Approximately two dozen mid-rise towers in the redevelopment of Lansdowne Centre shopping mall were green lighted by Richmond City Council earlier this week. Spurred by the completion of the Canada Line more than a decade ago, this is the single largest development in Richmond to date.
City council approved the amendments to the city’s official community plan (OCP) in a 7-1 vote, providing the second and third readings simultaneously, with councillor Michael Wolfe casting the lone vote in opposition.
This amounts to the first major decision on the project over the coming years, as individual rezoning and development permit applications are required by mall owner Vanprop Investments for each of the seven phases of the 50-acre mall redevelopment.
When all phases are fully developed, there will be up to 4,500 homes for as many as 10,000 residents.
This is a mixed-use redevelopment, with commercial uses such as retail, restaurants, offices, and entertainment located within the western half of the site, closest to No. 3 Road and SkyTrain Lansdowne Station at the southwest corner of the property. The tallest of the buildings will be located close to No. 3 Road.
The eastern half of the site will be mainly residential. Shorter buildings will provide a transition to the lower density forms in the surrounding areas towards the east.
Upon full buildout, the redevelopment will have a total floor area of about 4.5 million sq ft, including 3.8 million sq ft of residential development and 688,000 sq ft of commercial development — exceeding the 600,000 sq ft floor area of the existing indoor mall. T&T Supermarket is expected to return as a main anchor of the new retail.
The floor area calculation does not include potential publicly-owned community buildings, such as a 53,000 sq ft community centre next to the Canada Line station and a potential elementary school near the five-acre central public park at the south end of the site. The community centre could potentially fulfill the “landmark” building requirement next to the 1.5-acre civic plaza next to the station. Additional school capacity is required in the area beyond 2033.
Major public spaces will be suitably designed for a range of events. The central park could accommodate festivals and major events with up to 17,000 people, while the civic plaza could handle events with up to 5,000 people.
The development site is setback from its entire Lansdowne Road frontage to dedicate two acres towards the continuation of the east-west linear park on the street corridor beginning from Richmond Olympic Oval. This will be a 20-metre-wide greenway with walking and cycling paths, and landscaped spaces.
It is expected that approximately 19,000 sq ft of childcare space will be built in the development, equivalent to 1% of the total residential floor area.
Wolfe, who voted in opposition to the approval of the OCP, said he wanted to see some issues addressed in this stage of planning, specifically outlining the community benefits in detail, and implementing affordable housing requirements into the residential development.
He suggested the proposal at its OCP stage should be put on hold to await for city staff’s upcoming reports that will propose new citywide affordable housing and public benefit requirements for new development.
“We could actually get more out of a project like this for more Richmond residents. I’m feeling that if we were to table this and wait for some of those outstanding referrals to come back, we could actually have a project that addresses a lot more of these concerns that were brought up, albeit overall those public comments were in support. But I still see that there was a lot of value in there that’s not being addressed by the project,” said Wolfe.
However, Councillor Alexa Loo rebutted these suggestions, asserting that future rezoning applications for the multiple phases of the project will address these concerns, take into account future city policies and directions on rental housing and non-market housing, and potentially expand public benefit requirements.
“While there’s always questions, there’s always different policies that we could come forward with. We can sit here doing paralysis and have paralysis by analysis forever, but the applicant needs to be able to move forward and they need to be able to get some actual shovels in the ground at some point,” said Loo.
“That’s not going to happen until they actually even get their first rezoning application in, which they can’t do until this happens. Everything takes time, we’re still years away from seeing the first building happening here.”
The 1977-built mall will remain open during construction, although it will be progressively demolished as the redevelopment moves into further phases.
The first phase will develop the surface parking on northeast quadrant of the property, with no impacts to the indoor mall.
The initial section of mall set for demolition is located in the northwest quadrant, where Future Shop and Bed, Bath, and Beyond used to be. The first demolitions will take place during the second phase.
Over time, as more phases are built and as more of the indoor mall is demolished, new public streets will be carved through the site.
The indoor mall will be fully decommissioned by the fifth phase. Currently, there are about 3,300 vehicle parking stalls in the surface lots that surround the mall building.
The redevelopment will provide two on-site mobility hubs, which entail kiss-and-ride stalls, taxi and ridehailing stalls, bike parking, bike share, HanyDART pick-up and drop-off areas, car share spaces, battery-electric vehicle charging, and other amenities.
Prior to the construction of the mall, the site was a major horse racetrack.