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Developer eying YVR premium outlets

Airport holding talks with London-based firm for site next to BCIT

Vancouver's strong fashion boutique culture appears to have convinced the world's biggest outlet mall developer to make its first foray into North America - via YVR.

The Vancouver Airport Authority confirmed Tuesday that it is in talks with London-based developer McArthurGlen to bring a premium outlet centre to Vancouver International Airport land slated for commercial development.

While talks are in the preliminary stages, airport spokeswoman Rebecca Catley said, the site of the proposed Sea Island outlet mall would be next to the B.C. Institute of Technology campus on Russ Baker Way.

Catley said the airport authority is "very optimistic" about the project, which would bring jobs and other benefits to the region.

The plan has yet to be approved by the airport authority board of directors, but is reportedly expected to be finalized by June.

"We're hoping to make an announcement as soon as we know we're moving ahead," Catley said, "and perhaps generate a little crossborder shopping in the other direction for the future."

In January, the airport authority announced YVR would undergo a $1.8-billion expansion to lessen connection times and introduce high-speed baggage systems and additional moving walkways.

Jamal Abdourahman, the founder and producer for Vancouver Fashion Week, said Vancouver is ripe for a high-end outlet mall similar to what Canadians seek in the United States.

"So many people here go south of the border, just for the outlet malls," said Abdourahman, 39. "As long as it's high-end and good quality brands, I think it's a good development."

Abdourahman believes Vancouver's "independent, local boutiques" which bring "individuality to the city," can coexist with labels such as Dolce & Gabbana and Prada that would be slated to take a foothold in the potential new outlet centre.

"I'm glad they're putting it [at YVR]," Abdourahman said of Canada's second-busiest airport. "We don't want to push out small independent boutiques other communities have."

The McArthurGlen Group is Europe's leading developer, owner and manager of designer outlet villages with nearly 30 across the continent.

Abdourahman said he can see why the company is eyeing Vancouver as its pioneer location in North America.

"Companies like those usually do their homework, they just don't jump into a market," he said.

"With Vancouver being part of the Asian-Pacific gateway, they see good potential and opportunity."

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