Park Royal Shopping Centre | BCBusiness

Park Royal Shopping Centre | BCBusiness
Park Royal opened in 1950 and was one of Canada’s first enclosed malls when it added a roof in 1962. It’s leading the way again with an open-air redesign.

Mall developers embrace open-concept main streets and villages in search of contemporary urbanism

The landscape of shopping malls is changing and the driving force is a push to move retail destinations from enclosed environments to vibrant urban neighbourhoods.

“Metro Vancouver is known as one of the bright lights in this movement to re-urbanize old shopping malls,” says Brent Toderian, president of the Council for Canadian Urbanism. “And part of that re-urbanization is turning them from enclosed to outside walking streets that seem to replicate the environment, lifestyle and qualities of traditional main streets.”

It’s ironic that West Vancouver’s Park Royal Shopping Centre is a pioneer in this new wave of outdoor shopping spaces, with the 2004 opening of The Village at Park Royal. The North Shore shopping centre originally opened in 1950 and became one of Canada’s first covered malls with the addition of a roof in 1962.

“It was the first lifestyle centre in Canada and we walked into the project with our eyes wide open,” says Park Royal Shopping Centre vice-president Rick Amantea, of the recent renovation. “There was no proven track record here in Canada that a concept like this would work, but we had seen it in North America, particularly in California.”

An expansion of the mall’s south building, The Village is an outdoor retail space with wide sidewalks, storefront parking and public gathering areas. Amantea dubs the design a success, noting that it has expanded the customer base beyond shoppers typically drawn to indoor malls.

The Village also caught the eye of the City of Surrey, which Amantea reports sent observers to Park Royal. Larco Investments Ltd., the real estate conglomerate that owns Park Royal, also expressed an interest, and as Amantea explains, “When we were able to find the right piece of dirt to do it on, we conceived the plan for Morgan Crossing.” The Larco-developed Shops at Morgan Crossing opened in South Surrey in 2010.

Toderian notes that replicating the feel of a village requires more than just outdoor space. “For malls to truly urbanize, it isn’t just about taking the fake main street and putting it outside,” he says. “It’s about true urbanism, which is about housing, transit and the public realm.”

Residences were an integral part of planning for The Shops at Morgan Crossing, and now will likely be part of the long-term future at Park Royal, as an application for two highrise towers has been submitted to the City of West Vancouver. Construction is underway to improve accessibility to the mall’s retail spaces, with cycling lanes, greater pedestrian connectivity and public transit access.

Abbotsford’s new outdoor retail space, Highstreet, opened this past spring and although no housing is part of this new development, it provides a 600,000-square-foot open-air shopping mall offering a mix of national brand stores, local boutiques and a variety of dining options. Highstreet’s large community plaza, custom landscaping and pedestrian streets add to the “main street” feel of the site.

With the trend of outdoor malls reaching West Vancouver, South Surrey and the Fraser Valley, it was only a matter of time before Vancouver would get in the mix. Marine Gateway, a mixed-use community at Marine Drive and Cambie Street in south Vancouver, is slated to open in 2015. The development has all the ingredients Toderian describes as the new urbanism, with its close proximity to the Marine Drive Canada Line station and south Vancouver bus loop, and space for residences and offices. At the heart of Marine Gateway will be outdoor retail space.

“We wanted to have… a high street so that people coming into our development would be walking and both sides would be retail. It creates a sense of community,” says Dan Turner, executive vice-president of the PCI Group, the developer behind Marine Gateway.

Rounding out the emergence of outdoor shopping malls in Vancouver’s Cambie corridor is the proposed redevelopment plan for Oakridge Centre. Building owner Ivanhoé Cambridge and residential development partner Westbank Projects Corp. are awaiting final approval from the City of Vancouver. Their vision for the over 50-year-old mall is a grand one. Going from an indoor mall to a transit-oriented neighbourhood, the new Oakridge Centre would offer everything from outdoor shopping options and new parks to housing, office space and a variety of civic amenities—a true mixed-use community.

As the trend that started in the ’burbs finds traction near the urban centre, it’s clear that the move toward live/work/shop developments will only intensify.