South Delta businesses gather to strategize as landscape poised to change

Civic-hired consultant meets with merchants to devise sustainability plan

South Delta business owners did some brainstorming last week to come up with ideas on how to adjust to life alongside the Tsawwassen First Nation’s mega malls.

Long talked about but now moving closer to reality for local businesses, it’s difficult not to notice the construction taking place at the TFN, where the two malls, totaling 1.8 million square feet, are scheduled to open in May of next year.

Late last year, Delta council hired a consultant to work with the business community to devise strategies to deal with the changing retail landscape as well as explore what Delta can do to help. That report, to be finalized in the coming weeks, will be called the South Delta Business Sustainability Strategy.

Delta staff helped facilitate a meeting last Tuesday night between the consultant and Ladner business and property owners, followed by a similar forum with Tsawwassen stakeholders the next night. The consultant provided an overview before the participants took part in group discussions to explore a number of ideas they’d like to see implemented.

Longtime Ladner Business Association member Bill McKnight, owner of South Coast Casuals, said it was a productive meeting with a number of good ideas, including streetscape and building beautification, but better signage seemed to be top of mind for most who participated.

McKnight said if there are highway signs directing people to the TFN shopping centres, the same should be available for the Ladner and Tsawwassen business communities.

“At the end of the night there were seven different ideas from seven different tables, all very valid ones. The one thread that ran through everything was increased signage, showing people that these two viable opportunities are here for shoppers,” he said.

As far as what a sign should say about his community, McKnight said he’s not a fan of the word “historic” for Ladner, noting it gives the impression the business district is old and not vibrant.

Tsawwassen Business Improvement Association president Randy Scott also said a number of good ideas came forward at his meeting, but reiterated those ideas need to be backed by a commitment from Delta to refresh the look of the commercial districts.

Scott agreed signage would also play a critical role.

“Who’s going to pay for a sign at the entrance to Tsawwassen? Is that going to be all up to us?” he asked.

Scott added Delta also needs to do more to streamline its red tape to help property owners redevelop.

“You have to jump through hoops to try to get a building permit and even when you get the permit, the cost of the permits are big... they make things very difficult.”

Scott noted the Tsawwassen Area Plan needs to make it more viable for someone to even want to redevelop because there’s currently no incentive.

Saying the meetings were extremely productive, with no vetoing of ideas, Sean McGill, Delta’s director of corporate planning, noted the consultant would discuss the feedback with the partner groups before coming up with recommendations.

Ivanhoe Cambridge and Property Development Group are behind the malls, located on 180 acres of TFN land just off Highway 17 at 52nd Street.

Ivanhoe Cambridge’s project will have 1.2 million square feet of destination retail and entertainment. Called Tsawwassen Mills, it will follow the model of the CrossIron Mills mall north of Calgary and Vaughan Mills north of Toronto.

Property Development Group is developing an adjacent outdoor mall comprising 550,000 square feet called Tsawwassen Commons.

So far, the only tenants that have been announced are Walmart and Rona at Tsawwassen Commons and Bass Pro Shops at Tsawwassen Mills.

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