Developer grounds $35M Victoria Airport shopping centre

Omicron pulls 100,000-square-foot retail project due to rising construction costs and onerous infrastructure requirements

By
Times Colonist
October 24, 2018





a5-1023-CROSSING.jpg
Artist's rendering of Sidney Crossing Development, which has been shelved.


Sidney Crossing, a proposed $35 million shopping centre on a parcel of land owned by Victoria International Airport, has failed to launch.

Developer Omicron announced Monday that it’s pulling out of plans to build a 100,000-square-foot commercial centre on 10 acres of airport land at Patricia Bay Highway and the southwest corner of Beacon Avenue.

The company blamed rapidly rising construction costs for killing the project. Another factor, Omicron said in a statement, was the “significant off-site infrastructure requirements,” including a $3 million pedestrian overpass that was required by the Town of Sidney.

Omicron CEO Bill Tucker said in a statement: “The approvals necessary for this project regrettably took longer than any of us anticipated, resulting in a significant escalation of development costs. Standing down on this project is very disappointing and an extremely difficult decision for our firm.”

Geoff Dickson, president and CEO of the Victoria Airport Authority, said it’s unfortunate that the project will not move forward.

“All the parties put in a tremendous amount of effort into bringing this to fruition and it’s unfortunate that the rising costs have made the project not viable for Omicron,” Dickson told the Times Colonist.

Dickson said it’s too early to say what might be next for the land or if another developer might swoop in. The airport authority has been trying to court commercial developers in order to diversify its revenue stream and keep costs low for airlines.

Plans for the project included 10 buildings with an anchor grocery store as well as major appliance and electronics stores. Omicron hoped to attract a mix of retailers, including health and wellness programs, child care, a pharmacy, restaurants and medical services.

Sidney voted in the fall of 2016 to rezone the land, despite vocal opposition from Sidney residents concerned about increased traffic. Some of the town’s retailers, including incoming mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith, who owns Tanner’s Books, raised concerns that the big-box stores would draw customers away from Sidney’s downtown core.

McNeil-Smith said on Monday that he thinks the developer’s decision is good news for the Town of Sidney. Sidney businesses have faced two years of uncertainty since the project was approved after a contentious public hearing, McNeil-Smith said.

“We didn’t know if the mall was going to proceed and we didn’t know who the tenants were going to be,” he said. “In the circumstances, I think it’s the best decision now because of the uncertainly it’s created over the last two years.”

The Sidney Crossing development would have been just south of another shopping centre being built in North Saanich on a 12-acre parcel of the former Sandown race track, owned by the Randall family. A Canadian Tire store is set to open this month, part of a phased development by Platform Properties of Vancouver.

McNeil-Smith said there has never been a joint economic impact assessment that considers how the two shopping centres would affect Sidney and North Saanich businesses.

An Urbanics Consultants impact analysis, released in 2016, suggested most retail categories would be unaffected by the project, while others would see only a slight decline in sales. The report estimated that the project’s total economic impact would be in excess of $70 million over its lifespan, including short-and long-term employment and increased tax revenue.

The project was expected to generate 157 jobs during construction, and more than 220 jobs annually when complete. The total expected annual tax revenue increase was estimated to be about $737,000.

— With files from Andrew Duffy

kderosa@timescolonist.com


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