British Columbia

TransLink aims to nearly double retail space in 5 years

TransLink is expecting to nearly double its retail space and revenue in the next five years as it revamps stations on the Expo Line.

Leasing retail space generates $500,000 per year in revenue, says transit operator

Several stations on the Expo Line are undergoing renovations, which will add more retail space. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

TransLink says it's expecting to nearly double its retail space and revenue in the next five years as it revamps stations on its Expo Line.

The transit operator currently leases 10,000 square feet to 11 retailers on the train line that runs from downtown Vancouver's Waterfront station to points in both Surrey and Burnaby.

TransLink expects to grow its retail footprint to 17,000 square feet by 2022, with the addition of new retailers in Renfrew, Rupert, King George and Stadium stations.

"If we're lucky, we'll get up to 20,000," said Guy Akester, TransLink's director of real estate programs and partnerships.

TransLink generates $500,000 each year from its retail leases, which it expects to double over the next five years. It took in $413 million in fares in 2016. 

In recent years, retailers have set up shop around transit locations, but TransLink hasn't had a hand in development.

"We came out of five years of austerity as an enterprise," Akester said. 

"Our ridership was growing but our budget didn't change. We needed to invest a little bit … to provide these new retail opportunities."

Provides safety

The Main Street-Science World station now leases space to Starbucks, Tim Hortons and A&W after undergoing major renovations. 

Retailers such as A&W are open 24/7, boosting the sense of safety for customers at the stations, Akester said.

Patti Parente, A&W's vice-president of real estate, said opening a location in the Main Street-Science World station was a "no brainer." 

"Our target guests — the millennials — are big transit users," she said.

Big-name brands like A&W and Starbucks have been able to operate spaces in stations just blocks away from standalone locations, Parente said.

Growing retail space

Retail leases are up for grabs at Gilmore and Holdom stations in Burnaby, and Vancouver's Burrard, Joyce-Collingwood and Rupert stations.

Commercial-Broadway will be the biggest station for retail, but the space won't be up for lease until next year.

Retail space has been included in several stations along the 11-kilometre Evergreen Line expansion, but no retailers are on board yet. 

"We'd love to get to 60 to 70 retail units of a variety of sizes ... across our entire network," Akester said.

He said the retail space works best outside the fare gates. The Expo and Millennium lines didn't have fare gates when they opened and some retailers are now stuck inside them.