Well, it seems that all the debate regarding high-rises, mall redevelopment and the like was really just a smokescreen. While petitions circulated and activists rallied, a secret development was taking place in the emptied Zellers building,  unbeknownst to all.

But we don’t expect a huge neighbourhood outcry. After all, how often does Santa set up shop right under one’s nose?

LynnValleyLife was  allowed behind the blue curtain this week, into the Zellers space that is in the process of being transformed into the North Pole by North Pole BC. Company owner Martin Miller showed us around the winterland village that will soon be bustling with traditional Christmas characters.

There will still be a free mall Santa, located in a ‘woodland’ just inside the old Zellers entrance. Those who wish to book tickets to the North Pole ($13.95 and up) step into a world of twinkling lights and fun activities.

Kids can decorate gingerbread cookies in the elves’ kitchen, read stories with Mrs. Claus, help the elves make toys in their workshop, visit with a snow princess, make their own gift wrap, write letters to Santa, and more.

Those who opt for a personalized visit with Santa get some scheduled one-on-one time with a Santa who knows just the right thing to say to each child (thanks to getting some info in advance from Mom and Dad), and go home with a small gift.

This is the fifth year that the company has offered the North Pole tours; last year it was at Maplewood Farm. Martin says he is delighted to bring the village indoors, where the weather can’t play havoc with the experience. He expects that once again the North Pole will attract visitors from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond.

Tours begin with the arrival of Santa to Lynn Valley Centre on November 23 (there will be free entertainment from 10:55 a.m. to 12:15 in the mall food court). North Pole excursions will primarily take place on weekends, but become more regular in the weeks leading up to Christmas. To assure availability, families should pre-book in advance, but impromptu visitors are welcome to inquire at the door to see if space is available. Group visits are common and special pricing starts at 10 people.