Large portions of Oakridge Centre shopping mall were originally slated to remain open during the years-long, multi-phased construction process ending in 2026.
Although the extent of the expected impact from construction has been compounded by the temporary slowdown in brick-and-mortar retail due to COVID-19, the property owner is using this downturn as an opportunity to accelerate the construction timeline for significant portions of the redevelopment.
- See also:
Nearly all of the remaining businesses in the shopping centre will close beginning September 30 to allow for demolition and redevelopment to be expedited.
The businesses that will continue to operate for the time being are Crate & Barrel and Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), as well the businesses within the office building, which is largely occupied by the offices of health practitioners.
The change in construction phasing will mean The Kitchen, a larger portion of the new retail, and the majority of the nine-acre public park on the rooftop of the mall will open by 2024 instead of the previous completion timeline of 2026.
“When the opportunity came up to allow us to bring some of those things forward in the schedule by two years, that really drove the decision. It was a community-based decision on how we can get to construction faster and bring on those elements that would otherwise have to wait longer,” Chrystal Burns, the senior vice-president of Retail West for QuadReal Property, told Daily Hive Urbanized in an interview.
“A number of factors that fell into place that allowed us to make this decision to move forward faster and deliver some of the best features that Oakridge is going to offer.”
The Kitchen is a food hall — not a traditional food court — that will focus on bringing approximately two dozen “diverse” food and beverage operators. It will span nearly 100,000 sq. ft. over two levels, with indoor seating for 1,600 people on the 65,000-sq-ft lower level and additional indoor seating for 1,000 people within the 32,000-sq-ft brew pub on the mezzanine.
This does not include the 800-person capacity outdoor patio that opens up to the rooftop public park. The food and beverage retail offerings will help activate the plaza on the park level.
The design of the park, approved by the Vancouver Park Board in July 2018, features six unique areas with varying landscaping, flexible recreational and leisure uses, and the capability to host events with thousands of spectators.
The community centre that opens up to one of the main entrances into the vast green space at the northwest corner of the property will also open in 2024, as previously planned. This 100,000-sq-ft facility is oriented around a central atrium and includes a seniors’ activity centre, youth hub, a 10,000-sq-ft performance hall, fitness centre, gymnasium, movement studio, childcare, artist studios, music rooms, and a 21,600-sq-ft replacement Vancouver Public Library branch.
Apart from the existing Terraces residential building and the office building, which will be retained and modernized, all of Oakridge Centre will be rebuilt.
There will be about one million sq. ft. of new retail space, including 750,000 sq. ft. of new enclosed shopping and about 250,000 sq. ft. of outdoor shopping on the pedestrian-only high street. The redevelopment will include two large anchor tenants — a new grocery store operated by Empire Company with either the return of Safeway or the introduction of the Sobeys brands, and a brand new 140,000-sq-ft HBC department store.
Overall, there will be a new mix of local, international, and luxury retail. Although a formal announcement has not been made, Apple is expected to return to the mall with a new flagship store.
QuadReal is also looking to improve access to the Canada Line’s Oakridge-41st Avenue Station on not just the corner plaza level, but also below grade.
Burns says they are planning to create an underground retail corridor that starts from the station’s ticketing concourse level and leads into the shopping mall, but the timeline of this component has not been determined.
For the station’s current street level entrance, the company is seeking to enhance the station entrance to distinguish it as a welcoming arrival point to not just Oakridge Centre but the broader Oakridge Town Centre area beyond the mall property, which is expected to become one of the densest areas outside of the downtown peninsula.
“Oakridge is a transformation of what was always the heart of this community, and we want to make it again the heart of this neighbourhood,” she added.
When fully redeveloped, Oakridge Centre will have 2,600 homes, including 290 units of affordable housing. Approximately 6,000 residents will live in the towers.
Thousands more will also work in the retail spaces and approximately 300,000 sq. ft. of new and refurbished office space.
As the phasing of the 28-acre redevelopment has shifted to become more cost and logistically efficient, a substantially greater portion of the overall economic benefits from construction will also be front loaded, effectively creating an added economic stimulus during the worse of the economic downturn. The entire construction project is estimated to generate over 12,000 direct jobs.