Big developments drawn to BC’s transit hubs

If we can compare Metro Vancouver to a living person, it’s becoming more and more apparent: the arteries that carry blood to the brain and heart – the lifeline – at least for businesses is transit.

All the big developments, all the office and rental towers being built today, like Vancouver’s $370-million Marine Gateway Project, are being drawn to Canada Line and Skytrain stations across the region.

“Last Spring we sold the residential out in one day, and those people were very drawn to the fact that it was a package, that it included the transit, included the shops and the services,” said Andrew Grant, president of PCI Developments Corp.

Further east along Skytrain at King George Station in Surrey the same developer, with Coast Capital as its anchor tenant, is starting another project worth close to $800-million. It is also a mix of business and living, and it is twice the size of Marine Gateway. Together they are reshaping both communities bringing 6,000 new jobs to the neigbourhoods.

In the same corridor Surrey’s mayor is proposing her own kind of Skytrain to move people around the new city centre development.

It’s all driven by transit.

The Canada Line is also the engine propelling a near $2-billion proposed redevelopment of Oakridge Mall in Vancouver, and the billion dollar redevelopment of Brentwood Mall along the Millenium Line in Burnaby.

They are like Marine Gateway, an industrial area, reborn with rapid rail.

Taxes to the city here will grow from a quarter million a year to $6.7-million when its built.

“This site traditionally had about 60 jobs on it, it was an ICBC claims centre, didn’t really do much for the community in those days, this will be a real driver, it will be a centre of the neighbourhood,” said Grant.

The trend for business like in many other major cities is to move closer to rapid rail.

Microsoft and the Lottery Corporation both left Richmond business parks for Vancouver to get connected and be closer to transits. It’s what their young workforce wants.

“The real estate market is shifting and it’s evident everywhere,” said Kirk Kuester, managing director of Colliers International. “Transit is reshaping the real estate market.

The casualties are business parks that have been the go-to places for employers over the years, because their staff could drive here and park for free.

In Richmond the business vacancy rate is just over 20 per cent, and in Burnaby it’s just over eight per cent.

“We track eight different business parks, one of which is 100 per cent full,” said Kuester. “It’s on transit. Seven of which are running at about 20 per cent, suffering from the fact that they’re just not linked to amenities and they are not close to transit.”

In Richmond they welcome the Canada Line, but at present there are no major business developments planned for stations there, and developers say that’s riding against the trend.

Brian Coxford – Global News : Thursday, January 31, 2013 7:30 PM