Vancouver School Board voted unanimously earlier this week to consult the public before negotiating to sell or redevelop its Kingsgate Mall, which it leases to the Beedie Development Group (BDG).
The vote came as the cash-strapped board contemplates options such as closing schools to reduce what is now projected to be a $15-million budget shortfall.
School board trustee Patti Bacchus told Business in Vancouver January 16 that she brought her motion forward to require public consultation because she feared that this openness would not happen otherwise.
“If we were to be approached with an offer to purchase, anything like that would go in camera, which means we can’t talk about it,” she said. “My concern was that I didn’t want anything like that to happen and anything to change without the public being aware.”
Bacchus strongly opposes selling the property on East Broadway at Kingsway because she believes its value will appreciate in the future.
She also likes the approximately $750,000 in annual revenue that the school board gets from BDG, which has many decades left on its long term lease.
She is, however, open to redeveloping the site.
BDG president Ryan Beedie floated the idea in 2012 that a redevelopment of the mall, with added density, would make sense and could be a win-win for both BDG and the school board.
After all, Kingsgate Mall is mere block away from Rize Alliance’s 258-home Independent, which will launch sales in early February and is expected to be complete by 2017.
“It’s hard to imagine [the mall] staying the way it is for 50 or more years and there’s decades left in the lease,” Bacchus said. “It’s difficult [to redevelop] with a leased site. It’s easier with freehold land.”
Beedie told BIV January 16 that he did not want to comment “at this time” about how to redevelop the mall.
The school board owns Kingsgate Mall because the site originally housed a school named False Creek School, which was built in 1887. Mount Pleasant Elementary School replaced that school in 1892 and stood on the site until it was torn down in 1972, according to a report by Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd. (See Page 60) and provided to BIV by City of Vancouver archives .