British Columbia

Aldergrove Mall could be demolished by next year — and Kingsgate could be the next aging shopping centre to go

"We have something that was built in the 70s, a single-storey box in the centre of the lot, surrounded by surface parking. And we want to move forward."

Redevelopment of 1976 site another sign that aging malls are an endangered species across Metro Vancouver

A Dollarama and a dentist are the only tenants remaining in the Aldergrove Mall, which has sat most empty for for over a decade. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

After a decade of delays and deterioration, the Township of Langley is moving quickly to get rid of the Aldergrove Mall. 

Council received its latest update on the mostly derelict property at the centre of Aldergrove on Monday, as staff looks to fast-track the redevelopment application from the group that owns the land. 

"It's holding Aldergrove back, and there's some recognition of that," said Coun. Eric Woodward.

Woodward originally was skeptical of the proposed redevelopment of the mall, built in 1976, but now home to just two tenants, a dentist office and a Dollarama. He argues the proposed replacement was too much like a strip mall. 

But he said the revised plans — which include three mixed-use buildings between six and 10 storeys in the first stage of the redevelopment, including a parking area for the entire nearby community — fit the bill. 

"We have something that was built in the 70s, a single-storey box in the centre of the lot, surrounded by surface parking. And we want to move forward," Woodward said.

He hopes the mall could be demolished next year, paving the way for a mixed-used, walkable development in the centre of Aldergrove — the same dream so many politicians and city planners have for community centres across the region. 

The proposal for the Aldergrove Mall site includes commercial zones, medium-density residential buildings, and eventually a possible 28-storey condo. (Township of Langley)

'A hotbed for mall transformation'

Aldergrove is the most recent community in Metro Vancouver trying to transform an aging mall into a revitalized town centre, but it has plenty of company.

A CBC News analysis found that of the 11 malls in Metro Vancouver built between 1959 and 1989 with at least 400,000 square feet, nine have either completed a major redevelopment this decade, are under redevelopment or in the planning stages. 

"The Lower Mainland is a North American hotbed for mall transformation," said Brent Toderian, an urban planning and former head planner for the City of Vancouver. 

"You can't swing a stick without hitting a transforming mall, particularly the 1960s malls that are now next to a SkyTrain station or other form of higher-order public transit.

"It's kind of a no-brainer now to rethink that inefficient use of land."

While Aldergrove is an exception, Toderian says this region is particularly unique for mall transformations because municipalities and developers tend not to wait until a mall is completely dormant before making changes, citing Brentwood and Lougheed as two recent examples. 

"We've done it better than anything that's been done in the United States, which is why many Americans are coming to study our transit-oriented development and our transformation of shopping malls."

Located at Main Street and Kingsway, Kingsgate Mall is owned by the Vancouver School Board. (Catherine Rolfsen)

Kingsgate next?

But while most mall redevelopments have been generally welcomed in their communities, a potential transformation of Vancouver's Kingsgate Mall may not be received as warmly.

"There a lot of the people very passionate about the area," said Vancouver School Board vice-chair Allan Wong. 

The school board owns the property, now assessed at $148 million. Wong believes trustees will vote in the next month to consider the mall's future as part of a long-term capital asset management plan.  

"I think it's in everyone's interest to have that area develop," said Wong, citing the size of the property and incoming Millennium Line extension along Broadway — which would likely have a station within a block of the mall — as key pressures. 

If that day comes, the combination of nostalgia, appreciation for simple retail outlets, fear of housing speculation, or semi-ironic attachment could create a potent backlash to any redevelopment proposal. 

But that's the political culture around Main and Kingsway.

On the opposite end of Metro Vancouver, few people are lamenting the demise of a 1970s mall. 

"There hasn't been a lot of interest in saving the [Aldergrove] mall," said Woodward, "Or any affinity for it as the centre of the town."

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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