The southeast portion of the Valley Line is scheduled for completion in late 2020. There’s a good chance redevelopment plans won’t get rolling until trains start arriving at the stations along the route. The Journal spoke to three landowners to get a sense of their appetite for redevelopment.
Click on one of the large stations for information about the line at that spot. Click here to see the FAQ again.
Where will it be? The southeast portion of the Valley Line will run 13.1 kilometres from Mill Woods to downtown, where riders can connect to the existing Capital Line. The Valley Line will be extended in the future to Lewis Farms, which is located west of West Edmonton Mall.
When is it being built? Construction of the $1.8-billion southeast LRT should start in 2016 and it’s expected to open by the end of 2020. The line is being built as a P3 (public-private partnership). The city has issued a request for qualifications, where consortia that want to bid on the project submit their qualifications for review. Three consortia will be shortlisted and invited to submit requests for proposals that outline their bids to design, build, finance, provide vehicles, operate and maintain the line.
How will it differ from the existing line? The city describes the Valley Line as an “urban” LRT system, with smaller-scale stops that have been placed closer together and offer more direct transit, pedestrian and cyclist connections. There will be 11 street-level stops and one above-ground station (Davies) on the southeast LRT line. The Davies Station will have an elevator and escalator.
How long will it take? The ride from Mill Woods to downtown will take 30 minutes, with trains running every five minutes during peak hours.
The Bonnie Doon Mall was built in 1959 and has gone through several incarnations. The southeast LRT line could be the catalyst for another change in the look, feel, and structure of the mall.
But significant changes would happen in the “long term,” said Dale Sherman, director of retail asset management for Morguard, the real estate and property management company that owns Bonnie Doon Mall and the surrounding land.
“It’s certainly longer-term planning and we have a number of tenants with longer-term leases in place,” Sherman said.
An LRT stop would make the trip to downtown short and quick, and could bring the opportunity for higher density redevelopment.
“In the long term, it’s something we’d want to consider,” she said.
However, there are no timelines for redevelopment at the shopping centre site.
Strathearn Heights Ltd. wants to build almost 2,000 housing units and 70,000 square feet of commercial retail space near a new LRT stop in the residential community of Strathearn.
But such a massive building project must be co-ordinated with LRT construction, said David Kent, president and CEO of Nearctic Development Corp., one of two partner companies in Strathearn Heights Ltd.
“The LRT is coming right down 95th Avenue and they have to build the stop, ending at 88th Street. We need to co-ordinate, timing wise. How are we going to gain access to our properties? From where? What does that mean for the community in terms of construction? How can we best mitigate the disruption?”
Plans for a new development in the residential neighbourhood have long been discussed. The community once sustained a Safeway, but changing demographics have meant many amenities have disappeared, Kent said.
“We’re hoping that with the increased population that we will have sufficient people so the retail commercial component can thrive,” Kent said.
“It can be the walkability that’s available from the existing neighbourhood, and the neighbourhood that we’ll be creating, and people getting on and off the LRT.
We want that kind of vibrancy.”
Kent has estimated a six- to 10-year build-out period for the entire site. If the market stalls, there is a “master plan” that will dictate different phases of development, Kent said. But the first 400 to 500 units, opening in conjunction with the new LRT line, are critical for the rest of the plan to thrive, he said.
The two major landowners near the future Mill Woods LRT stop appear to have different levels of enthusiasm for redevelopment of their sites.
RioCan, in partnership with Bayfield Realty Advisors, owns Mill Woods Town Centre and some undeveloped land at the north end of the mall site.
“These older ‘suburban malls,’ they’ve become pseudo-urban in location and lend themselves to higher density and maybe mixed use,” said Stuart Craig, the company’s vice-president of planning and development.
RioCan is primarily a retail land owner but there is new interest in re-investing in older properties to make them grow and diversify, Craig said. Mill Woods Town Centre is one of about 20 shopping centres across the country where RioCan is examining possibilities for re-development.
The company has taken on a multi-building residential highrise project at a similar mall site in Calgary. Craig said RioCan has been working with the City of Edmonton for about a year to discuss the Mill Woods site.
“Our focus right now is putting planning policies in place and setting the stage for a design that will work for everyone,” he said. “It’s not a one- or two-year thing. ... This is a longer-term planning exercise that probably won’t come to fruition for five to 10 years.”
Another major landowner in the area is Anthem Properties, which owns the unenclosed Millwoods Mainstreet Shopping Centre, at 66th Street and 28th Avenue.
The company bought the strip mall just over two years ago.
“We bought it because we thought it was a good food-anchored shopping centre. We didn’t buy it to blow it up and turn it into some highrise residential project,” said Bill Kennedy, executive vice-president of investments for Anthem.
Kennedy said Anthem has no plans to do anything significantly different with the site in the short-to-medium term.
“But I think, over time, the area immediately adjacent to the station and the bus stop will get denser and more residential. That’s something the city has suggested we look to and we will look to over time. But in these shopping centres, you have commitments to tenants that are longer-term commitments and it’s not that easy to reinvent the wheel.”