The Tsawwassen First Nation is one step closer to building a major shopping and entertainment complex on its land.
Unofficial results released Wednesday night (Jan. 18) indicated that an overwhelming majority of TFN voters approved granting a 99-year lease to allow for a proposed two-mall commercial development that would cover 1.8 million square feet.
According to a TFN press release, 97 per cent of the ballots cast were in favour of the proposed change. In total, 111 members voted out of an eligible 259.
“This is an exciting and encouraging result,” said TFN Chief Kim Baird. “This proposed project is consistent with my community’s vision, supports our land use plan, and keeps the door open for our partners, Ivanhoe Cambridge and Property Development Group, to continue with feasibility studies and the approval process.”
The proposed Tsawwassen Commons project, 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. The second project, 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.
Before construction can start, Baird said there are still a number of steps that must be completed, such as due diligence, design planning and environmental approvals.
“Basically there’s still a long ways to go, but if things go well we expect in the fall of 2015 that that’s when it will be open,” she said, adding that groundwork could potentially get underway this summer.
Baird said she would have liked to have seen a higher voter turnout on Wednesday, but was still “delighted” at the show of support from the community.
“People are satisfied with how things are going and they didn’t feel compelled to come out to vote because they assumed things were advancing the way that we’ve been communicating to them,” she said.
The commercial development will have a number of benefits for TFN members, she said.
“We negotiated a pretty comprehensive member benefit package with our development partners for construction employment opportunities, potential retail opportunities,” she said. “There’s the proceeds from the lease revenue that we will invest to enhance programs and services and there will be a tax base coming from that development as well that will support our government services—so it’s a huge plank in our economic development plans going forward trying to create a sustainable community.”
At this point, she is unaware of any confirmed retail tenants.
With the two-mall project one step closer to reality, the existing South Delta business community is preparing for change.
The Business Improvement Association of Tsawwassen is holding an AGM on April 11 entitled “Prospering in the shadow of giants.” Members of the Chilliwack, Langley and White Rock business communities have been invited to talk to local merchants about competing with nearby mall complexes.
“We have three years to prepare and have a product ready,” said Ana Arciniega, executive director of the BIA of Tsawwassen. “Definitely we have to prepare for it. But my view is let’s think optimistically and creatively.”
Arciniega estimates about 20 per cent of Tsawwassen businesses will be “significantly impacted” by the proposed TFN development.
“It will affect definitely some businesses a lot more than others,” she said, noting service providers, such as drycleaners, probably don’t have to worry.
Ladner Business Association president Brad Cooper says the face of South Delta, as we know it today, is going to change.
“We have no control over change but we have to learn how to manage the change,” he said. “It’s up to us now to work in the most proactive fashion possible to ensure that our community doesn’t die—or our business community anyway.”
Cooper hopes the eventual redevelopment of the Ladner waterfront will help retain existing business and make Ladner village a destination.