Tsawwassen Mills’ Big Day

Tsawwassen Mills, the mega mall on Class 1 farmland between the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and Highway 99 opens today to breathless fanfare. As reported in the Delta Optimist  “A throng of eager shoppers is expected to descend on the 1.2-million-square-foot shopping centre, which has been intensely advertising incentives to lure those looking for deals.”

Located just off Highway 17 at 52nd Street, the mall will open with 180 stores including 16 anchor tenants, but will eventually have 200 retailers. Those retailers have had a tough time getting minimum wage workers to staff the mall, which does not have good transit connections and a dense population nearby to service the mall. Indeed on the Tsawwassen Mills website the hours of operation have been scaled back to 9:00 p.m. on weekdays from a more ambitious 10:00 p.m. closing.

The mall is estimating that up to 20 per cent of customers will be from outside Metro Vancouver, “including tourists and shoppers from other parts of the province”. 

The Delta Optimist happily predicts  “It remains to be seen if the 6,000 stalls in the parking lot will be enough for opening day, which is expected to clog local roads with traffic”.  Yes, in Delta, success is measured not in modal transportation splits but in parking spaces occupied. Motordom reigns on the south side of the Fraser.

The CBC  quotes retail consultant David Gray with a more cautionary note on how this largest of malls will be successful:

“It’s not going to be a slam dunk They’re not going to be a convenience mall or mall for locals. Sure, locals will shop there, but for them to be successful, they’re going to be what’s known as a destination mall or a mall where people are going to make some pretty major time investments for their shopping trips.”

If you are making the trek out to this mall of malls, do comment and let Price Tags know your observations and your predictions on the success of  this monolith to 20th century merchandising.


Published by Sandy James Planner

I am a city planner, author and plenary speaker writing and publishing about current planning issues. The intersect between health and city planning is vital to me. I've worked across North America and the world, and co-edit the Canadian Urban Planning Blog "Price Tags.ca". I am passionate about places and people and creating healthy cities we all want to live in. My TEDx talk is about three neighbourhood heroes that transformed their communities with the "Power of Walking". I am also the Director of Walk Metro Vancouver, and the past chair of the International Walk21 Vancouver Conference. Twitter: sandyjamesplanner@gmail.com Blog: sandyjamesplanner.wordpress.com www.walkmetrovan.ca

12 thoughts on “Tsawwassen Mills’ Big Day

  1. Of course, “Motordom reigns on the south side of the Fraser.” It’s 800 square kilometres — half of metro Vancouver’s inhabited land area — and it has only 4 rapid transit stations. So no surprise there. The surprising thing is how many people actually use transit here — where it’s available. As we tell our disbelieving friends, we went to China on the bus last year. We commute to Vancouver by bus/Canada Line.
    As PeeWee Herman said, however, “Everybody’s got a big but” and the big but here is that transportation within the south of Fraser area is meagre. So people here (yes, I live in Surrey) look at their cars the way Vancouverites look at their single family houses: they’re sacred until you show me something better. The problem (and Tsawwassen Mills is the apotheosis of this) is that the only thing anyone with the power or the money wants to show us is more of the same.


    1. This map illustrates what you are saying. However, there is still room for density of all kinds and much improved transit in the weaker areas indicated on the Burrard peninsula and the rises of Surrey and Coquitlam. The North Shore will need greater connectivity in future as well.


    2. But there is also a correlation with this map, which indicates the role of land use and geography in determining the best levels of development and transit.


  2. I’m totally disgusted with the mall. It is the worst example of sprawl I can imagine. I have no intention of giving them any business at all. I predict it will die a slow painful death – but the big box retail now under construction will likely survive. Welcome back to 1980.


    1. Give your fellow south of the Fraser inhabitants some credit please. Many folks love cars, love wide boulevards, love a back yard and love a big house with 3 car garages. Not everyone likes tiny 650 sq ft 2BR condos !
      Different strokes for different folks.
      A metroplex needs to accommodate ALL forms of families or income groups or transportation preferences. Not all prefer to bike in the rain, for example, or even to take a bus with strangers. Some like their new shiny car with leather seats and the 8 way stereo, by themselves !


      1. I think what needs to be realized is that there’s a difference between seeing something as not going to last and unattainable by all and seeing it as bad.
        It would be great if everyone in the world were able to pass the drivers test, have the ability to drive, afford their own motor vehicle and there was room for the movement and storage of all of these. That would be really great. It’s not possible though.
        People pointing out the impossibilities in that and wanting alternatives to be available in addition to it is different than criticizing it. People will of course but it’s misdirected. Instead they should be saying “We want to cycle to this mall”, “We want to take a Skytrain to this mall”, “We want to walk to this mall” instead of saying “This mall is bad because you can only drive to it”.


  3. ^And that bus route travels every half an hour, and at 15 minute intervals in peak hours. I am critical of this mall as well, but Pricetags has been misleading and making it sound like this mall is in some transit desert where the car is the only option. Transit doesn’t need to be rapid transit to be effective, and the 601 will provide more than adequate access to the mall. I heard bus drivers talking about the massive crowds that were on the buses going there yesterday. Obviously it’s different for opening day, but clearly transit will be an important factor in accessing this mall.
    South Delta supports the 601 very well. I understand that its population alone won’t be enough to support the mall, but it shouldn’t be discounted either. As a resident of Ladner, I’m glad I won’t have to go all the way to Richmond any time I need something.


      1. Yes they did, it goes down 52 Street now and takes a dog leg up Highway 17 to get onto 56 Street. I didn’t mention the 609 and the 620 because they are very infrequent and can’t really be considered to be convenient mall connections. And while the 601 is nothing like Vancouver buses, it is still the flagship route in South Delta which and is very well utilized considering the area’s built form.


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