Right-sizing the Richmond Walmart & its mall

BoxedIn

A Richmond News story—with the remarkable front-page graphic shown above—asks the headline question “Did area plan box city into a corner?” Here’s an answer.

In the West Cambie Area Plan, the maximum floor plate for the anchor store in an Alexandra Neighbourhood mall is 100,000 square feet. In contrast, the Walmart anchor store that’s now proposed for it has a floor area of 161,188 square feet. Just the increase alone is larger than an American football field—including end zones, plus lots of space for the teams on the sidelines.

Edit: Richmond’s manager of development has shown that the Walmart SuperCentre’s large floor area can in fact fit within the smaller floor plate because the SuperCentre has a  mezzanine floor  (almost invisible in the plans) with a large floor area that does not result in a larger floor plate. In other words, the store is a lot larger than citizens would expect but is technically not larger.

The total floor area of the proposed mall is larger than envisioned in the West Cambie Area Plan. However, it is less than half the minimum floor area the City of Richmond tried to impose on the developers. (Walmart and SmartCentres, the mall builder-manager, are joint venture partners.)

In short, the Walmart mall does not fit with the plan for a balanced community in the Alexandra Neighbourhood. However, the facts suggest it would not be quite fair to put the main blame on Walmart or SmartCentres.

Notes about sources:

The statement about the maximum floor area of the anchor store is on page 27 (PDF page 37) of the West Cambie Area Plan. It is in Section 8.2.2, for Character Area 2, which has become the Walmart mall area. The section does mention that proposals with a larger floor area “may be considered . . . where a high quality urban form is achieved,” but in this case it would be ludicrous to claim that is being achieved, and no such claim has been made.

The director of develoment’s statement about the Walmart floor area in the current plan is on page CNCL 407 of the agenda package for the Oct. 14 council meeting.

The evidence re total floor area is clear from part 1a of the planning committee recommendation on CNCL 8 in the agenda package. SmartCentres had prompted the stated reduction in the minimum floor area ratio (density) from 1.25 to 0.60.

ESA—Environmentally Sensitive Area

That Richmond News also gets into ESA, getting drawn into thinking that the ESA question is simply relate to further erosion of the remnant that is left. The real ESA question related to the Walmart mall is more extensive. This blog explained that bigger-picture ESA situation in “The Walmart mall and the ESA farce.”

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