Price Tags Vancouver has been reporting on the ongoing saga of Tsawwassen Mills, a 1.2 million square foot retail mall with an ancillary “local serving” mall located north of Tsawwassen on former farm lands which were among the most fertile in Canada. Even though this mall is part of the very well-known Ivanhoe Cambridge retail stable, it has not enjoyed a smashing commercial success. Price Tags Vancouver has observed that its more remote location between the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and Highway 99, the lack of good public transit opportunities and an insufficient population density interested in a mall experience could be part of the challenge. According to Ivanhoe Cambridge’s website, Tsawwassen Mills is making $343 per square foot in the retail units, almost one quarter of the per square foot sales of the more popular McArthurGlen Mall at Vancouver International airport.
Business in Vancouver’s Glen Korstrom interviewed retail analyst and Retail Insider Media owner Craig Patterson who looked at the “local serving”mall facility beside Tsawwassen Mills, and Craig minced no words, saying “They took something that would have been regressive for Red Deer, Alberta, and plunked it down in the Lower Mainland, which has one of the worst housing crises anywhere…“It turns my stomach to look at an aerial view and see how close the ocean is. Tsawwassen is beautiful, and they’ve paved it over with this parking lot. I find it infuriating as I would have designed this so much differently.”
Calling the design “appalling” Craig Patterson noted that this local serving mall depended on people driving vehicles to it, and parking, a very 20th century concept. There are 8,200 parking spaces around the two malls, an ocean of asphalt. Another retail analyst David Gray stated that the parking spaces are designed for peak use, which would occur “three days a year”. “It doesn’t cost them a lot to have the parking lots. From an ecological point of view it doesn’t look good, but there wouldn’t be an alternative use, other than farmland.”
The land is leased for 99 years from the Tsawwassen First Nations (TFN) , which is partnering with Executive Group Development, Aquilini Investment Group, Onni Group and Mosaic Homes to produce housing adjacent to the mall. While there are 275 single family homes recently constructed, there are plans for a twenty year build-out which will bring 2,800 residences in total with an additional 6,000 people on the lands.