TransLink seeks retailers to ramp up revenue

Plan is for 70% jump in retail space at stations by 2022

TransLink director of real estate programs and partnerships Guy Akester, poses outside Main Street station June 21 | Glen Korstrom

TransLink plans to help pay for Metro Vancouver’s transit system by leasing more space to retailers at its rapid-transit stations in the years ahead.

The transit-system operator is the landlord to a combined 10,000 square feet of space at 47 stations and it expects that number to jump to 17,000 square feet by 2022, its director of real estate programs and partnerships, Guy Akester, told a media scrum outside the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station June 21.

He estimated that about $500,000 of the more than $410 million in revenue that TransLink raked in during 2016 came from retail leases.

That is down from the $695,927  that TransLink generated from retailers in 2012. Translink communications staff later told BIV that this was because of a change in the way that this revenue was reported and because of a one-time payment that was made in 2012. 

An uptick, however, is certainly likely. 

Main Street-Science World station newly has a total of 2,771 square feet of retail space that TransLink leases to Starbucks, A&W and Tim Hortons.

Before the station’s recent renovation, TransLink generated no retail-lease revenue from Main Street-Science World station. Starbucks had leased space under the station but that square footage was previously owned by the City of Vancouver. So TransLink did not get a dime.

Vancity and other retailers have long leased space on the outside of the station but are not TransLink tenants.

“The biggest station for retail will be Commercial-Broadway but that will not come available for retailers until next year,” Akester said.

“It’s a major, major upgrade there that’s going on right now.”

Akester said that TransLink eventually wants retail at as many of its stations as possible but that ones likely to get retail before others include Joyce, Brentwood and Metrotown stations.

“Looking further afield, we’re looking at doing something at Edmonds [station,]” he said.

None of the Evergreen Line stations have retail although some were built to accommodate retail in the future. Other Evergreen Line stations, such as Burquitlam station, do not have retail because nearby malls did not want there to be retail at the station, Akester said.

Most of TransLink’s retail tenants are outside of fare-paid zones and all future retail tenants will be outside fare-paid zones, he said.

TransLink has been a landlord to retailers at its stations for decades. Sometimes, when locations were behind fare-paid zones, there were problems and lawsuits arose.

For example, franchisees who owned Jugo Juice outlets in fare-paid zones at the King Edward and Oakridge stations on the Canada Line sued the Ontario-based smoothie vendor in 2013. They alleged in court filings that Jugo Juice misled them on the cost of operating the outlets and other aspects of how the stores could run.

Jugo Juice allegedly told the franchisees incorrect information such as that:

•transit riders could consume beverages while on trains;

•the franchises would be located outside of the fare-paid zone; and

•their employees would be able to travel between the two franchises on the Canada Line for free, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

It is unclear how that lawsuit was resolved.

Akester said that TransLink launched a renewed effort to increase its retail space at stations in 2014 and that this followed a period of about seven or eight years when no new retail space was created.

Some TransLink stations, such as New Westminster, appear to have a lot of retail tenants but the stores are actually on property that is separated from the station's footprint and, as such, have a separate landlord who collects the lease payments.

TransLink’s 11 current retail leases are to:

•Tim Hortons at Main Street station;

•A&W at Main Street station;

•Starbucks at Main Street station;

•Nova News at Scott Road station;

•Waves Coffee at Stadium station;

•International News at Braid Street station;

•International News at Granville Station;

•Town Centre Convenience at Lougheed station;

•Vannian Coffee at Lougheed station;

•Express News at Sapperton station; and

•Express News at Nanaimo station.