Sisters Wendy Ridout and Dianne Ballard chat at a table next to Nectar’s Coffee Shop inside Arbutus Village Shopping Centre, while the shop owner works on a painting on the counter in between waiting on customers.
It’s mid-afternoon on a Wednesday and the two-storey mall at 4255 Arbutus St. is relatively quiet.
That likely won’t be the case a dozen years from now. In July 2011, the City of Vancouver approved a rezoning application for a mixed-use development on the seven-acre property.
Not much has been heard about the project since then, although it will feature 500 residential units, including 100 affordable housing units managed by the City of Vancouver, office space, a grocery and liquor store and green space.
But plans are moving forward, albeit slowly.
Ridout and Ballard have been curious about when construction will start. Ridout brings Ballard to the mall weekly to shop for groceries at Safeway since Ballard doesn’t drive.
“We’ve been wondering why something hasn’t started and we’d like to see something different here as well — I’d like a Shopper’s Drug Mart,” said Ballard, 67.
“This has been going on for years hasn’t it?” added Ridout.
Born and raised in Vancouver, the pair recall when Woodward’s was in the spot Safeway took over.
Down the mall, a group of men who meet for coffee monthly also remember Woodward’s — and even earlier.
“I remember when they built this building,” said Korky Day, 65. “This is a new building to me.”
The shopping centre, which is owned by Larco Investments Ltd., was built in the 1970s.
Day said he wasn’t clear on redevelopment details but he maintains the existing buildings shouldn’t be torn down and any new buildings should be built on the parking lot.
“The building is too new to demolish… City council should say no new buildings unless they’re built to last at least 100 years.”
Malcolm Parker, 77, who’s lived in the neighbourhood since 1966, said he has no real objections to the redevelopment as long as “it suits the conditions around it like roads and parks.”
“[The property] could be used better. There has to be a bit of balance, but there has to be some increase in density.”
Art Phillips, Larco’s director of development, told the Courier Thursday morning, that it’s finalizing development permit drawings for the project. Phillips expects they’ll be submitted to the city sometime at the start of the new year. “Once the development permit is submitted, we’ll be going back out to the public again with the models, as well as presentation boards,” he said.
The application must also be circulated through city departments. “It could take approximately five months for the internal [city] review and then go forward to council for their consideration,” Phillips said.
The earliest construction could start is the fall of 2014. It will be a four-phase process and build-out will take eight to 10 years, all of which is dependent on market conditions.
Phase one, the northeast corner, includes Safeway. The liquor store and the Bank of Montreal are in phase two. “In the second phase, we’ll also be able to take care of our office tenants that we currently have, so we’re trying to accommodate all the existing tenants,” Phillips said.
“[The project] is moving very slowly, but yes, it’s moving forward… We’re trying to facilitate the existing tenants. What we have to do is keep the shopping centre open while we initiate the first phase of construction. It’s a very complicated exercise.”