B.C. Lower Mainland development tied to transit routes

Transit routes will continue to shape future development in B.C.'s Lower Mainland as younger generations abandon their vehicles, a panel of real estate experts and developers told those attending this year's Buildex Vancouver conference.
Rapid transit and public transit are already pushing redevelopment in existing areas along with new projects. Any developments that do not have a tie-in to rapid or public transit will have to offer something special to compensate, said Omicron CEO Bill Tucker, summing up a panel he moderated at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.
Development along SkyTrain and Canada Line corridors and routes is surging in the Lower Mainland, but there are some issues developers need to consider, said Jocelyn Legal, senior director of leasing for Triovest. Her company is building two major projects along rapid transit routes, Marine Gateway on the Canada Line and a second at Surrey's King George Station on the SkyTrain route. Both are expected to be completed in 2015.
Residential and commercial fit together
Residential and commercial are seen as a natural mix at these stations, but office towers may not suit all locations. “Not every SkyTrain site is perfect, “ said Legal, adding that Marine Gateway was a natural fit for office towers because it is a short transit ride from the Vancouver International Airport.
The King George station project is a 1.6 million square foot retail, residential and office development. The $800-million centre is twice the size of Marine Gateway. With anchor tenant Coast Capital, it will have the density needed to sustain offices.
Office towers can work at transit stations if they have the right travel patterns and if commuters are willing to give up their vehicles.
Michael Penalosa, managing principal of Thomas Consultants Inc., said cars are still considered a “status symbol.” Although it is common for executives to use public transit in London and New York, it's not heading in that direction in Vancouver. Legal said individuals who grew up with a vehicle are not going to change in the near future. “It is our kids who are going to change,” she said.

Marine Gateway on the Canada Line in Vancouver, B.C.
Removing parking is just the ticket
Penalosa said if municipalities remove the requirement for residential towers to provide parking, it would be a boon to buyers and entice developers. “If people don’t have parking would they use more transit?” he asked.
Andrew Tong, senior vice-president for investments for Concert Properties, said each parking area within a building costs about $45,000. If parking was reduced, the cost saving could impact real estate prices and make it more affordable for buyers.
Less parking means fewer vehicles, which could reduce the need for wider roads around buildings and free up “more real estate to build on,” he said. Another consideration, Penalosa added, would be the reduction of vehicle traffic and exhaust, leading to greater enjoyment of outdoor space.
Transit routes are also impacting industrial areas. Lawrence Green, president of Spire Development Corporation, pointed out that the construction of the new truck-friendly South Fraser Perimeter Road has resulted in development in other areas. The road is a four-lane, 80km/hr route from southwest Delta to Surrey, with connections to highways, TransLink’s Golden Ears Bridge connector road and also into the U.S.
New industrial sites have emerged because of the improved access
“Land values have shifted to other areas,” Green said. Annacis Island, once the Lower Mainland’s industrial hub, has felt the impact. “Last month when I looked there were 42 listings for spaces vacated by companies who had been sucked out to other parts of Delta and along the Perimeter Road,” he said.
The impact of greater rapid transit use is also transforming shopping areas into multi-purpose destinations that offer residential amenities, and high-density municipal objectives. Three Lower Mainland focal points, on rapid transit routes, are now under proposed redevelopment. They are Vancouver’s Oakridge centre, Burnaby’s Brentwood mall, and East Burnaby’s Lougheed Town Centre mall, which will be a junction for the new Evergreen Line feeding into the Broadway station. The developments would see two million square feet of mixed-use added.
Oakridge mall is being proposed for a $2 billion redevelopment with office towers, residential and commercial spread over its site in nine towers – some reaching 45 storeys. It is being transformed into a small village or cluster area with amenities, shops, services and residential.
Green space no longer just a cost
Burnaby's Brentwood Town Centre, the Lower Mainland’s largest shopping area when it was built in 1961, is being proposed for a $1 billion development that combines residential amenities and shopping plus gardens, fountains and green space. The project will include 11 towers, several 70-storeys in height. The planned development build-out would take 30 years and serve as a central focal point for Burnaby.
Penalosa said these types of developments are indicators of “game change” that is occurring as new images of retail centres emerge. Centres that only offer shopping are limited in their potential as today’s shopper wants more than a simple purchase that they could do online. Retail areas need to provide “more mixed use and multi-purpose,” he said.
At one time developers viewed public spaces in developments as non-revenue aspects of building. “Today, they are in the forefront,” he said, adding that they are elements that are tying many of these developments together and transforming them into communities.
“We are thinking more about how can public spaces be used and integrated into the projects.”

Industry Events