Sevenoaks Shopping Centre

Sevenoaks Shopping Centre

New Sevenoaks owner planning condos, but will retain mall

David Chung hopes to build on back portion of prominent Abbotsford property

The new owner of Sevenoaks Shopping Centre wants to build condos and other mixed-use buildings on the property, but says the mall itself will remain.

In February, the mall was bought for $214 million in an unpublicized sale. The News learned about the sale in June, and recently determined Dava Developments, a Richmond-based development company, was the new owner.

On Tuesday, David Chung, the owner and founder of Dava, told The News that his company will be working with the city to come up with a plan that could see highrises built on the 35-acre property.

While the mall will continue operating, Chung said his company wants “to do something different” with the site as a whole.

“We’ve been talking to the city. They’re very receptive to some kind of high-density urban type of development there,” he said. “This is the city centre. They [want] to see some ambitious development of the site that will make Abbotsford grow.”

Chung said his company will look to build residential buildings, primarily at the back of the property.

He said the parking lots in the front of the property will stay because contracts with major tenants require a certain amount of parking to be provided. He said the closure of Sears provides more flexibility, but the space will remain retail-oriented.

“We’ll just transform it to some other kind of retail space, for other retailers,” he said. “But the back portion, it can be more residential, more parkades. It’s something that we have to work with some good architects, and come up with some idea with the city.”

Any development will require the property to be rezoned, which means council will have the final say on any proposal.

The city’s new official community plan (OCP) encourages the building of condominiums and multi-family housing, particularly in the city centre. And city staff are currently drafting a plan for the newly defined City Centre running along South Fraser Way. The Sevenoaks property is the largest single block in the area and will be key to any such plan.

The OCP adopted by council last year envisioned South Fraser Way transforming into an “urban boulevard,” with six-storey mixed-use buildings, rather than parking lots, lining the thoroughfare. The OCP states that parking in the city centre should be located behind buildings and that developers should be incentivized to eliminate surface parking lots.

As for Sevenoaks itself, Chung said malls continue to have a place in the retail sector.

“People still want to go out as an outing; they want to feel the thing they’re buying,” he said. “It’s like a picnic sometimes for families. So we will change the mall in that direction, for what people need and want may be something that will attract them coming if they’re buying online.”

As an example of how large mall sites are densifying, Chung pointed to the multi-billion-dollar redevelopments of the Lougheed and Brentwood malls in Burnaby, where dozens of condo towers are planned. He said Abbotsford might not be “at that stage yet,” but spoke of the city as “another nucleus” in B.C. that has the potential to see substantial growth in the future.

“In Abbotsford, I think once you start doing it, people will come … It’s like a spiral. You build it and they will come. And when they come, you build more.”

Click here for the full Q & A interview with David Chung.