The design of the luxury outlet centre for the Vancouver airport lands has not been finalized. However, Gugliotta said, it “will feature design elements inspired by iconic Vancouver architecture, including the city’s first post-office building (circa 1937), now part of the Sinclair Centre complex; the Vancouver Rowing Club (circa 1911); and the distinctive brick facades of historic Gastown.” A height of up to two storeys is permitted on certain areas of the site, which is on Russ Baker Way immediately south of the B.C. Institute of Technology’s Aerospace Technology Campus.
Preliminary plans also include 2,300 parking stalls, and shuttle bus service to the airport terminal, which is five kilometres away, and to the Canada Line’s Templeton station, which is three kilometres north of the outlet centre site.
“Canada’s ripe for this kind of outlet mall,” said retail consultant David Ian Gray, principal of DIG360 Consulting Inc. “For whatever reason, we just haven’t seen very many of them. And certainly the ones that are here have just been showing up in the last few years. There’s one outside Don Mills in Toronto. You might argue that down at New West, Queensborough Landing is kind of a mini version of it. But these are all pretty new.”
Gray was quick to note that the centre won’t be a mall per se. Judging from artists’ renderings of the project, which can be found on the airport authority’s website, the stores will open onto outdoor courtyards as opposed to covered indoor spaces. And unlike malls, the outlet centre won’t have any anchor tenants.
“The anchor is the whole centre rather than the anchor being any one tenant,” Smerdon said.
Both Smerdon and Gray envision the centre attracting shoppers from throughout Greater Vancouver. Gray, however, doubts the centre will draw too many visitors from south of the border.
“They can’t pin their hopes on that. That would be icing on the cake,” Gray said. “The Americans don’t have the same fascination with shopping in Canada as we do with shopping in the States.”
Gray is also skeptical that the centre will draw huge crowds from travellers on layovers at the airport. “We’ve all been in that situation,” said Gray, who also noted that YVR has a excellent international reputation as a retail partner. “You’re tired. You’re a little stressed. You don’t necessarily want to move away from the area (of the airport terminal).”
Nevertheless, YVR’s Gugliotta said the airport is going to work with McArthurGlen to make it easier for airline passengers to access the outlet centre. On top of the free shuttles, those amenities will include multilingual staff, real-time flight information screens, a luggage storage facility, and shipping services at the centre.
McArthurGlen to operate and manage the outlet mall
McArthurGlen will be responsible for operating and managing the centre, which will be built on the 22.8 developable acres of the 29.7 acre site. Like the rest of the airport lands, the airport authority leases the property from the federal government. As such, it doesn’t fall under municipal jurisdiction. However, the airport authority manages a “rigorous permitting process” similar to that of a municipal government, Gugliotta noted.
A federal Ministry of Transport-approved land-use plan designates the site as “groundside commercial,” he added.
“A comprehensive environmental management plan will be put in place for construction that will include storm water management, erosion controls, spill prevention and response and other measures,” Gugliotta said. ”An environmental monitor will work with the project team and will conduct regular inspections to ensure environmental mitigation measures are followed and are effective. All necessary environmental approvals shall be obtained in advance of construction. In addition, the YVR Environmental Advisory Committee will provide ongoing advice to the Vancouver Airport Authority on potential environmental issues arising from the development.”
The preliminary designs also include children’s play areas, a community square near the river, shared bicycle and pedestrian paths, and restaurants.
McArthurGlen’s Jove said that while the big attraction of the centre will be steep discounts of 30 to 70 per cent on the brand-name merchandise, it will also make for “a great day out” for shoppers within a 90-minute radius. Aside from local, regional and international eating places, the centre will feature entrainment at that waterfront square, she said.
In Europe, McArthurGlen centres provide year-round activities and events.
“Our annual Summer Music Festival at our five centres in Italy, for example, this year features American singer Gloria Gaynor as the lead performer; the festival is free, with the shops staying open till late, to coincide with the concerts,” Jove said.
Colliers’ Smerdon expects that all these elements will create a profitable environment. He noted that other major retail centres in the region, such as Pacific Centre and Oakridge Centre, bring in annual revenues in the range of $600 to $700 a square foot.
Gray is equally confident that the McArthurGlen project will be a success. “It’s a great coup for the airport and it fills a hole in the market,” Gray said. “It’s not the same as everything else.”