Metro Vancouver shopping centres expand and redevelop

McArthurGlen to expand outlet mall near Vancouver International Airport

Robert Thurlow, general manager of McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver Airport, says he expects that his mall’s second phase will open by the spring of 2019 | Rob Kruyt

McArthurGlen Group’s outlet mall near Vancouver International Airport is poised to launch construction on a second phase within the next six weeks, making that nearly three-year-old mall the latest shopping centre in the region to redevelop.

It's a sign of B.C.'s booming economy and strong retail sales growth.

Despite the rise in e-commerce shopping, bricks-and-mortar shopping malls across the region – Park Royal, Oakridge Centre, Brentwood Town Centre, Lougheed Town Centre and others – are redeveloping to refresh their looks, add space or build condominium towers on parking lots.

What makes McArthurGlen’s property different from these regional malls, however, is that it is an outlet mall, with many designer stores that sell discounted merchandise.

It also attracts a disproportionate number of tourists as shoppers because the mall is two stops on the Canada Line from the airport.

That winning combination of a prime location plus the distinctiveness of being an outlet mall has helped drive sales, said general manager Robert Thurlow.

He plans to open an 84,000-square-foot addition to his 240,000-square-foot centre by spring 2019 and then add a 65,000-square-foot third phase at some point in the future.

“We’re the No. 1-performing outlet centre in Canada,” Thurlow told Business in Vancouver, citing $1,220 in sales per square foot per year from his mall’s more than 70 tenants.

That figure would rank his mall as the third most productive shopping centre in B.C., behind Oakridge ($1,579 per square foot) and Pacific Centre ($1,531 per square foot).

The Retail Council of Canada, which provided sales-per-square-foot numbers for Oakridge and Pacific Centre, did not rank the McArthurGlen mall in its annual survey, released in December, because no one from McArthurGlen provided data at the time, said retail analyst and Retail Insider Media owner Craig Patterson, who compiled the study.

“I’ve heard anecdotally that the centre is quite busy fairly consistently,” said Patterson, before adding that he has heard Metro Vancouver’s other outlet mall – Tsawwassen Mills – has struggled since it opened in October 2016.

Tsawwassen Mills representatives declined BIV’s request for comment.

“The big story in the Lower Mainland is that many of the current shopping centres are in a state of transition,” Patterson added.

Indeed, QuadReal’s planned redevelopment of a 30-acre site at Cambie Street and West 41st Avenue, which includes Oakridge Centre, is set to be one of the largest the city of Vancouver has ever seen.

Though scaled back to nine highrise towers from 11, and around 2,000 homes from 2,334, the Oakridge redevelopment is set to be under construction for nearly seven years while the mall remains open. Construction could start later this year.

Shape Properties and Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, meanwhile, are embarking on a similar-sized, 28-acre redevelopment that includes Brentwood Town Centre.

The plan for what developers dub “the Amazing Brentwood” includes more than doubling the size of the mall to 1.1 million square feet while adding, eventually, up to 11 towers, including some that will soar up to 600 feet tall, or nearly as tall as the Trump tower in downtown Vancouver.

Shape has also started to redevelop its Lougheed Town Centre in eastern Burnaby, on the Coquitlam border.

Construction on the first part of the multi-phase project that Shape’s marketers dub “the City of Lougheed” has broken ground, and the company’s vision is to have 23 highrise towers on 40 acres around the mall by the late 2040s.

Over in West Vancouver, Park Royal is in the final stage of its multi-year redevelopment.

“Cineplex is building out 45,000 square feet of cinemas on the south side [of Marine Drive],” said Rick Amantea, who is vice-president at Park Royal for owner Larco Investments Ltd.

Larco finished work on the mall’s 400,000-square-foot north side in December, after extensive earlier work on the mall’s one-million-square-foot south side.

New tenants on Park Royal’s north side include Saks Off Fifth, Steve Nash Fitness World and Loblaws City Market.

“Metropolis at Metrotown will also be interesting to watch because Sears has closed on its north side,” said Patterson.

“On the south side, they still haven’t said what will happen to the old Target space.”•