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Tsawout eye Langford-style shopping centre

Feb 07 2012

A proposed shopping centre on Tsawout First Nation land in Central Saanich would be similar to developments in Langford, the prospective developer says, although he won't name any specific tenants.

The 650,000-square-foot proposed development at the corner of the Pat Bay Highway and Jesken Road would have two or three large retailers, three to five "midbox retailers" and numerous other spots for restaurants and smaller users, Keith McRae said Monday.

He is representing Property Development Group, a Vancouver company working with the Tsawout band on the proposal.

"It would be largely the same retailers you see in Langford," he said.

McRae gave a short presentation to Central Saanich council Monday night about the project.

Few details have been provided, and there were so many residents there to hear the proposal that they spilled into the municipal hall lobby.

There have long been rumours that Costco would be an anchor tenant.

Tsawout First Nation Coun. Allan Claxton said it is up to the developer to determine the tenants.

Asked if Costco was a potential anchor tenant, Claxton said, "We're not saying no or yes to anyone. Costco has always been at the door."

Claxton and fellow Coun. Toby Joseph said the development could provide the First Nation with independence and self-sufficiency.

"This would take us from a position of dependence to independence," Joseph told the Central Saanich council.

"What we see is opportunity," he said. "Opportunity for our people to grow, opportunity to gain back pride and respect — maybe not so much from the outside but from inside ourselves."

Up to 2,500 jobs would be created during construction and in the shopping centre, council heard.

There is an 18 per cent unemployment rate in the Tsawout First Nation, compared to an eight per cent average on Vancouver Island.

The project is still in the early stages, McRae said, and is dependent on improved access to the site from the highway and from Central Saanich Road.

Developments have been proposed for the site in the past but lack of access has always stalled any project.

McRae said they are working with the Ministry of Transportation but wouldn't say how far along they are in terms of an agreement on access.

"The most efficient access to the site that meets with Ministry of Transportation long-term goals for the corridor is an overpass at Jesken Road," he said.

Claxton said he's been through similar processes with developers in the past, but this proposal "is the closest we have been to reality."

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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