August 25, 2015

McArthur Glen 2 measured in Jakriborgs – Another Perspective from Neil21

An excerpt from Neil21’s blog, who posted this a year ago:

I touched on all these themes in my initial reaction to the plans here I offered an alternative plan and narrative for Templeton.

And I also learned from responses – like the land has a federal/first-nation ownership which (like that other horrible new mall) incentivizes cash-grabs over seven-generation thinking.


Budget luxury: counting Jakriborgs on Sea Island


“Luxury outlet” isn’t the only contradiction in this architectural kitschtrosity that Vancouver Airport Authority has planned for Sea Island. …

Let us briefly examine the opportunity cost of 30 these acres, served by rapid transit, and in a Metropolitan region that is famously desperate for housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods.

Jakriborg is a village in Sweden that broke ground in 1999. It is home to 500 families on a 12.5 acre site. Many urbanist bloggers enjoy asking, when confronted with a large parking lot (mostly park-and-rides): How Many Jakriborgs Is That?





The 30 acres of our Sea Island site could fit almost two and a half Jakriborgs. That would be home to over 1,000 families who – presumably – would all have to have a wage earner or two each. Boom: there’s your 1,000 jobs, and maybe twice that.

But wait – what kind of jobs? Well, if you were seeding a new town at this transit station, with thin walkable streets and many flanked by the active storefronts of live-work units, you might expect the businesses to be locally owned. That would bring all the local economic multipliers – use of local accountants, lawyers, suppliers etc. – that branches of international chains doesn’t.

The opportunity cost of this land use and design is unimaginable. Shame.

Picture this…

Flying from Asia to Toronto? Why not break your trip, with a night in Templeton! This gorgeous urban village of just under 4,000 people showcases some of the best West Coast modern architecture of the 21st century. The cosy, narrow streets are reminiscent of the back streets of Tokyo or Amsterdam, and the town square, with its iconic Bill Reid sculpture and dozens of small bars and restaurants, is a popular weekend spot for Vancouverites. Alternatively, catch a show downtown – only 30 minutes away by rapid skytrain – before returning to Templeton for a nightcap, and a great night’s sleep in any of the charming boutique B&Bs.


Still reading? Here’s more.

I’m genuinely interested to learn more about the economic rationale for this move by VAA. Here’s what I think the situation was:

  • VAA owns the land outright, freehold.
  • VAA leases the land to Mall Developer Inc for 30 years, and so gets its rent. They can then ignore it, and leave the provincial taxpayer to pick up the induced congestion cost on roads etc.
  • Mall Developer Inc. pays for water, electricity connection etc. I sincerely hope no discounts are offered. They lay their pipes, build their buildings, and get in all the brands they already work with to lease the space.
  • In 30 years… well, that’s somebody else’s problem. Maybe the lease will be renewed. Maybe VAA will be left with a dead mall. Maybe someone will redevelop it.

So in order to develop a pseudo organic town, VAA would either

  • have to find a developer willing to take the lease on the whole site, or
  • would have to be willing to take a slower drip, drip of income, as the developer built the site out, sold lots and profit shared (note that VAA could potentially offer mortgage financing to those on the site, so that if they don’t pay, VAA gets the building)

Is that right?

For example, how did it work for Sean Hodgins’ Century Group on Southlands? Did they own the site outright, or a lease on it? How does it work for other New Urbanist developments?


Ok, so I now see the land is Musqueam owned, held by the Feds/Queen, and leased to VAA. That makes the deal sound like grab-the-cash-and-run Tsawwassen First Nation’s mall. Sustaina-what?!


Although McArthurGlen calls it a “joint deal” with the Airport, which may just be spin, or may indicate some skin in the game by VAA?

Note that my main beef is with VAA’s short-termist cash grab, not the mall guys. They’re doing what they do: they have a model, and they stamp it out, sucking on the generous teat of public infrastructure investments globally. A transit station, a highway investment, then parking here, open-air faux streets here. Boom. On to the next.

But is this really why the Federal Government invested taxpayers’ funds in the Canada Line? An airport at one end, real urbanism at the other, and mall crap at every stop in between? Why not seed a village at every stop? Isn’t that what transit’s for?

Here’s VAA’s local stakeholder responsibility statement. And here’s VAA’s ownership structure:

YVR is managed and operated by Vancouver Airport Authority under a long-term lease with the federal government. A not-for-profit, community-based organization, the Airport Authority reinvests all earnings into airport development and improvements and is governed by a community-based Board of Directors.

OK, so *all* the land is Federal?

Fascinatingly candid interview with the mall developer:

But you’ve still come to the conclusion that it’s worth the time and effort?

Yes, we’ve learned a lot over the years from a planning point of view as to what will and what won’t work. I think that getting closer to town centres is probably the key to obtaining permission in Germany because many of our visitors will also shop there.

For instance, an initial application near a motorway failed for Remscheid, but we are now quite optimistic about obtaining planning approval for a site at a former football stadium adjoining the town centre.

Why not go whole hog and move straight into town centres?

While we should love to go into a town centre and own it, we would need the whole town centre to make it work.

As town centres rightly need numerous small local services, such as chemists, banks, butchers, newsagents etc., it would be wrong for us to move there.

So we are a different offer, and therefore the ideal location for an outlet is to be near to, rather than directly in, a town centre so that all parties can benefit.

Comparing Sea Island and Seaside, FL.


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  1. Gord, I appreciate that you help raise the profile of some of your readers’ blogs by reposting material that they have written, however in this case I think that some editorial narrative and fact-checking about retail at airports would be informative to your readers.

    Neil21’s piece does paint a beautiful scene of a ‘Westcoast hutong’ with residential land uses at Templeton Station, but it’s a fantasy, and one that YVR would have been prohibited from pursuing.

    Transport Canada requires airports to maintain Noise Exposure Contour maps and permitted land uses within the escalating decibel noise contours is strictly defined. YVR’s 2010 noise contour map (figure 19) and forecast 2015 noise contour map (figure 20) can be found on page 29 of this document:

    The location of the outlet mall is within the 2010 35-30 dB noise contour (as illustrated in figure 19) and the forecast 2015 (figure 20) noise contour map predicts that the outlet mall site would be inside an expanded 40-35 dB noise contour.

    Transport Canada simply prohibits residential land uses in 30> dB noise contours, meaning that it was never on the table for consideration at the outlet mall site. The permitted and recommended land uses are described by Transport Canada in this document:

    1. Oops, the last part of the first sentence should have read “…some editorial narrative and fact-checking about residential at airports…”

        1. Templeton Station was funded by $300 million from YVR, along with all other on-airport Canada Line infrastructure, to support the airport’s long-term land use master plan goals, including the relocation of employee parking to the edge of the airport precinct.

          Relocating the employee parking lot to its present location adjacent to Templeton Station is an excellent use of this otherwise unusable space, since no other land uses except a parking lot are allowed because of the noise contour and adjacency to the Runway Protection Zone (which was recently enlarged by several hundred metres due to runway overrun events in Toronto and elsewhere in the world). This is why the outlet mall is where it is and not closer to the station.

          Relocating the employee parking also supports the airport’s medium- to long-term plan to build an eastern taxiway to directly connect the north and south runways. This will significantly improve airport efficiency and reduce aircraft taxi times between their gates and the runways. Reducing taxi time lowers an aircraft’s fuel burn and leads to an overall reduction of aircraft dwell times before the planes can get back in the air with new passengers for another revenue flight.

          The future eastern taxiway will ascend up enough to cross the Canada Lien just east of Sea Island Station and cross over Grant McConachie Way, which will be lowered slightly. YVR needed to ensure that the Canada Line was built in the correct location and at grade (as opposed to elevated) to accommodate this long-term plan.

          The new taxiway will allow the airport to accommodate a greater number of aircraft movements with its existing runway and gate infrastructure, saving millions by pushing back the point at which additional gates are required, but primarily to save hundreds of millions by delaying the need for a third parallel runway.

          YVR put its $300 million into the Canada Line to ensure that its long-term land use plan was not compromised, and fixing it later would have cost far more. This was in addition to the Federal Government’s $450 million; the Government of British Columbia’s $435 million; TransLink’s $334 million; the City of Vancouver’s $29 million; and InTransitBC’s private sector investment of ~$600 million.

          I do love the idea of a Westcoast Hutong somewhere in the city. Perhaps on the False Creek Flats?

          1. Again, oops. (I need to re-read these more carefully before posting at the end of a coffee break.)

            The fourth paragraph should have read: “The future eastern taxiway will ascend up enough to cross the Canada Line just west of Sea Island Station and cross over Grant McConachie Way…”

        2. As far as I recall, the original sole intention for Templeton Station was to connect the airport with a new long term as well as all-inclusive employee parking lot, apparently not originally envisioning the mall which, according to Bob (commenting here: ), originally “…was supposed to be between the BCIT hangar and the Dinsmore Bridge, which has very little transit connectivity. The new location was chosen because YVR and the developer did want it to be more accessible by the Canada Line.”

  2. Thanks for reposting Gord, but David Godin has me well and truly beat this time.

    I wonder whether there are any global examples of good urbanism under flight paths? Are Transport Canada’s limits more stringent than, say, England’s?

    1. Exactly my thoughts – there’s a reason that there ISN’T residential at Templeton – because you’d get all the NIMBY’s wanting to shut down the airport.
      A little common sense, please.

      1. Although even if Noise Exposure Contour maps, etc., did not directly restrict residential, in my and many people’s view, once you move under or near to the flightpath of a growing airport, as with moving onto an already or a potentially busy road corridor of a growing city, any noise complaints should have no standing except to serve as a demonstration and cautionary tale for the public of your ineptitude as a home buyer.

    2. So you wrote the article without actually having visited Macarthur Glen and realizing planes are just a couple hundred feet above your head?!

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