The much talked about major developments planned for the Tsawwassen First Nation are beginning to take shape.
A private groundbreaking ceremony was held last month to mark the beginning of a housing development called Tsawwassen Shores.
The event had Chief Kim Baird joined by David Negrin of Aquilini Development, and others, for a ceremonial shovel in the ground to mark construction of a sales office and show home.
To go on sale this fall, several hundred homes will be constructed in a number of phases.
The housing will be built at the current location of the F440 Racing Challenge go-kart track, whose lease has been bought out. The business will close at the end of September, although nearby Splashdown Park hasn't been affected.
The first phase of Tsawwassen Shores will be 42-lot subdivision just off Tsawwassen Drive. That rezoning application will be considered by the TFN government and a public hearing for TFN members to discuss the application will take place later this month.
A website promoting the development states the housing will be "quality, exceptionally finished single-family homes, townhomes and condos at astonishing prices."
Ed Chanter, the TFN's director of lands, said Tsawwassen Shores is the first of several housing developments planned.
The TFN's legislature approved a neighbourhood plan that will bring about 4,000 new residents over the coming decade. According that plan, 1,684 housing units are to be built.
Although the neighbourhood concept has been approved, applications must still be submitted for the various developments.
Post-treaty property owners are no longer certificate of possession holders, but own their land fee-simple like any other property owner. The only stipulation is they can't sell their properties to non-TFN members.
"All these lands are owned fee-simple, so the various TFN members who own these primarily vacant lands behind Tsawwassen Drive had their lands listed with Colliers (International)," said Chanter. "Various development companies have partnered up with groups of individual TFN members and are working on developing their lands under a partnership. So these 42 lots, for example, would be available on a 99-year-lease basis."
Meanwhile, a groundbreaking ceremony is expected to take place sometime this year on a pair of major malls.
The TFN Economic Development Corporation last year announced it entered into an agreement with Ivanhoe Cambridge and Property Development Group to develop almost 1.8 million square feet of shopping and office space on 180 acres just off Highway 17 at 52nd Street.
Ivanhoe Cambridge's project would comprise 1.2 million square feet as a destination retail and entertainment centre. Called Tsawwassen Mills, it would follow the model of the huge CrossIron Mills shopping mall north of Calgary and Vaughan Mills north of Toronto.
Property Development Group is planning to develop an outdoor retail mall comprising 550,000 square feet called Tsawwassen Commons.
The TFN membership last year voted in favour of the partnerships, but at that time those deals were based on 49-year leases.
Following a "due diligence exercise" looking at the feasibility of the projects, the deals were changed to offer more land on 99-year leases, thus requiring another vote by TFN members. The membership voted in favour of the change in the deal earlier this year.
The malls are scheduled to open by 2015.
On another front, the TFN government is also looking to build a waste-to-energy plant on an industrial section of the First Nation's property that already has the necessary zoning. That project, which is going through a Metro Vancouver selection process, would involve a partnership with another Aquilini company.
The First Nation has begun developing its industrial land and is working with Port Metro Vancouver.