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Walmart further sweetens deal for proposed Richmond development
SmartCentres has sweetened its proposal to build a $150-million Walmart-anchored shopping mall in Richmond, weeks after making significant concessions to move its plan forward at city hall.
Staff again recommended to city council's planning committee Tuesday that SmartCentres' rezoning application be granted first reading and be forwarded to a public hearing.
The developer has pledged to slightly increase its parkland dedication on the 6.8-hectare (16.8-acre) West Cambie site, and ante up an additional $238,280 for environmental improvements, according to a memo from director of development Wayne Craig.
The move follows the application's Sept. 17 hearing at city hall, where some councillors decided SmartCentres hadn't done enough to win their approval—despite offering to foot the entire $10.2-million bill for a new connector road leading to the mall.
Residents following the proposal also weren't enamoured, as the city fielded 26 letters from opponents since that meeting—including one from Barbara Allan.
"Continued destruction of the natural habitat will soon make Richmond another lifeless, predictable, black-topped wasteland, quite contrary to the goal of being a livable city where man and nature can still connect."
Some residents took issue with the mall's main tenant, Walmart, while others simply suggested the northeast corner of Alderbridge Way and Garden City Road is the wrong location for a mall.
"The site being proposed for Walmart is a wildlife corridor, which amongst many things serves as a roosting area for large flocks of crows," wrote Kathleen Beaumont. "It is also one of the last remaining mature treed areas in what was once a charming enclave of small family farms."
The long-planned open-air mall was essentially approved in principle by council in 2006 with the adoption of the West Cambie Area Plan. Central at Garden City would boast up to 50 stores, including a Walmart, London Drugs, The Keg, Bed Bath & Beyond and Marshalls.
According to SmartCentres, its development will boost the city's commercial property tax revenues by $2.5 million and create 975 new permanent jobs by mall businesses—in addition to hundreds of construction jobs.
Richmond's Official Community Plan designates 1.51 acres of the development site as parkland. SmartCentres' original proposal fell short of that, at 1.08 acres, but it now plans to boost that marginally, to 1.23 acres. Two-thirds of the park space would be a green rooftop deck above a parking lot.
SmartCentres is offering to make up the remaining deficit with cash and "sustainability features" in the development, according to Craig's report. Those features include a compact development, four electric vehicle charging stations, two end-of-trip bicycle facilities, a minimum LEED silver design standard and tapping into the geothermal Alexandra District Energy Utility for the project's heating and cooling needs.
But the mall also falls short of protecting 2.57 acres of land originally designated as environmentally sensitive area. A SmartCentres consultant recommended that be reduced by one acre—due to disturbance, limited surrounding habitat and invasive plants—and the city's own consultant agreed. A new roadway further reduces the protected land.
Staff say SmartCentres is making up for that by making a small land dedication and contributing cash for habitat enhancement.
"After 10 years of planning and discussion with the city, we are pleased that our project is one which is reflective of its new plan for the City Centre, and is more environmentally sensitive," noted a report from SmartCentres to the city.
But in a website post, the Garden City Conservation Society urged council to turn the application down.
"Along with our world-class viewscapes from the Garden City lands area and our city’s commitment to the living environment, our identity is at stake. We don’t want the Garden City to become the Walmart City. We also don’t want the Garden City lands to become the Walmart City Lands, which they will be with the current design."