Two downtown sites could become Targets

Development value up for larwill park, canada post building

Retail and real estate analysts believe large retailers such as Walmart or Target could start pushing for construction of a new mall on either of two downtown blocks that are ripe for redevelopment.

Canada Post's sale in January of its long-time Vancouver headquarters to BC Investment Management Corp. (BCIMC) has opened up the block bounded by Georgia, Homer, Dunsmuir and Hamilton streets.

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Two blocks east is Larwill Park, which is owned by the City of Vancouver and bounded by Georgia, Cambie, Dunsmuir and Beatty streets.

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) is hoping to convince the city at a meeting, likely to be held in early March, that it should be given the site - which some estimate to be worth $200 million - to build a new $300 million gallery.

"Either one of those sites could anchor a downtown shopping complex and support all the traffic and financing that's needed to create an effective centre," said James Smerdon, vice-president and director of retail consulting at Colliers International. He expects Target to open 49 Canadian stores this spring, mostly in Western Canada and southwestern Ontario.

The chain will then open an additional 17 stores this summer and another 48 stores in the fall, mostly in Quebec and Ontario.

"They're looking at sites for new construction, but the ones they're opening this year are entirely former Zellers locations.

"They've taken those stores down to the studs. They're brand new stores."

Smerdon added that, despite umpteen new shopping centres or mall expansions slated around Metro Vancouver, demand has yet to plateau for new retail development, particularly downtown, where neither Target nor Walmart has a presence.

"They could anchor a downtown shopping complex - either one of [the two sites] - and support all the traffic and financing that is required to create an effective centre."

Other real estate watchers say that al-though retail rents will fetch several times that of an office lease rate, the best use for Larwill Park would be something that recognizes its heritage as a gathering spot once known as Cambie Street Grounds.

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