The Mirabel Airport was built  40 kilometers outside of Montreal and received great fanfare when it opened in 1975. Approximately 97,000 acres of land were expropriated for this airport, and many farmers were displaced for this venture. It was assumed that air traffic would flock to Montreal, and this airport would replace the more centrally located Dorval (now Trudeau) airport. But it was too far, too inconvenient, and the swarms of travellers never arrived. Planes also got more efficient too, not needing any refuelling stop after a transatlantic journey 

Today the airport is abandoned, occasionally  being used for some movie shoots.The airport terminal, which was carefully mothballed for a decade, took a year to demolish.


Enter Tsawwassen Mills, a 1.2 million square foot shopping mall  built on Class 1 agricultural land on Delta’s flood plain, 5 kilometers from the ferry terminal, 35 kilometers from Vancouver, 32 kilometers from Surrey. With 6,000 parking spaces it is branding itself as a destination fashion location and has a pop up trailer that goes to different locations and gives out free stuff. It appeared at the Burrard Transit station which was a little odd, given that there is no rapid transit route for transit users to get to the mall.

The mall’s opening is October 8 with about 160 of the 200 stores being occupied. The second mall, a more locally serving 550,000 square foot outdoor shopping experience will open later. Meanwhile family owned shops in Ladner and Tsawwassen join Price Tags in hoping that personal service, long-term relationships, and knowing their clientele means that they can stay in business.

The Tsawwassen Mills project has a Quebec connection too-the project is owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge and is a real estate subsidiary of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (cdpq.com). It remains to be seen whether this last ode to motordom  and  consumerism will be the 21st century version of the Mirabel Airport.



  1. Good summary and comments – love the analogy with Mirabel! While many of us might agree that the Tsawwassen Mills shopping plaza is – certainly for a facility of its scale – built in the wrong place at the wrong time, we should not overlook that its location was determined largely by First Nations on whose lands Ivanhoe Cambridge now hold a long-term lease. Class A agricultural lands indeed, but of course not a part of the Agricultural Land Reserve – by reason of federal/First Nations jurisdiction. What is infinitely less acceptable is that the District of Delta and local landowners will succeed in removing 100s of additional acres from the ALR to establish a residential community adjacent to the First Nations land, and Port Metro Vancouver has and will be doing likewise (also free from provincial ALR jurisdiction). Metro’s the all-round loser!

    1. We need more housing HERE. We can grow veggies elsewheer and bring them here. Plenty of space. It’s cheaper to train, truck or even fly blueberries, cherries or grain – PER TON – than the same weight of people.

  2. We intend to never go there, let alone spend a dollar there, for all the negatives surrounding this project: destruction of farmland and bird habitat, reliance on people driving so far, ridiculous location and uncreative parking solutions–the list goes on. Maybe others will think twice too before they vote with their dollars.
    As much as I hope that First Nations across Canada get a solid economic footing, this ain’t the way to go.

  3. Yeah, I don’t get this project either. The band can build what the want there of course, but I am sort of baffled as to why this went this way. They can build whatever they want without any regional say so, and they build a mall? They could have build a dozen 60 story Hong Kong style condo towers (like this one https://goo.gl/gk3eFv ) and no one would have been able to say boo about it!

  4. Ironically, the Premium Outlets Montreal is on Hwy 15 in Mirabel.
    Not on the airport lands, but close to it (on the site of a previously proposed shopping centre project circa 2008 called “Lac Mirabel” that did not proceed). These types of malls would typically be busiest on weekends, as destination trips, rather than downtown malls that have relatively sustained patronage all day long.

    Premium Outlets opens discount mecca at Mirabel

    The latest Premium Outlets centre opens Thursday about 45 kilometres north of downtown Montreal, a 35- minute drive without traffic.
    The Mirabel centre is a village-style, chalet-chic mall with room for 84 shops, covering 365,500 square feet.

    It’s operated by Simon Property Group which also has a partial interest in the MacArthur Glen Outlet Mall near YVR.

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