South Delta Business Sustainability Strategy stresses change

Consultant's report says town core redevelopment is necessary with TFN malls looming

Parts of Ladner and Tsawwassen could end up undergoing major transformations as a result of the mega malls opening next year at the Tsawwassen First Nation.

One of the major themes in the South Delta Business Sustainability Strategy includes the municipality allowing redevelopment to increase density. Some of the key recommendations include creating design guidelines for developer certainty as well as increased density, particularly in the waterfront precinct.

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For Tsawwassen, some of the key recommendations include increased density through mixed-use development as well as a condensed commercial area.

It's not clear how allowing such development aimed at even higher densities will mesh with current area plans or how residents will respond.

According to the consultant retained by Delta, in Ladner Village, for instance, new building heights are restricted to fewer than three storeys, which is unlikely to provide sufficient economic incentive to trigger redevelopment.

In the Tsawwassen town centre, meanwhile, the current limit on the amount of multi-family units presents a barrier to creating a more vibrant mixed-use retail core, as it limits the number of potential local business patrons.

"We would also argue that allowing for some high-rise developments in the Tsawwassen town centre can have multiple benefits, both increasing the number of residents in and around the town core, and providing visible landmarks for passing motorists on Highway 17, indicating that there is something worth seeing if they head south on 56th. Tall buildings can be a very effective wayfinding tool," the consultant's report states.

At a Delta council meeting earlier this month, Coun. Ian Paton noted Delta's hands are now tied because Ladner and Tsawwassen have so many outdated buildings. He said Delta has to work with property owners to encourage redevelopment that would see retail below with residential above.

"You see this in some places like Sun Peaks where you have retail in the bottom and you have residential, two or three floors, or maybe even four floors, up above," Paton said.

Noting Ladner Village, in particular, should be made more vibrant to mirror Steveston, Paton said the policies approved last year to encourage redevelopment at the waterfront and incentives has Delta still waiting for the developers.

Meantime, a major redevelopment is already being planned for the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall.

Saying changes are long overdue for the primarily asphalt covered site, Century Group president Sean Hodgins has a new "green vision" that would increase the building site coverage from 27 per cent to over 50 per cent. The idea is to change the 10- acre site from suburban mall to mixed-use neighbourhood.

Around five new buildings would be added, including several four-to six-storey structures that have retail at ground level and condos above, as well as a 12-to 20-storey concrete residential tower. In total, about 500 new condos are proposed.

The site would also be linked with a series of pathways and gathering plazas, a park and central fountain.

Hodgins told the Optimist there's no doubt higher density is needed to provide enough incentive for redevelopment, as well as increasing the customer base for local shops and services.

"What else is there, throwing banners up on light posts? Basically what it comes down to is you need a lot of people living in the town centre, such that it isn't contingent on having to drive two tonnes worth of steel to go spend $20 at a store. You need thousands of people living in reasonably close proximity to a town centre to make it an economically viable town centre," he said.

Hodgins was planning to submit an application for the first phase of the redevelopment last month, but he's now looking at possible modifications to the plan.

Tsawwassen Mills and Tsawwassen Commons, which are scheduled to open next year, will offer a combined 1.75 million square feet of retail space.

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