$1.5B Oakridge 'mega mall' redevelopment plan scaled back

It was supposed to be one of the most expansive redevelopment projects ever undertaken in Vancouver, but now the developer is scaling back its ambitions.

A large aquifer, slowing economy, and increased mall competition all factors in revised plan for Oakridge

The plan for a massive redevelopment of the Oakridge mall has been scaled back significantly. (Westbank Projects)

It was supposed to be one of the most expansive redevelopment projects ever undertaken in Vancouver, spread over eight city blocks and costing $1.5 billion.

But now plan for the Oakridge Centre has been scaled back after the developer Ivanhoe Cambridge came to the conclusion their original plans were too ambitious. 

Some of the revisions include:

  • No second floor on the Oakridge Mall
  • 2,400 fewer parking spots
  • Scrapping at least two planned towers reducing the number of residential units from 2,900 to 2450
  • Moving a planned roof-top park to street level

One of the big set backs for Ivanhoe Cambridge was the discovery of a larger-than-anticipated aquifer on the site, running close to the surface of the ground.

UBC Geotechnical Engineering Professor Roger Beckie says dealing with the aquifer would significantly increased the cost of construction.

"Controlling the water in the aquifer is the real issue here," said Beckie. "When the water table is close to the surface and you have to create a building, you excavate close to the ground and the water can rush in. I think in this case the cost of first, keeping the excavation dry while they're constructing, then maintaining a dry building afterward was probably prohibitive."

The Oakridge redevelopment also faces other obstacles including a slowing economy and increased competition from a new mall near the airport and another planned for Tsawwassen. As well anchor tenant Target went bankrupt last year.

Area residents opposed to the massive redevelopment are pleased plans are shrinking.  

"We argued at city council that we do not need more retail space," said Allan Buium. "Walking around the city ... there are vacancies all over the place. The small retailer person is having a difficult time. They don't need more retail."

City hall officials say right now the plan to scale back the Oakridge redevelopment is just an inquiry from the developer.

But it's possible the magnitude of the request for changes could trigger a complete do-over of the development process, forcing Ivanhoe Cambridge to start from scratch with zoning applications and public consultations.

A decision is expected in the next few months. 

With files from Belle Puri

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