Almost all of the retailers at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre will close their doors at the end of September until 2024 to help accelerate the process of the mall’s incredible overhaul. When Oakridge reopens, the mixed-use ‘city centre’ will be unlike anything in Canada and will be the single biggest development in Vancouver’s history.
“Not only does this repositioning allow for existing and additional retailers to be in the redeveloped shopping centre sooner, it also means that the public park will come online in an earlier phase of the development,” said Andy Clydesdale, Executive Vice President of Retail for QuadReal Property Group, one of the co-developers of the new Oakridge city centre along with Westbank Corp. “We are committed to opening the reimagined Oakridge as quickly as possible and look forward to welcoming back our world-class tenants.”
Some retailers in the mall had already closed ahead of the redevelopment. That includes Harry Rosen, Michael Kors, Coach, and others.
A handful of retailers will stay open throughout the construction process. That includes the 182,000-square-foot Hudson’s Bay anchor store which before 1993 was the flagship location for local department store chain Woodward’s. The Crate and Barrel store at Oakridge as well as the food court and services such as medical/dental offices will also remain open during construction.
Shutting most of the mall is a bold move given the prior productivity of the shopping centre. The Retail Council of Canada Shopping Centre Study in 2018 (authored by Retail Insider’s Craig Patterson) showed that annual sales per square foot for Oakridge were approaching $1,600 and were growing quickly, particularly given the mall’s high-end stores such as Tiffany & Co. and Harry Rosen.
The original plan was to renovate the retail centre in phases while keeping most retailers open during the process.
A representative from QuadReal said that the landlord made the decision to shut most of the mall temporarily to “dramatically accelerate large portions of the development” which will allow the majority of the retail component, community amenities, international-style food hall and nine-acre park to open and serve the Vancouver community upon completion in 2024.
The new Oakridge Centre, which is envisioned as a mixed-use community in the heart of Vancouver’s affluent West Side, will be a mixed-use, transit-oriented neighbourhood hub that will offer nearly one million square feet of unique, experiential retail in addition to office space, residential towers, and a nine-acre public park and community centre, in addition to many other amenities that support the arts, seniors and the neighbouring community.
The existing 574,000-square-foot shopping centre, which sits on 28 acres of land will be transformed into a major 4.5 million square foot hub of retail, residential, workspace, parks, and civic space. Included will be a massive community centre, public library, performance facility, dance academy, daycare, culinary experiences, a park, 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 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.
About 26 million shoppers are expected to visit the expanded centre annually, making it one of Canada’s busiest malls 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 itself 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” is expected to house more than 20 international luxury retailers, including some that currently lack a presence in the market or in Canada. Given the real estate constrictions of downtown Vancouver, Oakridge could end up housing tenants that would ultimately have the centre become a second ‘luxury zone’ for Vancouver.
Oakridge’s 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 updated retail centre will feature two larger anchors, as well as several junior 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-square-foot ‘next generation’ store which will replace the existing Bay location. 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 said that it is is working to bring back former key retailers including Harry Rosen, Apple, and Tiffany & Co. to create unique experiential concepts that will be aligned with its future thinking for retail.*
Other future-proofing for the centre will include provisions made for e-commerce fulfillment — a trend that has already accelerated quickly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Other offerings at the new Oakridge will include ‘five-star concierges’ for shoppers with capabilities of being able to deliver packages to one’s car or residence, for example.
Approximately 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. 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 will be retrieved or stored in about 13 seconds. QuadReal said that it is planning for a future where transportation will be different as self-driving cars are expected to proliferate in the coming years.
The Oakridge Centre redevelopment will be one of the most interesting 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.
*This article has been updated to reflect updated information from the landlord.