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Oakridge Centre’s New Clothes

When developers want to drop a ‘city’ in a neighbourhood, here’s what it looks like.

By Christopher Cheung 13 Mar 2019 |

Christopher Cheung reports on urban issues for The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung.

Don’t call it a mall.

The developers turning Oakridge Centre into a new hub with 10 residential high-rises, offices, shops, cultural centres and a nine-acre rooftop park see their creation as a “city.”

It will look like this:

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Credit: Westbank/Henriquez Partnership Architects.

But how do you land a city in a relatively suburban neighbourhood?

Oakridge Centre was Vancouver’s first shopping mall. Originally 28 acres of nature owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it was developed in 1959 by Woodward’s department stores. In the 1980s, it was renovated from an outdoor mall to an indoor one.

Oakridge in the 1960s, looking southwest from Cambie and 41st. Collection of John Atkin.

Oakridge Centre is quite diverse compared to other car-oriented suburban malls. It hosts a mix of uses (shops, commercial and medical offices, a seniors’ centre, a preschool, a library and more) and is surrounded by a mix of densities (mid-rise and high-rise offices and apartments). And, as of 2009, it also has a Canada Line station.

Visit the mall today and you will see people of all ages: parents with strollers picking up produce and picture books, students from nearby high schools hanging out, the neighbourhood’s seniors meeting for their weekly coffee and chat, three generations enjoying a family meal at the White Spot.

Westbank and QuadReal are both developing the site, which is owned by QuadReal.

According to the developers’ marketing — found all over the mall and at the exhibit and “sales atelier,” in the space which used to be a Zellers — the new Oakridge will continue to serve locals with amenities such as a 3,000-seat music venue, a 100,000-square-foot community centre and the rooftop park.

But the marketing also points to a more global Oakridge, with designers for the project from Italy and Japan and food by well-known chefs such as David Chang and Vikram Vij.

The first batch of units, according to the Vancouver Courier, sold from about $800,000 to $5.7 million.

This is in a neighbourhood where households make an average of $100,500 a year, according to the 2016 census.

The new Oakridge will be completed in phases. The first homes, shops and offices are due in 2022 and the final residential building in 2025. The old mall will remain open throughout the redevelopment, though portions will be renovated, also in phases so it doesn’t have to close.

Will the new Oakridge fit in with the existing community? Here are images from the transition.

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‘Photos are welcomed. Please do not enter.’
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Coming soon: Freegamo , Kate, Ban-Ray and Dassimo Mutti.
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A video — featuring Westbank founder and CEO Ian Gillespie — plays behind models of some of the developer’s projects, including Vancouver House and The Butterfly.
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Visitors of the Unwritten exhibition are invited to submit their comments for a calligrapher to write. Some of them include: ‘Blown away,’ ‘At Oakridge, expect the unexpected,’ ‘Well done but cannot afford to buy’ and ‘Great places to sit while my wife goes shopping.’
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