Creating the amenities that shape a community so that future residents know what’s in it for them is a smart approach to development.
This was the reason Romer’s Burger Bar was one of the first retailers Wesgroup Properties LP invited to locate in the River District when the southeast Vancouver project launched back in 2011. Built next to River District’s experience centre, Romer’s made the site a destination while giving people a taste – literally – of what the project would be as it became a reality.
With the rise in experiential retail as social interactions resume post-pandemic, the strategy is also proving fundamental to Century Group’s plans for the Southlands development in Tsawwassen.
With 85 homes completed and occupied to date, the project has years until it completes the 950 units Delta has approved for the site, former farmland whose future use was long contested by locals.
But the initial retail tenants in the community are doing their best to reflect what the property was and what it could be by engaging all the senses.
“Our broad-based vision for a company is to be a leader in connecting people with a food-based sense of place,” said Sean Hodgins, president of the Century Group, which has been working on the project for two decades. “Something we’re very excited about is when we say connecting people to farming and food, a big aspect of that is our food and beverage offering.”
One of the first tenants was Prado Café, a Vancouver-based coffee shop that has spread from its original location on Commercial Drive to include seven locations including one at Southlands.
“We’re really trying to focus on food-based retail. We believe that’s the defining feature,” Hodgins says. “We definitely worked on and are working on curating the kind of retail we needed as we opened Southlands two and a half years ago.”
A second is now taking shape in the form of Four Winds Brewing, a Delta craft brewer that hopes to open a small-batch brewery and restaurant at the development in 2024, in a building Century Group has christened “The Granary.”
“People that are purchasing real estate down there are purchasing into the dynamics of the community,” said Adam Mills, co-founder and sales director with Four Winds, whose home brewery is in the Tilbury industrial area. “It ties nicely into that and it will really complement the community that way.”
While the details are being worked out, the vision is for the restaurant and brewery to be a community hub that makes use of items grown on the 50 acres of Southlands farmland Century Group leases from Delta. This includes fruit, vegetables, hops and, eventually, barley.
Mills says Four Winds look forward to “intertwining ourselves deeply into the farming component,” providing “a learning experience for customers” that showcases the relationship between beer and local farms.
It’s the kind of experience not available elsewhere in Tsawwassen, let alone on the scale Four Winds is proposing.
“Most people that are living down there are excited to have a central community hub and that’s what we plan to be,” Mills said. “Mostly people are just looking for a spot that can feel unique and experiential. … You don’t have to go outside of the community, or even Vancouver, to get that kind of experience.”
The plans resonate with Hodgins, who looks forward to building a portfolio of food-oriented tenants at the development as build-out continues over the next several years. A number are already in the works.
“Very often the most memorable experiences of people coming together is around food and beverage, so we’ve really identified that,” he says. “It will give Southlands a greater sense of place.”