
Inside the recreation centre, visitors stood several layers deep, peering over one another’s shoulders to read a series of informational sign boards.
The TFN is currently considering a proposal from two partners to develop a commercial area on its land. Tsawwassen Commons, to be developed by Ivanhoe Cambridge, would be an outdoor shopping centre hosting a mix of national and local shops, restaurants and financial services, covering 550,000 square-feet. And Tsawwassen Mills mall, to be developed by Property Development Group, would host 1.2 million-square-feet of retail space in an enclosed, single level.
Imperial Village resident Dave Bliss doesn’t object to more development in South Delta, but he questions the economic viability of a venture such as this.
“I don’t see people that are going to the ferry and coming back from the ferry stopping here to do shopping,” he said. “I can’t see people driving from Richmond to come here … I can’t see people coming from White Rock because they already have Morgan Creek.”
“We have less than 100,000 people in Delta. Are we going to draw all those people here?—I doubt it.”
Bliss also expressed concern about the potential for increased traffic around 52nd Street and Highway 17.
For Tsawwassen resident Dave C. (who declined to give his last name) a new mall can’t come soon enough.
“I cannot buy a pair of socks, underwear or jeans in Tsawwassen,” he said. If the project goes ahead, he said South Deltans will no longer have to drive to neighbouring municipalities to shop.
Ana Arciniega, executive director of the Business Improvement Association of Tsawwassen, said the project would provide competition for local, independent stores—but not all of them.
“We don’t feel that every single business will be impacted, especially those that provide a service to local clientele that may not want to cross the highway in order to get that particular service,” she said.
BIA of Tsawwassen president Kristin Bishop said she remains optimistic.
“As much as there might be a perceived potential threat with this project, I think there’s also a lot of opportunity and I think it gives local merchants a really good chance to evaluate their current business and see how they can grow and develop it.”
Delta Chamber of Commerce chair Ian Tait said the proposal presents a “unique opportunity” for chamber members, the community and the region.
“New retail, office and entertainment space, combined with a new residential component, means real growth. And increased competition for consumer dollars means more choices, better pricing and even better customer service,” he said.
Tait hopes those businesses that see the TFN development as a challenge can find new ways to take advantage of the increased consumer activity.
“The development will become a destination attracting visitors and business from throughout our region and province including cross-border neighbours in Canada and the United States,” Tait said.
If TFN members vote in favour of entering into a lease for the shopping and entertainment complex, there are still a number of steps that must be taken before the project breaks ground. TFN Economic Development Corporation CEO Chris Hartman said rezoning, subdivision, a development permit and approval from provincial agencies will still need to be sorted out.
Hartman said the project is consistent with the TFN Land Use Plan.
“A facility like this is the first step in terms of the economic self-sustainability that’s inherent with that plan,” he said. “And then that’s expected to drive residential growth, which again will be supported by industrial growth, and the complete community that we’re looking for.”
He expects the mall to attract customers from Delta and far beyond.
“Projects like this usually need about one million people in the trade area, so you’ve got the Lower Mainland that it will draw from. But this is a unique project that is also expected to draw from the Island as well as the province.”
TFN Chief Kim Baird said when a smaller commercial project went to a member vote in April 2010, there was “very strong support in favour of the concept.”
“We hope to see a similar level of support through this vote,” she said.