Development continues at the 530-acre Southlands master-planned community in Tsawwassen on B.C.’s West Coast despite recent economic headwinds.
Developer Century Group, based in New Westminster, has launched its latest phase of the project - The Granary, which is right across from Market Square and will include 35 residences (17 in first release), a garden courtyard and the Four Winds restaurant and craft brewery.
Southlands will eventually include 950 homes on the site, including 275 acres of publicly owned Southlands Farm, a 50-acre Southlands Community Farm with community allotment gardens and small-scale artisan farming. There will also be over 100 acres of parks and natural areas, as well as a market retail square.
Sean Hodgins, president of Century Group, said "the ethos of the community is about connecting people to farming and food,” and The Granary brings that idea to fruition. The partnership with Four Winds Brewing, the design of the homes, the social spaces within, and the connections to Market Square make The Granary uniquely Southlands.
“To date, it’s the project that best expresses our vision,” he explained.
History of the Southlands site, project
Century Group had acquired the site In 1990, when Sean's father George Hodgins headed up the company. He pledged at that time to maintain its agricultural heritage.
It was finally cleared to start construction on Southlands in the spring of 2019 after a very long approval process.
It opened in the fall of 2020 with a short street featuring townhomes and cottages to demonstrate the diversity of housing planned for the development. Four cottages were built as well as the company’s Discovery Centre, which includes a cafe.
“We’ve continued to build since that time and we’ve now got 75 homes finished with people living in them. Including The Granary, we now have another probably 120 homes under construction. That will bring us a little over 200 once these are done,” Hodgins explained.
“We’re just basically rolling in various little projects as we go. There’s actually four projects under construction right now including The Granary.”
The vision is for housing to include apartments, cottage-style homes and townhomes. Hodgins said there will be about 250 cottages, 600 townhomes and another 100 small apartments.
When asked the time frame for the build-out, Hodgins replied: “It really depends on how well the market recovers. But I would say to the end of this decade. I’d say another eight or nine years.
“I’d say there’s a distinct chill in the air. There’s still contracts being written. We sold the first nine units on this project, so people are writing contracts.
"I would say the height of the market was certainly last fall. It might even have gone through January and February this year.”
Homes still selling, but economy having an effect
However, in recent months the real estate market has been changing.
“We launched a project next to this in November 2021, 34 units, all of them flats, like little apartments, one- and two-bedrooms and we sold it out in a day. Now we go to this fall and we’ve launched Granary and we’ve sold nine of the 35. That shows you the difference,” said Hodgins.
“We just went through one of the more robust real estate markets that I can remember. I’m 55 and I’ve been in the business for 30 years in one way or another. We’re still writing contracts, but it’s interest rate anxiety. People just don’t know where these interest rates are going to top out.”
The Southlands development site is close to Highway 17, providing easy access to Vancouver Island via the Tsawwassen BC Ferry Terminal, and the Metro Vancouver region with connections to three major highways: Highway 17A, Highway 99 and Trans-Canada Highway 1.
From a commercial perspective, currently the project includes the Farmers’ Market every Saturday, the Prado Cafe and electric bike brand Pedego.
The Market Square at Southlands
“The whole community is designed around the Market Square which is the public square. That’s where we have the Farmers’ Market and we’re building out the retail – trying to get that going as quickly as we can," said Hodgins.
"It’s been sort of challenging with that. We’re trying to curate the retail around food-based retail where possible.
“Four Winds Brewing will be the next big piece that’s being built right now and that fronts onto the Market Square. . . . The more Southlands gets built-out the more people will see the value of it.”
Century Group was founded by George Hodgins in 1957 as a construction company. He was an Irish immigrant who came to Canada in 1949.
Sean Hodgins started working for the company in 1993 when he was 25. At first he was involved in project management, then he became the company’s network administrator.
He rose through the ranks and became president in 2005.
His father passed away in 2007.
The company focuses on residential development and construction, but it has experience with commercial development as well.