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Richmond Walmart mall design a 'marked improvement'

An artist
An artist's rendering of a planned Walmart store in Richmond.
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The developer behind a planned Walmart-anchored shopping mall has made notable improvements to the design of the $150-million complex, according to a report that will be presented Wednesday at Richmond City Hall.

"The SmartCentres proposed development as currently envisioned represents a marked improvement from the original development proposal and has adequately addressed the significant urban design challenges," said Brian Guzzi, senior city planner, in a report to the development permit panel.

Guzzi is recommending the panel endorse a development permit for the project, which council approved rezoning for last fall in a 6-2 vote.

Central at Garden City is planned for a now-cleared 6.8-hectare (16.8-acre) site northeast of the Alderbridge Way and Garden City Road intersection. The 385,328-square-foot mall will boast up to 50 stores and commercial spaces, including a Walmart similar in floor area to the retailer's Queensborough location.

Guzzi noted SmartCentres has improved the quality of "architectural expression" around the perimeter of the development, particularly with building facades.

At key corner locations, the mall will feature "lantern-like" treatments and more brick cladding. More pedestrian-friendly features have been added, with minor design changes, more landscaping, decorative paving and a public art installation in the central plaza budgeted at $155,077.

Following a public hearing last fall, staff were asked to explore a potential agricultural buffer along Alderbridge Way that would create a separation from the Garden City lands across the street. That buffer will be a landscaped boulevard that will serve as a "visual screen," with three separate rows of trees.

One concern raised by the city's advisory design panel at its March 5 meeting was that the mall was largely "turning its back on the streets."

Architect Christopher Block told the panel significant attention has been given to the mall's appearance from the street, with mall corners wrapping around and extending the mall's interior design.

The site's landscape plan includes 612 trees and 12,182 shrubs. A total of 172 trees were cleared from the site, including four tall trees. As compensation, 10 of the new trees will be five metres tall.

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