Aquifer discovery forces $1.5 billon Oakridge expansion to be scaled back

Revised plan expected to be drafted later this year

Scaled down plans mean that an 800,000-square-foot second floor of retail space will not be built

Developer Ivanhoé Cambridge is scaling back its $1.5 billion redevelopment plan for Oakridge Centre after discovering that an aquifer runs beneath the mall site.

It is not yet clear what revised plan the Montreal-based company has for what is now the province’s 15th largest shopping centre.

City council had approved the project in March 2014 .

The plan had been to expand the mall to a total of 4.6 million square feet, including residential towers and office space as well as more retail space.

“Ivanhoé Cambridge is now proceeding with modifications to the plan that would produce a slightly smaller project completed over a shorter time and with reduced impact on tenants, employees, the community and the environment,” the company said in a statement.

The expectation is that, when the renovation goes ahead, the number of new residential units will shrink by 450, to 2,450 from 2,900.

Westbank is Ivanhoé Cambridge’s partner for the residential part of the expansion.

The project had been expected to provide more than 5,000 jobs, provide $228 million in community amenities and deliver both family and social housing in Vancouver's Cambie corridor.

But, given Ivanhoé Cambridge’s “modifications” to its plan, there will not be an 800,000-square-foot second floor added to the 574,000-square-foot mall’s retail space.

Had that expansion gone ahead, Oakridge would have had about 1.37 million square feet, ranking it behind only Metropolis at Metrotown (1.716 million square feet) and Park Royal (1.4 million square feet).

The 1.2-million-square-foot, under-construction Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre, which Ivanhoé Cambridge is also building, is next door to the 550,000-square-foot, under-construction Tsawwassen Commons. So, if those malls are considered one destination, it would also be larger than an expanded Oakridge.

Ivanhoé Cambridge still plans to expand Oakridge westward with an unspecified amount of new street-front retail space.

Hudson’s Bay anchors the mall with a 182,000-square-foot store. Other large tenants include Safeway, which has a 50,000-square-foot store.