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School board considers selling Kingsgate Mall property

The suspicious death at Kingsgate Mall last week has been deemed accidental.

So, what the heck is going on with the Kingsgate Mall?

You may have heard: The Vancouver School Board owns the property on which the quirky, timeworn shopping centre at Kingsway and Broadway sits and is considering selling it.

So many questions here.

Will it be turned into condos? How about a nice park? Or, maybe a museum dedicated to the annual battles between the school board and the provincial government?

Mike Lombardi, the school board’s chairperson, correctly surmised there would be questions. So he emailed me his own question-and-answer document and I’ve done my best here to give it an edit for your reading pleasure.

Right off the top, I should mention any sale of the property (I’m still not sure what it’s worth, or how big it is) will not help the school board’s $24.3 million shortfall.

Why not?

“To be clear, VSB has not begun any negotiations or made any decisions about selling the Kingsgate Mall property,” Lombardi said. “If that decision were made after consultation with the public, the proceeds of the sale of capital would need to be applied to capital projects such as building new schools or dealing with deferred maintenance upgrades.”

Also, it should be made clear the school board doesn’t own the actual mall. Nope, the Beedie Group owns and operates it. The school board has a long-term lease on the building and retail operations. That lease comes up for review in late 2017.

In the meantime, Lombardi said, the school board wants to be “transparent with the public about our ownership and solicit feedback from area residents about what they value at that location – now, and into the future.”

That feedback can be sent via email or Twitter. Or, if that doesn’t work for you, the board is hosting a show-and-tell May 1 at the mall, from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

But hang on a sec here…didn’t the school board commit to not sell its properties?

“The board passed a motion not to sell school properties in their entirety, as an investment in the future for Vancouver students,” Lombardi said. “That does not preclude the board from considering partial sales or lease of school properties, or entering into discussions about non-school properties.”

The school board owns three other properties without schools on them. All are used by the district. They are the nursery grounds and facility at 5905 Wales St., the school board’s works yard at 1549 Clark Dr. and the school board offices at 1580 West Broadway.

The history of the school board’s connection to the property goes back to the 1800s, when the board and the city acquired parcels of land at the mall site. Mount Pleasant school was built on the land in 1892. Then in 1962, as the area became a traffic and commercial hub, a new school was built nearby on Guelph Street. The mall was built in the early 1970s.

The site is currently zoned for commercial use. Any zoning change would have to be approved by city council. I did a quick Google search to look into the crystal ball of what might happen on the property.

I came across a report by Acton Ostry Architects Inc. on the Rize mixed-use development currently being built across the street from the mall. Here’s a quote to keep in mind as you watch what happens to the mall.

“As Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Region expands, concentrated urban nodes will continue to grow and develop at significant points along busy arterial routes, such as Broadway and Kingsway. The Broadway and Kingsway node offers conditions that support high-density, transit-oriented developments.”

Here’s a better quote.

“Additional significant developments in the immediate vicinity include the Biltmore Hotel, Best Western Hotel and Kingsgate Mall, which has been identified in the [Mount Pleasant Community Plan] as a future large-scale mixed-use residential development site.”

So, no museum?