Local retailers are preparing for a future that will most likely include two major malls on Tsawwassen First Nation land.
Ana Arciniega, executive director of the Tsawwassen Business Improvement Association, told the Optimist there's no doubt the developments will impact local businesses, however, most have a good chance of surviving.
"We did a quick analysis of our members to see who would most likely be affected and who probably wouldn't be affected. We figured that about 20 per cent of our businesses would directly be affected," she said.
"The others are a lot of the services and smaller businesses that probably wouldn't. There's always stuff you need that's in your neighbourhood, like your dry cleaning, your bank, there's relationships already," Arciniega said. "For those who are going to be affected, we need to be creative on how they can build more loyalty from their existing customers. There might be some strategies they can start implementing now in order to be ready when this mall opens."
Arciniega said it's also important for businesses to get together to take proactive measures, which is why the Tsawwassen BIA has started working the Ladner Businesses Association to come up with a comprehensive tourism plan and promotion strategy.
Chief Kim Baird said the TFN is committed to working with both businesses associations to minimize any potential impacts on local businesses. She said some informal meetings between the three parties have taken place so far but no formal plan has been outlined.
Baird said most of the stores in the proposed malls will be different than existing businesses in the area, minimizing any potential negative impacts.
The TFN notes market research has shown developments of this size and format attract new shoppers to an area, increasing local visitation as the community becomes a new shopping destination.
The Tsawwassen First Nation's historic urban treaty came into effect 2009, adding 1,072 acres to a land base that at the time was 716 acres. The TFN was allowed to remove over 500 acres from the Agricultural Land Reserve, including the site where the malls will be located.
Other post-treaty changes on the horizon include a major housing development, which will bring thousands of new residents to South Delta.
On another front, the TFN signed a memorandum of understanding with Port Metro Vancouver last summer to develop industrial land under a joint venture.
Studies are currently underway on the feasibility of that project and a decision is expected this summer. Ground was already broken by the TFN on a new logistics centre to complement port activities.
Not all the treaty settlement lands are to be developed, however. The TFN will soon begin an "agricultural strategy process" for its roughly 200 acres designated as agricultural. A steering committee will be formed to direct that strategy.