The potential exists for a significant redevelopment of Kingsgate Mall to become a new hub of activity for Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, according to one Vancouver School Board (VSB) trustee.
Estrellita Gonzalez, is Green Party VSB trustee, who believes the large, city block-sized property at 370 East Broadway – at the southeast corner of the intersection of Broadway and Kingsway – would certainly become a prime central location with the imminent arrival of SkyTrain’s Broadway Extension over the coming years.
The area will be served by a new subway station, most likely located one short block west at a Main Street corner.
But Gonzalez does not believe the 3.2-acre, VSB-owned property should be sold; its latest assessed value is $148 million.
“I think, when it comes to the current board’s appetite, we’re looking for innovative ideas to help our district get ahead after years and years of neglect and underfunding and deferred maintenance,” she told Daily Hive.
A recent update on the VSB’s Long Range Facilities Plan noted the school district has accumulated $751 million in deferred maintenance costs, and it still has much work to do with seismic upgrades and the replacement of aging schools. The average age of VSB schools is 73 years, and 50 schools are over 90 years old.
“One way of narrowing the budget gap is to leverage the assets we have, not by selling them,” said Gonzalez. “I’m not in favour of selling them because I don’t know what the future holds. Instead, she favours utilizing the unique non-school property as a long-term revenue source.
Working with a developer through a long-term lease, the shopping mall property could be redeveloped into a mixed-use complex with a podium that provides new replacement retail space.
Her idea includes the potential inclusion of two towers, with VSB uses occupying one tower – such as workforce housing, student housing, affordable housing, and an adult education centre – given the site’s adjacency to SkyTrain.
There could also be a daycare, seniors centre, medical and mental health support services, which are “all the things a community would need in a prime location.”
The second tower would be set aside for market uses determined by the developer.
She cites the VSB’s previous success with partnering with a developer through a 99-year lease in the late 1990s for the redevelopment of its significant property at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broadway and Granville Street. This resulted in the VSB’s new headquarters, as well as a mixed-use commercial development with a 10-storey office building and retail space, with the Indigo bookstore (formerly Chapters) becoming an anchor retail attraction for the South Granville area.
Local developer Beedie Group already holds a 99-year lease on Kingsgate Mall, and discussions for a possible renegotiation that accommodates a redevelopment have been taking place for some time with VSB staff. A possible deal with Beedie, or another developer, could potentially entail property air rights.
“The first part that needs to be addressed, before we pursue any further, is the current lease with Beedie and come to an understanding with them,” said Gonzalez. “Maybe this partnership changes form and we look at something that is different and bigger that serves both them and the district. So everything really starts with that relationship.”
“Once we have some understanding and an agreement on what the potential is, then we will go to the public and get a sense of what the community is interested in having built on the site.”
She emphasized community consultation will be vital for the project’s success, given that Kingsgate Mall is currently a “very well loved destination for locals.”
However, she forewarns that the actual scope of the project — the public benefits and VSB facilities — is largely dependent on what kind of density the City of Vancouver will allow, and the resulting number, size, and height of the towers.
Immediately west of Kingsgate Mall, just across Kingsway, is the recently-completed The Independent mixed-use complex with 258 homes, and office and retail space, including a 30,000-sq-ft Nesters Market. At 21 storeys, it is the tallest building in Mount Pleasant, and it sets a precedent for the type of density the immediate area could possibly pursue.
There should be a better idea on what the city deems possible for the Kingsway Mall site by the end of 2020, when the municipal government finalizes its Broadway Corridor Plan. Gonzalez hopes more concrete plans for the redevelopment will follow in the years after this plan is finalized.
Kingsgate Mall was constructed in 1980 and has 115,000 sq. ft. of leasable retail space, with its largest tenants being Buy Low Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart, and BC Liquor Store.
In 2016, the property was a contentious issue for the previous provincial government led by the BC Liberals, which wanted the VSB to sell the property to help cover the school district’s operating costs. VSB trustees at the time refused to close and sell under-utilized school properties, and this later resulted in the dismissal of the entire board of trustees.