EDMONTON – The largest shopping mall in North America wants to get bigger.
Triple Five Group CEO David Ghermezian said his company is close to attaining all city approvals for a major expansion of West Edmonton Mall.
The plans call for a new wing on the south side of the mall atop the surface parking lot between 87th Avenue and the water park. It will house a luxury department store and 150,000 square feet of ancillary retail space. The new development would also add about 800 parking stalls to WEM’s inventory of 20,000.
“I’d build a deck outside the water park and build straight out Entrance 50 pretty much all the way to 87th Avenue,” said Ghermezian, who is still waiting on transportation approvals.
“It will be right out to the edge of the new LRT line coming to the mall.”
Ghermezian does not have a deal with an anchor tenant, but said it will be a luxury retailer. That’s the kind of tenant he prefers.
“The better American names and certainly the luxury, international retailers are the ones we’re after. Those are the top five brands you would find in a Holt Renfrew, for example. Without naming names, luxury is luxury, the same tenants Yorkdale (in Toronto) has.”
That list probably has the names Burberry, Cartier and Versace on it, given that Yorkdale calls them tenants and WEM does not.
Kyle Murray, director of the School of Retailing at the University of Alberta, said the mall is likely trying to meet demand from prospective tenants.
“I think they have tenants like department stores who are coming to them and saying, ‘If we’re coming to Edmonton, we want to be in the mall,’ and they have to turn around and say ‘we’re out of space,’” Murray said.
“They need more space if they’re going to keep adding retailers, and it is one of those places where retailers want to go in Canada because of the traffic and the large trade area.”
Among several applications Brinsmead Kennedy Architecture has made to the city for development permits are a request to to build an accessory parking structure and for interior alterations such as constructing stairs, escalators and demolishing walls to develop a retail space.
Coun. Andrew Knack, who represents the ward in which the mall is located, said he had not heard about the proposed expansion.
“If this expansion is going to actually add parking stalls, it’s probably all the better for that area,” said Knack, who previously managed a business in the mall.
“I think expansion could be quite good. If we can continue to make one of our biggest attractions even more attractive to the rest of the world, why wouldn’t we try it?”
Knack said, however, he hopes the mall gives plenty of notice to council and its neighbours.
“I would hope that they would take the time to let council know if they’re looking to do something massive and give us a head’s-up so we can be proactive with the communities.”
Ghermezian did not give a timetable for the start of construction, but the expansion would come as west Edmonton prepares for the arrival of rapid transit; the Valley Line LRT, which will run from Mill Woods through downtown to Lewis Estates, is moving forward. The first half of the line, from Mill Woods to downtown, is expected to be built by 2020. Then, the second half to west Edmonton would begin.
West Edmonton Mall was built in phases between 1981 and 1998 — it last underwent a makeover in 2004. Currently, it has 800 stores, as well as two hotels, a water park, an amusement park, a skating rink and themed streets. It attracts about 32 million people a year.
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