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December 23, 2015

Planes, trains and shopping McArthurGlen success-but don't use the "m" word


First opened in June 2015 on the grounds of the Vancouver Airport Authority, the  McArthurGlen shops owned by a London based company exceeded their footfall projections by 66 per cent in the first 90 days.
But is it a mall? The current retail manager does not use the “m” word, noting the fifty stores and 240,000 square feet of retailing has a resort feel akin to Whistler Village, or UBC’s Wesbrook Mall shopping area. The CEO of the McArthurGlen group states “we are thrilled by the reaction we’ve seen from our shoppers there and their positive response to our European day-out shopping concept”.
 

The consumer response has been positive, with several retailers who expected to have 5 million dollars in sales reporting sales of 10 million dollars. With 2,000 parking spaces and 30 per cent of trips by public transit (Templeton Canada Line Station)  or bike, McArthurGlen says that 60 per cent of their shoppers are local.  The company  expects to break ground on phase 2  with an additional 140,000 square feet of retail space in the new year.
Stories from the Vancouver Sun and Business in Vancouver are referenced below.
http://www.mcarthurglengroup.com/news/vancouver-wins-mapic-awards.aspx
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/richmond+outlet+centre+takes/11605504/story.html?__lsa=22b4-35da

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Business in Vancouver reports on the success of the outdoor mall near YVR:

McArthurGlen Group’s outlet mall near Vancouver International Airport has set a company record for traffic by recording its millionth visitor in only three months.
“Traffic has been well over our expectation, which would have been about 600,000 at this point,” mall general manager Robert Thurlow told Business in Vancouver October 1.
His company tracks how visitors arrive so he was able to estimate that 40% of the shoppers arrived on the Canada Line. Of the 60% who came in a vehicle, about 10% were from the U.S., said Thurlow, who has his staff do periodic counts of American licence plates in the parking lot.

I’d love to know if 40 percent by transit was also “well over expectation.”

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An excerpt from Neil21’s blog, who posted this a year ago:

I touched on all these themes in my initial reaction to the plans here I offered an alternative plan and narrative for Templeton.

And I also learned from responses – like the land has a federal/first-nation ownership which (like that other horrible new mall) incentivizes cash-grabs over seven-generation thinking.

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Budget luxury: counting Jakriborgs on Sea Island

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“Luxury outlet” isn’t the only contradiction in this architectural kitschtrosity that Vancouver Airport Authority has planned for Sea Island. …

Let us briefly examine the opportunity cost of 30 these acres, served by rapid transit, and in a Metropolitan region that is famously desperate for housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods.

Jakriborg is a village in Sweden that broke ground in 1999. It is home to 500 families on a 12.5 acre site. Many urbanist bloggers enjoy asking, when confronted with a large parking lot (mostly park-and-rides): How Many Jakriborgs Is That?

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The 30 acres of our Sea Island site could fit almost two and a half Jakriborgs. That would be home to over 1,000 families who – presumably – would all have to have a wage earner or two each. Boom: there’s your 1,000 jobs, and maybe twice that.

But wait – what kind of jobs? Well, if you were seeding a new town at this transit station, with thin walkable streets and many flanked by the active storefronts of live-work units, you might expect the businesses to be locally owned. That would bring all the local economic multipliers – use of local accountants, lawyers, suppliers etc. – that branches of international chains doesn’t.

The opportunity cost of this land use and design is unimaginable. Shame.

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Some words, images and thoughts from Sandy James, a planner and pedestrian advocate:

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Was I the only person that thought the McArthurGlen Outlet was named after some famous aviation personality from YVR?  This outlet mall is among twenty globally  that are similarly named, including ones in York and in Athens (left).

McArthur Glen (map here) was started as a private company as part of the Vancouver based McLean Group which owns large real-estate holdings, including The Landing in Gastown and Vancouver Film Studio. The brand became McArthur Glen Group in 1993 and
owns 21 outlet malls worldwide with a total of 6.5 million square feet. There are plans for a further three million square feet of stores.

But there is something interesting happening at this new 46 store  “mall”. The location which is on the north part of the airport’s  Sea Island, is inaccessible for walkers that would take a day stroll from Vancouver or Richmond to the mall, so all users are either using transit, the Canada Line, or a vehicle.

While car traffic is allowed to park literally at the mall’s entrance, all visitors come into the mall itself through entrances that read like a walled city. The surprise? How much walking shoppers need to do once inside this walled shopping sanctum.

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This company has approached marketing similarly to that of a city, providing lots of outside benches, flowers, public art, and places for people to watch each other.

The  mall is designed like Disney, with meandering streets, a hodge podge of architectural facades representing different styles, and plenty of benches with an inward view to more shopping. The colours are in a subdued beige, all the more to allow the signage and sale signs in store windows to pop out.  The internal mall streets are cleverly textured to move people to and through the various “alleys” and into store fronts..

The scale is pleasing, and there is a surprising posting of  stickmen figurative  do’s and don’ts-you cannot bring in balloons, you can’t skateboard and bike, but your dog …and they are not showing a leash…. is welcome.

There  is a singular focus here, and that is of shopping, with many of the items on offer being last season or clearance.  Many of the  exterior wood benches in the complex are  used as husband chairs, and there is a clever water feature in one central courtyard that invites children to interact with water, meaning of course you know where your kid is while you do more shopping.

The very large interactive fountain called SEI designed by local  First Nations artist  Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas that is well used by children and provides a focus in the largest piazza space in the complex.   .  . Washrooms on the central plaza were a bit of an oversight, and they are located on the second floor of a vacant building to the north of the site.  There is a great view of the Arthur Laing Bridge and the Fraser River from that second floor. When I asked, I learned there is no place for the retail staff to get a lunch at a reasonable cost, other than the hotdog stand conveniently located close to the second story washrooms.

The main surprise for me was the rounded design of the internal walking routes which meant once you had hiked in from the Canada line or parked your car outside, you will want to be wearing your step counter bracelet.

The mall does have the aura of a single-horse theme park, and that is probably by intent.  But it is worth noting how commercial malls  are emulating the small town  texture, architecture, use of public spaces and walkability as a way of marketing their products. Could the redesign and repurposing of our own commercial areas to enhance walkability be far behind?

But once again the mall brand values car travel more than those coming by public transit. It is an unfortunate oversight that one would have assumed that YVR would have picked up on.

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The first question to ask about McArthur Glen Vancouver – the designer outlet mall on YVR lands (map here) – is this:

Why is it a half-kilometer from the Templeton Canada Line station?

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A case could be made that the employee parking had a higher priority for adjacency to the station than a shopping mall – but then why put the mall parking lot to the west of the destination? If switched to the east, it would have cut the walking distance roughly in half – about the length that most people consider an acceptable walk.

And even if there was a reason, why does the pedestrian connection beyond Templeton station look like this?

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Jersey barriers: building blocks of Motordom, evidence of minimal budgets for non-vehicle rights-of-way. Except for paint:

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And nothing quite says ‘welcome’ like this. (Notice where the pedestrian is going.)

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The designated sidewalk connecting to the mall has been given some thought and expense:

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Except, of course, that no one is using it.  They’re taking the direct route through the parking lot:

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For those parking in the lot, there is a beautifully landscaped walkway:

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Except here’s where it bluntly ends – on the edge of the McArthur Glen site:

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From here to Templeton, it’s clear who has the priority on the land that is presumably YVR’s responsibility.

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Here’s YVR’s commitment:

Sustainability at YVR is more than just meeting environmental standards. For us, sustainability means operating our airport in a way that improves the quality of life of our employees and passengers while integrating and co-existing with our natural environment.

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So there it is: sustainability is associated with the natural, not the built environment.  And nothing quite reveals the disconnect than where a swale cuts through the asphalt to deal with run-off …

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But there’s no place for people on foot.  Other than paint.

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It’s 2015, it’s Vancouver.  And this is the best we can do?

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In October, Bicycle Trax posted “airports in the United States and elsewhere have bicycle parking available for travelers.”

YVR wasn’t on this list, but communications guy Terry Chou provided a link to their cycling page (the Larry Berg Flight Path Park – northwest corner  – includes a bike pump and repair station) – and this item from CNN:

Consider the airport bike path, an increasingly popular feature at airports around the world.

Some allow travelers to pedal right up to their plane, while others skirt airport perimeters, permitting cyclists a closeup view of the behemoths of the sky.

Among the favourites:

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver’s busy international airport describes itself as “committed” to helping more people ride to and from its location on a semi-detached island a little more than 10 miles from the city center.

An official airport map has a range of cycling options, including cycle lanes adjoining roads and shared pathways, with no fewer than five sets of bike parking racks scattered between the terminals.

If you arrive weary from a flight and decide you simply can’t face a ride into the city, the airport’s rapid rail transit system happily transports bikes (apart from two hours during peak commuter times).

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From Dianna:

Saturday when I arrived at YVR to collect Michael I was drawn upstairs by the sound of a live piano and vocalist. A few people were dancing and on the sidelines was an older couple, she in a wheelchair, with a young woman perhaps their daughter. Luggage and coats piled alongside as they, too, enjoyed the moment.

Then, the man got up, extended his hands to the older woman who slowly rose from her wheelchair then they danced slowly and in perfect sync around the base of the Bill Reid sculpture.

It was a movie moment, but in real life.

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