Richmond city council is concerned that a plan to build a mega-mall of luxury goods outlet stores featuring brands like Prada near Vancouver airport will negatively impact traffic in the area.
That’s what city council is saying this week after a meeting where officials spoke out against a new mega-mall of designer outlets planned near the airport.
The luxury goods outlets are slated for construction on Vancouver Airport Authority lands, with site work beginning this summer and the first phase with 97 stores opening as early as fall 2014.
But the city is concerned the mall contradicts the official city plan to centralize commercial development along No. 3 Road and the Canada Line to maximize transit use, and will create traffic.
“It’s not on any transport route. It isn’t well serviced by buses at this point. We do not have the inherent infrastructure to bring people to and from the mall,” said Coun. Derek Dang.
Dang said he wasn’t aware of the plan until recently.
“They told us was it was federal land and they don’t really require the city to do anything as far as rezoning. They just pretty much gave us the final drawings ... and said that we are going forward with this. We were kind of caught off guard without an ability to study it or plan ahead,” he said.
“It was a surprise to the city. We thought that the airport authority’s mandate was to run an airport, not to build malls,” he said. The councillor expressed concern about lack of public consultation.
“There are a lot of Richmond residents to live on Sea Island and they are not going to have an opportunity to have a say at all.”
At a meeting on Monday, council asked city staff to get a legal evaluation of the airport authority’s ability to approve such a project. The city plans to meet with the YVR board in the coming weeks and to lobby MPs and federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel.
However, the airport authority’s director of communications Rebecca Catley refuted several of Dang’s claims.
She said the airport authority had been talking to city staff since 2009, and that they’d sent information to the Sea Island residents association earlier this year and held two open houses at the River Rock Casino last month.
She explained YVR got approval from Transport Canada back in 2007 to develop part of their lands for “commercial, non-aeronautical” uses as part of their Master Plan, which itself was subject to extensive public consultation.
“Part of our mandate is to find ways to use those assets under our authority so we can keep the airport a low-cost airport for passengers,” she said.
Catley said the luxury outlet will be a destination draw for tourists and locals, and could help stem the tide of cross-border shopping.
“It’s a great opportunity for people who have some spare time between flights or who come in a little early to the airport,” she added, noting the 17 million passengers who pass through each year.
The YVR spokeswoman said it was too early to say what the mall would cost to build, or what anticipated revenues would be or would be used for. She did assure the public that the airport improvement fee would not be affected or used to finance the project.
The airport authority announced the project June 15 after their board approved the 460,000-square-foot mall on a 21.5-hectare site three kilometres from Canada’s second busiest airport.
It is expected to create a thousand new jobs, adding to the 23,600 jobs currently at YVR.
The mall will be a joint effort with London-based developer McArthurGlen. The company has over 20 similar malls across the UK and Europe, in Italy, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Belgium. Their properties feature high-end brands such as Prada, Armani, Burberry, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Michael Kors at discount prices.
“This is an exciting project that will increase the region’s destination appeal for visiting travellers and encourage local shoppers to spend within their own community,” Larry Berg, President and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority said at the time of the announcement in June.
The airport authority plans to offer a free shuttle service connecting airport passengers to and from the mall and another connecting SkyTrain passengers via shuttles from Templeton Station, according to YVR’s website.
They also stated that a traffic study they commissioned showed limited impact to road traffic, as the mall would open after peak morning rush hour.
The authority also announced it would install foot and cycling paths along the property and ensure no environmental impacts to the Fraser River.
The site, which will have an outdoor mall “village” or “high street” feel, will include restaurants and outdoor entertainment space.
The mall is just one of the development plans in store for YVR lands. A new Canada Post facility is under construction on Ferguson Road and the authority is considering building a 250-room hotel and business park near Templeton SkyTrain Station.
The additions come after the authority announced in January that it was undertaking 1.8 billion in airport improvements over the next decade.