Shape Properties hopes to have shovels in the ground by early 2020 at Richmond Centre to start transforming it into a high-density, transit-oriented neighbourhood with homes, shops and services.
Dubbed “Live at RC Richmond Centre,” the project got the green light recently from the city’s development permit panel to start moving ahead with the first phase, which will include 1,166 homes including 79 affordable housing units, new streets, a public plaza as well as street-level shops and services.
Michelle Paquet, vice-president of development for Shape Properties, said the project reflects new trends in retail as people are looking for an experience when they go out, not just a new pair of shoes.
Instead of the current “field of parking” and inward-facing mall, the new retail shopping will be street-oriented and surrounded by high-rise residential buildings.
This turns a portion of the mall inside out, to create a pedestrian-friendly shopping precinct, anchored around a public plaza.
“The retail market is shifting to more experiential retail, where people can go and gather and spend time,” Paquet said.
Shape Properties is also redeveloping Brentwood and Lougheed malls in Burnaby and Paquet said those two and Richmond Centre all have a similar vision, to reimagine the traditional town centre.
The Richmond Centre site is owned partly by Cadillac-Fairview Richmond Centre and partly by Aimco, an Alberta-based investment company while Shape Properties is the developer. However, Cadillac-Fairview is the operating owner of the mall, Paquet said.
The closure of the department store Sears started the process of redeveloping Richmond Centre, although it had been rezoned decades earlier.
“Cadillac Fairview needed to decide whether to re-lease (the former Sears building) or take a more future-looking, integrated approach into what could happen with that site – that was the impetus to start this project,” Paquet said.
In a recent report by New Valuegraphics Research, a consumer research company, converting auto-oriented suburban shopping centres into “vertical villages” is a growing trend across North America.
When they looked at the type of people living in these converted shopping centres, they were labelled as local experience chasers, workaholic investors, creative savers — creative people who live frugally to support their lifestyle — and city-loving environmentalists.
“Each one of these groups has a distinct set of values, wants, needs, and expectations. They make all their decisions all day long based on their values,” said the report’s author David Allison, in a press release.
The Richmond Centre project will be 50 per cent “family friendly” with 479 two-bedroom units and 105 three-bedroom units.