By Craig Patterson
Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre is about to see changes unlike anything seen in Canada to date, creating a dynamic mixed-use community that will also become Vancouver’s second municipal town centre (envisioned as a “City of the Future”). The existing 574,000 square foot shopping centre, which sits on 28 acres of land in the heart of Vancouver’s affluent West Side, will be transformed into a major 4.5 million sq.ft. hub of retail, residential, workspace, parks and civic space.
Included will be a massive community centre, public library, performance facility, dance academy, daycare, 100,000 sq.ft. of curated culinary experiences and an approximately nine-acre park — as well as office space and residential towers that will house about 6,000 people in more than 2,600 homes. Oakridge will anchor an up-zoned neighbourhood that is projected to grow by more than 50,000 people within a kilometre radius over the next two decades. QuadReal partnered with Westbank Corp. and together have engaged Henriquez Partners Architects, Tokyo-based interior design firm Wonderwall, and other design partners for this initiative that will be a model for future high-density retail mixed-use redevelopments globally.
Landlord QuadReal together with Westbank presented the updated design at the International Council of Shopping Centres conference in Whistler in January of 2018. Much of the presentation to the press revolved around the broader scope of the project, which will eventually see a spectacular mixed-use community in what will be the single biggest development in Vancouver’s history. To learn more about the retail component to the expanded Oakridge Centre, we spoke with QuadReal Executive Vice President, Retail Andy Clydesdale to get an in-depth picture of how the retail at Oakridge will unfold.
“Our partnership with Ian Gillespie and Westbank has been refreshing and energizing as his creativity and global perspective is challenging us to look past the ‘traditional, old ways of retail development’ and be forward thinking in our design and tenant mix,” says Mr. Clydesdale.
Mr. Clydesdale provided insight into what’s planned for Oakridge’s retail component, which will integrate into the entire community and will serve locals as well as visitors — about 26 million shoppers are expected to visit the expanded centre annually, making it one of Canada’s busiest in terms of footfall. Oakridge’s retail component will see an overhaul that will be almost unrecognizable, with the existing retail space set to almost double in size to about 1-million square feet, including indoor retail as well as an outdoor pedestrian street.
The retail centre will include a collection of conceptualized streets that will house a variety of retail tenants. These are described with terms such as “luxe run”, “trend experience”, and a “high street”. The mall’s “luxe run” could house more than 20 international luxury retailers, according to Mr. Clydesdale, including some that currently lack a presence in the market or in Canada, for that matter. Given the real estate constrictions of downtown Vancouver, Oakridge could end up housing tenants that would ultimately become a second ‘luxury zone’ for Vancouver.
The pedestrian-only high street will be part of the mall’s outdoor component that will run north-south along the length of the mall’s western perimeter. A new perimeter road will also run along the western edge of the property.
The centre will feature two larger anchors, as well as some smaller anchors that will be part of the retail mix. Hudson’s Bay will continue to be Oakridge’s largest anchor tenant in a brand new 140,000 sq.ft. store — it will be the centre’s sole traditional department store anchor, replacing an existing Bay location that was once a Woodward’s store. Oakridge will also house a major grocery tenant — Sobeys which will replace the centre’s existing Safeway store (both are owned by Empire Company). QuadReal is working with key existing retailers such as Harry Rosen, Apple and Tiffany & Co. to create flagship stores that will be aligned with its future thinking for experiential retail.
A large culinary centre spanning between 50,000 and 75,000 sq.ft. will serve the centre and neighbourhood — Mr. Clydesdale noted that there will be a range of tenants and culinary experiences, adding to the diversity of an already diverse neighbourhood. QuadReal explains that this will be something of a Chef-driven ‘kitchen concept’ including a variety of restaurants offering the best of the best of local and international cuisine.
“The heart of the new Oakridge will be a carefully curated collection of top retailers from around the globe, including unique luxury brands and services, flagship stores and some first-to-market retailers, seamlessly integrated with a world class culinary experience and outdoor spaces,” says Mr. Clydesdale.
QuadReal will work with existing retail tenants at Oakridge as the overhaul progresses, and renovations to the retail component will occur in phases so that the centre may remain open. As far as timing is concerned, the new Hudson’s Bay department store and “Trend Experience” components are expected to be completed in 2022, with other development ongoing until roughly 2025 or 2026.
Oakridge’s retail component is planning for the future, with provision made for e-commerce fulfillment. There will be ‘five-star concierges’ for shoppers with capabilities of being able to deliver packages to one’s car or residence, for example.
About 6,000 parking spaces are planned for the centre, the majority of them with electric vehicle charging stations. Valet parking will be an important part of the mix, according to Mr. Clydesdale. Underground bicycle silos will allow riders to quickly stow their bikes below ground in a secure 11-metre deep well. With a simple swipe of a pass, bikes are retrieved or stored in 13 seconds. QuadReal is planning for a future where transportation will be different — self-driving cars are expected to proliferate in the coming years, and other transportation methods such as public transit will continue to gain prominence.
The City of Vancouver is investing heavily in public transit in the area — the Canada Line rapid transit line runs past Oakridge and connects it to downtown Vancouver as well as the airport, and there are plans for enhanced transit along W. 41 Avenue, running east-west via a B-Line rapid bus service that would connect Joyce-Collingwood Station to the east with the University of British Columbia to the West.
Vancouver’s West Side is home to some of Canada’s wealthiest people, living in homes that are priced into the millions of dollars. Vancouver, itself, has become a global destination with visitors bringing their money for activities that include shopping.
Retail Council of Canada ranked Oakridge Centre as Canada’s second-most productive shopping centre for 2017 with annual sales of nearly $1,600 per square foot — given its already strong sales, demographics and proposed area development, Oakridge’s sales growth potential is almost unlimited.
Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre will be one of the most interesting developments in Canada to watch over the next several years — its scale is unprecedented and its design is groundbreaking. The centre is anticipating to eventually see about 42-million visitors a year, including 26-million shoppers, five-million cultural visitors, five-million park visitors, four-million residential visitors and two-million library patrons. It’s all part of an effort to redefine the shopping centre as a social experience — humans are social by nature, and as e-commerce gains prominence centres such as Oakridge will continue to draw shoppers by also offering culinary and entertainment options. Given its stunning design and fortunate location, Oakridge Centre could become the gold standard for shopping centre design globally.
Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He’s also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker.