Serial investor Weihong Liu has big plans for Tsawwassen Mills megamall

Liu, who arrived in Canada eight years ago, now owns three of the biggest shopping malls on the B.C. coast

Since moving to B.C. in 2014, Central Walk founder Weihong Liu has spent approximately $858 million buying three B.C. shopping centres | Photo: Submitted

A recent immigrant to Canada who bought Tsawwassen Mills this year has big plans for the giant South Delta mall, as she has for other large B.C. shopping centres her company, Central Walk, has purchased since 2014.

In the eight years since she moved to B.C., serial investor Weihong Liu has spent an estimated $858 million buying three B.C. retail centres.

Tsawwassen Mills was developed by Ivanhoe Cambridge, the real estate arm of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Quebec pension fund, under a long-term lease for the property from Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN). It opened in 2016.

The 1.2 million-square-foot mall, second largest in B.C., sits on 107 acres, containing about 200 stores and restaurants and extensive open-air parking for 5,000 vehicles. It is a duplicate of Ivanhoe Cambridge’s Cross Iron Mills mall north of Calgary.

Central Walk bought the mall at 5000 Canoe Pass Way, Tsawwassen, on May 6, 2022. Financial details were not released, but the property’s latest assessed value is pegged at $407 million.

In a press release, Central Walk chairman Hong Liu, CEO Andy Wang and investment and asset management director Valen Tam said the sale was jointly produced by the efforts of many parties including Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, Ds Avocats, real estate companies Colliers and JLL, and the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Weihong Liu, with her brother and company official Liu Ergang, have apparently bankrolled the B.C. purchases, at least partly, with proceeds from the sale of the Central Walk shopping centre Weihong developed in Shenzhen, China. She sold that 1.5-million-square-foot mall to Hong Kong’s Link Real Estate Investment Trust in February 2019 for the equivalent of $1.25 billion.

Weihong Liu moved to Canada in 2014, and acquired Woodgrove Centre, the largest shopping centre in Nanaimo, B.C., in 2020 (currently assessed at $195.4 million), and paid $4.5 million for the Arbutus Ridge Golf Club in Cobble Hill, just north of Victoria. Her company briefly owned the landmark Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria but sold it to Vancouver developer Nat Bosa in 2014.

In May 2021, Central Walk, bought the 522,000-square-foot Mayfair Centre mall in Victoria from Ivanhoe Cambridge in a $258 million deal.

Since then, Central Walk has unveiled plans for a makeover of both Woodgrove and Mayfair malls, the latter including a retail expansion and potential residential component.

In a May tour of Tsawwassen Mills, Central Walk officials said it planned to expand the food services at the mall and “focus on developing a prominent entertainment presence at the property” as well as making changes to core retail offerings.

Details of the mall’s remake were vague then and are on hold today, however, according to the Damien Teissedre, marketing manager of Tsawwassen Mills.

“At this time we are not discussing redevelopment in mourning of the late TFN Chief Ken Baird. We will reopen comments and discussions once a new chief and direction is elected, and a conversation to discuss the future has been had. We are fully committed to the growth of these TFN lands and the community,” Teissedre told Western Investor.