I read on the Vancouver Sun website today that the new luxury outlet mall slated to be built on YVR property will now be located near Templeton Canada Line station, where previously it would be constructed on the vacant lot adjacent to Russ Baker Way. The City of Richmond and local residents had cited concerns about needing to locate the new mall near rapid transit service.
This is a good decision.
While the land adjacent to Russ Baker Way along the Fraser River will undoubtedly be developed in the near future, the necessary transit service does not exist on that corridor currently. The area is served by a community bus, the C92, which runs only 6 days per week, at limited frequency and span.
Active transportation modes near the Russ Baker Way land are not feasible at present. The road is a fast, heavily-traveled arterial without sidewalks, and the site is beyond walking distance from residences, and “downtown” Richmond. There are cycle paths on the No. 2 Road bridge and Russ Baker Way, but given the lack of physical separation from vehicles, the route is fairly hostile for cyclists too.
So that leaves the site car-dominated. It is also a choke point, collecting traffic funneled across two bridges (the No. 2 Road and Dinsmore). A new development would undoubtedly generate additional traffic, exacerbating the problem.
The new site, adjacent to Templeton Station, of course has the major advantage of being accessible to rapid transit, from the airport, Richmond, and downtown Vancouver. Patrons can visit the mall via the Canada Line going either to or from the airport, generating economic activity without generating vehicle traffic. It is also an “infill” site – it’s within the City of Richmond boundaries, so it’s not generating sprawl.
There are still valid arguments that the luxury outlet will cater to a niche market of wealthy international travelers, rather than local residents, and that it may be an inappropriate use of land. The site is near industrial uses – there is a Chevron fuel station nearby, and there are log booms on the river north of Sea Island. While it will generate revenue, this is possibly a missed opportunity to feature local products and services. It is also not applicable to increasing the efficiency or capability of the airport to move passengers and freight, which are its main focii.
I have also read suggestions for the site of a local farmers’ market, and a bike share station. The latter especially merits investigation, since the Canada Line bridge features an undercarriage for cyclists, and there are cycle paths on Sea Island, and across the No. 2 Road bridge onto Richmond’s dyke system. This would be a great way to showcase to tourists the natural beauty of Richmond and the Fraser River area.
Arguments of land use aside though, this is a great example of a development being located directly accessible to existing rapid transit, rather than built as sprawl, in an auto-centric location. It is also heartening that YVR changed the proposed location to be more in line with the City of Richmond and local residents’ focus on a sustainable location. Truly, if you build it, they will come.