Okanagan Falls Review

Developing Delta: Tsawwassen First Nation leads local development

An artistic concept of what the Aquilini Development Group
An artistic concept of what the Aquilini Development Group's Tsawwassen Shores will look like when completed.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The most ambitious development in Delta, if not the entire country, lies on a mere 724 hectares of land belonging to the Treaty First Nation of the Tsawwassen people.

The development plans of the Tsawwassen First Nation, population 439, includes an estimated target density of 4,381 people from the construction of 1,584 single-detached homes and townhomes, and 280 apartmment units, all on 99-year leases.

Two massive shopping malls situated on 48 hectares of land will provide 167,000-square-meters (1.8 million-square-feet) of retail space built by Ivan Cambridge Ltd., and Property Development Group.

A further 560,000-square metre (6 million-square-feet) industrial space will be built in close proximity to Deltaport to take advantage of the imminent expansion there.

In early September, TFN announced the construction of a new marine container inspection facility on a 4.4-hectare (11-acre) site, funded by both Port Metro Vancouver and Canadian federal governments. That facility is slated to open in the summer of 2015. Accompanying this announcement is a proposal to create a truck servicing station on a small parcel of land to take advantage of the truck container traffic arriving from the newly built South Fraser Perimeter Road.

The First Nation government is also a proposal for a 23-hectare (57 acre) project that would create 111,000-square-metres (1.2 million-square-feet) of warehouse space. If completed, it would become the largest warehousing space in the province.

TFN recently hired Deloitte as a consultant to complete an study of the economic benefits of the First Nation's development plans.

"The current initiatives will generate $1.21 billon in total construction spending, generating $348 million in construction employment income, and $75.7 million in property tax revenue," said Chief Bryce Williams. "Ongoing direct and indirect employment from the completion of these projects will yield a further $235 million in permanent employment income and an additional $23.3 million in income tax revenue."

TFN also announced on Oct. 11 the solution to the long-standing sewer issue, with the construction of its own on site sanitary sewer treatment plant to service Tsawwassen Treaty lands.

The sanitary plant will be constructed through a design-build contract with Maple Reinders Inc., and is expected to be built and operational by summer 2015 in time to service anticipated growth at TFN.

"It's really good to see things on the go and it's going to be very beneficial to our community for many generations to come and that's what it's all about," said Williams, adding the projects will provide benefits to the entire region.

John Scott, vice president of development with Ivanhoe Cambridge, said their 111,000-square-metre Tsawwassen Mills mall is on schedule, with site preparation activities ongoing, which includes trucking in fill material and making seismic improvements to the ground prior to construction.

Modelled after the successful mega malls of Vaughn Mills in Toronto and CrossIron Mills in Calgary, Scott said Tsawwassen Mills is nevertheless a unique retail development in B.C. Ivanhoe Cambridge studied the market and location thoroughly before proceeding with the mega project, and despite the fact Delta only has a population of 100,000, the company believes the malls will be full.

Simply put, if they build it, people will come.

"The malls will draw from a much greater geographical area than a traditional shopping centre because of the unique mix of retail," he said.

Tsawwassen Mills will generate 1,600 construction jobs, and when fully built would produce 3,000 full and part-time retail jobs, with about two-thirds of those falling in the part-time category.

Scott said that although this is the first project Ivanoe Cambridge has spearheaded with a First Nations government, their working relationship has been good.

"Of course, they're a much smaller entity than a municipality would be from a staffing perspective, but from a structural and a government perspective it is very similar to working with a municipality," he said.

Meanwhile, Aquilini Development Group is about ready to begin building the first 42 homes of an 850-home project called Tsawwassen Shores. Site preparation which includes the building of roads, installing street lights, and connecting sewers and water, is nearly complete.

Kevin Hoffman, vice president of Aquilini Development, said the company has begun pre-sales of the homes, which will start at $499,000.

"It's almost unbeatable compared to other areas around the Lower Mainland," he said. "I'd say we're extremely competitive."

Hoffman said there hasn't really been residential development of this size in Tsawwassen in a long time, noting much of that is due to the agricultural land that surrounds it. But the TFN treaty in 2007 secured 433 hectares of land that was previously trapped inside the Agricultural Land Reserve that can now be developed into malls and homes.

"There's pros and cons," concedes Hoffman. "I guess there's a lot of people that don't want to see growth, they want to see the status quo. And that's fine. That's probably one of the reasons people move to Delta, is that it is a slow growing community."

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