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Sale of White Rock’s Royal Place mall a ‘tough call’ for family

Further change is in the wind for White Rock’s uptown landscape – Royal Place mall, located at the intersection of North Bluff and Johnston roads, sold last fall.

Owned since 1955 by Ray Woodward of Coast Motors, who died in June 2016, its fate is now in the hands of Langley-based RDG Management Ltd.

And exactly what might be in store for the 1578 Johnston Rd. site – RDG’s website notes a ‘White Rock Tower’ plan, however, it does not yet link to any specific details (including whether the Royal Place property is being eyed for it) – became more clear Monday.

That’s when the city’s land use and planning committee learned that a major development permit application had been submitted for the site, proposing a 27-storey mixed-use development that includes four levels of underground parking, two levels of commercial space and 24 levels of apartments.

Company president John Rempel was not available to speak to Peace Arch News this week, however, he and the project architect addressed the committee Monday, noting the aim was to create “something iconic on the corner… something very recognizable.”

Developments underway nearby – PARC’s 23-storey rental highrise for seniors is under construction immediately south of the mall; Bosa Properties is on the verge of breaking ground on the second phase of its town-centre Miramar Village development; and the three-tower ‘Foster Martin on White Rock Commons’ plan was approved for 1484 Martin St. last April – left little doubt an upwards trend would continue.

And, city zoning now allows for consideration of projects up to 25 storeys.

The committee heard the proposal is consistent with official community plan guidelines for town-centre land use, and is requesting no amendments, rezoning or variances.

For Tom Woodward, the eldest of the senior Woodward’s four children, it’s difficult to imagine something of such magnitude on the site.

“In our mind, we don’t even really want to think about it, because it’s so hard to believe it is out of the family after all these years,” the Ocean Park resident said.

The decision to sell, he added, was made prior to his dad’s death.

“He could see the writing on the wall,” Woodward said.

“(Selling) was something that dad just really thought the timing was good to do.”

Royal Place tenants expressed have mixed reaction to the mall’s sale. Some said they are “going with the flow,” others said that the news was only a matter of time.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be our forever home,” said Pam Keddy of 3 Dog Brewing, one of the mall’s newest tenants, pointing to the nearby construction.

“We knew that the gentleman who owned this had passed away and that it had been willed to his four children, and the chances of them holding on to it was very slim.

“This is the top of White Rock. This is only single-high. In today’s day and age, single-high doesn’t make you the money that the buildings make you. Business sense dictates somebody’s going to knock this down. Do I think it’s going to happen tomorrow? No.”

Keddy said Wolf’s Deli closed on short notice about a month ago, leaving a notice to customers that business was down due to construction.

For Pam Whelban and Linda Heickel – owners of Perfections hair salon – news of the mall’s sale was a surprise, and has left them wondering when they’ll be given the requisite six-months notice to vacate the space they’ve occupied since 1986.

“We’re waiting for the chop,” Whelban told Peace Arch News last week. “Everybody’s concerned about where we’re going to be.”

Whelban said she and Heickel weren’t advised back when rezoning for the site that cleared the way for highrises was approved. Had they known then, “we would’ve gone somewhere else,” she said.

Now, options to start over, or even simply relocate, are slim, Whelban said.

“To have to start again at this stage of our life, it’s a big expense. It’s going to be hard.”

Woodward said the decision to sell was not made lightly.

“It was a tough call, but we sort of all agreed on it as a family.”

Land-use committee members voted unanimously Monday to receive the report.

Tracy Holmes

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