Archive for December, 2005

Vancouver real estate market reflects what world thinks

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

The fundamentals are all there — not just for 2006 but through 2009; few development sites downtown

Bob Rennie
Sun

If you forgot to buy real estate you are going to convince us all that it is a bubble. If you have recently purchased real estate then you are convinced that this it is not a bubble.

What we all do agree upon is that there is not an oversupply in any sector of real estate. Find me 10 great studios downtown or 10 fine west-side homes under $1.2 million on the right street or 10 of anything in any sector – all the buildings under the downtown cranes are 75-per-cent sold or sold out.

Condominiums downtown are now $1,100 plus per square foot for waterfront. It’s $1,500 plus per square foot on the old Expo site in an Arthur Erickson. Non-waterfront downtown is now just on either side of $600 per square foot. Burnaby is at $400 plus per square foot. East Vancouver saw King Edward Village sell out 388 condominiums in 2005 at a price never to be seen again under $375 per square foot.

We all have jobs. We have continued low interest rates (yes, they will swing one per cent either way). We are all faced with the benefit and burden of no oversupply. Ask any developer – there are simply no building sites available and when there is it is a frenzy.

Downtown, not just this season, not just this round, not just leading up to the Olympics. Forever. There are very few development sites available and larger sites are even fewer. I believe as locals we don’t get it. We do not understand. This is not just about what we think. This is now all about what the rest of the world thinks.

I continue to say, when we had Expo we handed out our business card to the world and they kept it. Look out. The world is watching Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics is putting a very big spotlight on what I believe is an amazing place to live on this planet.

The question The Vancouver Sun actually asked me to address was, “What do you see for 2006?” The fundamentals are all there, but not just for 2006 — they are there for 2007, 2008 and 2009. Even the rental inventory that is supplied by investor buyers is being held in balance. Remember, no major landlords are building rental towers. In Greater Vancouver, the rental supply is generated by the investor buyers and with 25 per cent to 40 per cent down they are buying with real money. Unlike in the United States where the investor puts down only 5 per cent.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Price, affordability drive buyers to suburbs

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

Expect higher real estate prices on ’06

Jason Craik
Sun

West Coast Homes invited two of B.C.’s top condo agents to share their thoughts about the new homes market in 2006. Below are those insights from Jason Craik, co-owner of MAC Real Estate Solutions and Bob Rennie, of Rennie Marketing Systems.

Low interest rates, strong in-migration and the most beautiful and livable city in the world contributed to another record year.

Who would have thought 2005 would have been another record year after 2004? With prices dramatically increasing who wouldn’t have thought a slow down in the market was inevitable?

2005 was another record year not just for total dollar volume in B.C. but for the number of sales.

Are we a world class city? You bet. International buyers are coming in droves from China, South Korea, India and Persia, to name a few, and they’re bringing wealth.

In Metro Vancouver weekend sellouts of new products have shifted from downtown to the suburbs.

Downtown developments are now taking a few months to sell, instead of days.

But developments in Burnaby’s Metrotown, Richmond and Surrey are now selling out in a weekend.

I call this the trickle-out effect; buyers are moving outward from the downtown core. Last year downtown buyers were buying Burnaby; last years Burnaby buyers are now in New West or Surrey.

This shift is driven by price and affordability.

In 2006 expect another surge in prices for the next wave of new developments around the Lower Mainland.

This will be created by construction costs which are rising dramatically and unpredictably from one month to the next.

Developments along transit routes will be in high demand in the years to come because of high gas costs and greater traffic pressure on commuter routes from all the suburban growth. We will see more people embracing these types of transit, especially rapid.

Overall I believe the above factors are going to continue to be the driving forces for a strong 2006, especially for price point/affordable housing.

Investment in downtown Vancouver will still be the most secure. My business partner Cameron McNeill put it best: “Vancouver is the Swiss bank account of international real estate”.

Some of my favorite Western Canadian markets to watch:

The Okanagan: Watch Albertans and Vancouverites make this their playground. They will continue to snap up recreational properties and push prices upward in 2006.

Calgary: Urban life has taken root in Canada’s fastest growing city. Downtown Calgary prices are what Vancouver prices were five years ago. Calgarians are getting tired of commuting and downtown condo towers are hot. Look for condo price inflation in 2006.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Some new-home ‘project’ions – THE MARKET

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

Price corrections likely, but limited in location and duration

Howard Steiss
Sun

This accumulation of industry honours very much motivated my request to Adera vice-president Howard Steiss (above, outside the Ledgestone II new-home project in Burnaby) to share with Vancouver Sun readers his thoughts on the local real-estate market, new and resale, this year and next. Photograph by : Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

Black is the standard finish on the General Electric appliance package in a red kitchen. Stainless steel is an upgrade. The range-hood manufacturer is Sakura. Laminate is the standard countertop finish; granite the upgrade. The laminate is a stainless steel substitute. Photograph by : Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun

One non-market measure of a company’s ability and credibility is its performance in industry competitions.

Adera Development Corp. is, year after year, a strong performer, and the company to beat, in development and construction industry competitions, provincially, nationally and internationally.

In just this decade, for example, it has twice been named best large-volume builder in an annual competition sponsored by the B.C. branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, a competition called the Georgies. It is a finalist in the same large-volume-builder category this year; if it should win, victory would be a year-over-year repeat.

We in metro Vancouver could be nearing the end of a market cycle, now in its eighth year, that has created the highest housing prices in our history. If there is a correction, its duration probably will be short and its breadth probably limited to only some Lower Mainland locations and housing types.

The long-term outlook is positive.

Increasingly higher prices across all market segments characterized the past year. The average apartment price, for example, now is almost 50-per-cent higher than the 2003 average. With average townhouse and apartment prices in the $300,000s and detached in the $600,000s, Vancouverites, urban and suburban, are having to pay up to live in and around one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

This price appreciation is not sustainable for a couple of reasons.

The first is affordability. Although Vancouver is still a great deal on the international market, local buyers are using record levels of take-home pay to finance new homes. The rate of price appreciation has overtaken the rate of growth in family incomes, which is not sustainable. At current prices, new homes are becoming out of the reach the average-income buyers. Consequently, fewer buyers can afford to bid prices up any further.

The second reason prices will not continue to escalate is the potential for higher mortgage rates in the coming year, which will reduce purchasing power.

The record high prices have people asking if there is a real estate bubble (that will burst).

I usually start to answer by saying that Greater Vancouver is not a single market, but rather a collection of micro-markets defined by housing type and location.

Bubble or not, unique waterfront and view property will always be in hot demand and the price of land around Vancouver will generally rise in value over the long term because of geographic constraints to residential construction. New-home prices charged by builders will continue to grow, reflecting the higher cost of land, labour, taxes and materials.

However, some areas have a potential oversupply of apartments that exceed projections for population growth. More recently in some areas, the supply has been created in large part by investors looking to cash in on the inflation in prices between offer and completion. Because many investors have purchased several residences in various locations, there is the potential that many new but never occupied units will be available for re-sale or rent in some buildings. Competition among re-sales could be buyer friendly.

Another factor influencing buying decisions is the length of waiting time for delivery of a new home. The demand for trades in both residential and non-residential construction has stretched the building period for many projects. Homebuyers looking for shelter could become less willing to wait the long time (up to three years), and may shy away from pre- sales in favour of a newly finished home so they can get on with their lives and lock in a mortgage at a low rate.

There will be other changes in the 2006 market. Greater Vancouver will see increased redevelopment of existing buildings, as bare land becomes scarce. This is already evident in the south Granville area and other areas close to downtown, where the redevelopment of office buildings and shopping centres for mixed use — both commercial and residential — is becoming common.

Because of high housing costs in Vancouver, suburbs will see increased demand for affordable housing. A move to affordability means a move to the suburbs. Moreover, suburban municipalities such as Surrey, Langley and the Tri-cities are increasing densities for new-home developments to achieve more affordable housing. With new transportation projects in the works connecting the region together, I see a good reason for continued real estate optimism in the suburbs.

Opportunities lie in places where an average family can still afford to buy a new home. That will be east of Vancouver in areas like Langley and Abbotsford. Prices in the suburbs may even increase moderately next year because of the flight to affordability, as the average prices for apartments, townhouses and detached homes in the Fraser Valley are $100,000 to $250,000 less than Greater Vancouver prices. Overall, townhouse or apartment projects priced under $300,000 should be fast sellers.

A good buy in 2006 would be a townhouse because many people like to have outdoor patio or garden space without the maintenance of the yard of a detached home. Also, more and more empty nesters and active couples are appreciating the social life and security that is often found in new townhouse communities.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

THE SHOW HOMES

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

Expect more notice of our passions, less of our possessions

Sheryn Calvert
Sun

One of her 2005 commissions was the show home (above) for the Sawyer’s Landing single-family-detached new home project in Pitt Meadows.

Sawyer’s Landing show home in Pitt Meadows features the interior design work of Sheryn Calvert. Photograph by : Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Kitchen in Sawyer’s Landing show home in Pitt Meadows features the interior design work of Sheryn Calvert. Photograph by : Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Master bathroom is an eyecatching feature in Sawyer’s Landing showhome in Pitt Meadows. Photograph by : Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

The Granville Greene show home prepared for Adera Development Corp. by Sheryn Calvert is a finalist in the best multi-family display-suite category of an annual competition sponsored by the B.C. branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and called the Georgies.

Calvert, owner of Calvert Design Studio, has practised her craft for almost two decades and is no stranger to construction and development industry honours, including finalist and winner status in three previous Georgie competitions.

What were the ”hot” design trends in 2005? Which among them are more likely to endure? How successful have we new-home designers been in identifying and advancing solutions to buyers’ needs?

Let me start my answers by comparing design trends.

Good design is personal because it must meet the needs and facilitate the lifestyle of all the members of a household.

Good design allows them to work and play better; it offers them ways to negotiate their lives inside and outside the home.

Design trends have another purpose: Their coming and going is very good at facilitating consumption . . . of new homes, of course . . . and of kitchen counters topped with granite, not laminate . . . of ceilings nine feet, not eight, above our floor nine feet, not eight, above floors of hardwood, of course . . . of appliances enclosed in stainless steel, not something unidentifiable . . . of big decorative faucets and bigger tiles, with an intimation of European provenance.

Trends are cyclical. My mother, my biggest helper, took one look at the Sawyer’s Landing display suite and its apple-green and espresso-brown colour scheme and said, ‘this looks like our house 20 years ago!’ Indeed, these are colours we now are seeing everywhere, in fabric and paint and accessories and fashion — and did not see for many years.

Parenthetically, we are very driven by European styles in metro Vancouver, so much so that we may be the most progressive and ”take a risk” Canadians in the country.

We are not afraid of colour here! Additionally we are not afraid to express our colour preferences by choosing the unfashionable, or ”unchoosing’ the fashionable.

In display suites, our specialty at Calvert Design Studio, our job is to experiment with bold colour and to introduce an almost-over-the-top creative element into the display.

Our purpose, of course, is to make one show home more memorable for a prospective buyer than all the other show homes he or she may have seen in a weekend.

We want to appeal to the senses. We frequently commission original pieces of art for show-home display to reflect the passion of the moment.

At Sawyer’s Landing, we designed a boy’s bedroom in a nature theme with grass painted on the walls at baseboard height and larger-than-life insects poking out all over. ”Fantasy” matters in the display suite.

But, then, so does reality. And one of the realities today is that increasingly people are committing to more responsible consumption, to ”greener” and ”cleaner.”

Consequently, more developers and builders are providing ”green” homes as mainstream, not niche, products.

The introduction of recycled and recyclable materials — glass tiles, cork or bamboo flooring, natural stone and wool-blended carpets — is just one of the more obvious interior-design signals of this response.

Another reality is that more people are living in smaller spaces.

These homes, if they are to work for their occupants — my definition of good design, remember — must maximize space.

Built-in millwork in every finish is one movement towards to the simpler, smaller choices so many of us are making and accordingly is a candidate to become an enduring trend.

We want granite in our kitchens, but we also need ”recycling depots,” easy to access when our hands are full of recyclables, and to clean, when our days are full of competing duties.

We want electronic connections to the world outside the home, but we need computer stations that are integrated into our living areas, full of storage compartments in which to hide the clutter, neither a focal point nor an eye sore.

We are designing built-in millwork for every function imaginable . . . homework desks in kid’s rooms . . . headboards and night tables in master bedrooms . . . entertainment centres in family rooms and great rooms . . . shelves around fireplaces.

This trend enables us to streamline, and de-clutter, our lifestyles.

It declares, in this home might reside people whose focus is on opportunities to live life to its fullest, not on acquisitions and possessions.

In the past, too much of our interiors demanded our attention: Wallcoverings were busy and full of pattern; draperies had trims and tassels; accessories sunk many a room. Consumption, consumption, consumption!

In contrast, today’s interiors designed and organized with a purposefully minimal hand, everything streamlined and simplified, permit residency in, or occupancy of serene and peaceful environments. I think this is the goal more frequently than not today, for designer and client.

In closing, I think most people are very aware of our precious world and its diminishing resources and are responding with choices and decisions to live smaller and simpler. We want our homes, accordingly, to reflect these commitments.

In other words, I think the design trends that are more likely to endure, in the new year and into a new decade, are those that allow us to live with our passions as much as we live with our possessions.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

B.C.’s ’05 real estate sales hit 100,586, worth $33.3b

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Improving economy, job growth and higher wages drive demand

Derrick Penner
Sun

British Columbia experienced a record year for real estate sales even before the beginning of December, with realtors around the province booking a staggering 100,586 sales worth some $33.3 billion. Those figures eclipsed the 96,314 transactions worth $27.8 billion made in all of 2004, B.C. Real Estate Association statistics show.

“[That result] is not a surprise,” Cameron Muir, a housing market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said, “because when we look at housing demand throughout the province it’s quite broad based.”

The demand, Muir added, continues to be driven by B.C.’s improving economy, job growth, increasing wages, and immigration to the province both from Canadian and international sources.

B.C. saw unemployment dip to 4.9 per cent in November, its lowest rate in 30 years, and Muir said the province will have seen 40,000 new residents move in by the end of this year.

“[It's] not huge growth, but it’s trending upward,” he added, noting that projections are for 44,000 people to move to B.C. in 2006.

At the lower end, developer Jung Development broke ground on the first of five condo towers in its $350-million Infinity project in Surrey.

At the high end, B.C. saw a record price of $7.75 million paid for the penthouse of Two Harbour Green on Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. That project, brokered by Platinum Project Marketing, sold out with an average price of $2.5 million per unit.

Lynn Hsu, CEO of Vancouver-based Macdonald Realty Group, said by early December her firm had booked a record $2.5 billion in sales in 2005.

“It was definitely a phenomenal year,” Hsu said.

She expects 2006 to be much like 2005, largely because of low inventories and continued strong demand.

“Vancouver is increasingly becoming more and more visible worldwide,” Hsu said. While not yet on par with the reputations of cities such as Hong Kong or New York, Hsu added that the awareness of Vancouver as a livable metropolitan centre has “certainly elevated our status as a world-class city.”

Elton Ash, executive vice-president of Re/Max realty in Western Canada, said 2005 should end with single-home prices around Greater Vancouver having spiked by 12 per cent, with an average price of about $420,000.

Ash added that homeowners can expect to see gains of up to 10 per cent again in 2006, because “British Columbia is enjoying a tremendously positive economy at this point.”

“Several factors will contribute to that. . . . The [2010] Olympics, and beyond that, China’s growth is driving a tremendous amount of economic activity in British Columbia.”

The year also proved to be a blockbuster one for commercial real estate in Greater Vancouver.

The year’s landmark transaction was September’s sale by Colliers International of the HSBC bank building in Vancouver for some $140 million to Cadillac Fairview Corp.

Colliers also brokered the $85-million sale of the Riverport entertainment complex in Richmond to Ontario-based TransGlobe Property Management Services Ltd. Earlier in the year, the Canada Pension Plan board bought into three Vancouver buildings after acquiring a $1-billion stake in properties owned by Oxford Properties Group.

The historic Hotel Georgia also sold for around $65 million to a Seattle-based developer, and a Westbank Projects-Peterson Investment Group partnership scooped up the last vacant Coal Harbour lot for $68 million to turn it into the Fairmont Pacific Rim, a luxury condominium and hotel tower.

“This is unchartered waters,” said Avtar Bains, senior vice-president of Colliers International in Vancouver. “We’ve never been in this territory before [with] such an insatiable appetite for commercial real estate.”

The market, Bains added, is being dominated by institutional capital such as pension funds, which increasingly see real estate as a suitable long-term investment. The result, he said, is a market where landlords are seeing security of income, increasing capital values and unprecedented levels of liquidity in their assets.

“Quite frankly, I don’t see that dissipating in the near or medium term,” Bains said. “There is just so much interest in commercial real estate.”

B.C.’s economy continues to grow

Friday, December 30th, 2005

BMO experts forecasting a four-per-cent increase for 2006

Sun

The seemingly unstoppable B.C. construction boom, fuelled in part by preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics, will lead the province to economic growth of four per cent in 2006, up from a robust 3.5 per cent in 2005, the BMO Financial Group says.

BMO’s forecast for B.C. overtakes even Scotiabank’s projection earlier this month of 3.8-per-cent growth for the province, and is way ahead of Bank of Canada’s prediction of 3.5 per cent.

The torrid pace of residential construction in B.C. is expected to decline later in 2006 as interest rates climb and pent-up demand is filled, BMO said in a release Thursday, but major non-residential projects are expected to fill that gap.

Megaprojects – including the building of 2010 Olympic Games venues, athletes’ villages and other facilities, the expansion at the Port of Vancouver, a new container terminal being built at the Port of Prince Rupert, the 10-year expansion of the Vancouver Airport, the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line, the Coquitlam light rail service, the upgrade of the Sea to Sky Highway now under construction, and the Golden Ears Bridge linking Maple Ridge to Surrey/Langley — are expected to add up to almost $6 billion in construction spending by the time the projects are completed.

Newfoundland and Labrador will lead all other provincial economies in growth in the coming year, BMO said, while Alberta and B.C. will continue to exceed the national growth rate in 2006, a major bank forecast Thursday.

Newfoundland and Labrador will post the greatest expansion in 2006 at 5.2 per cent, up from 2.0.

A full year of production from the Voisey’s Bay nickel development and the White Rose offshore oil project will push Newfoundland to the front of the pack, BMO predicted.

Alberta‘s growth will increase to 4.8 per cent from 4.2, boosted by rising oil production and the ramping up of construction on oil sands mega-projects.

“The Canadian economic playing field continues to be tilted to the West,” BMO Financial Group said in its 2006 forecast, noting growth in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. have all exceeded the national growth rate for two years, while all the rest have posted growth at or below the national average.

However, the pace of growth in Central Canada will also pick up steam in 2006, as will the national economy, it added.

The national economy, the report says, will expand at a relatively rapid 3.5-per-cent pace, up from 2.9 this year, which is also above the 2.9 forecast by the Bank of Canada and what it has said is the economy’s non-inflationary speed limit.

The acceleration in the growth of the national economy will be due to an improvement in exports, it said.

“While the sharp rise in the value of the Canadian dollar has hurt Canadian competitiveness and the country’s trade performance over the past three years, exporters and import-competing industries appear to have largely adjusted to the loonie’s more lofty level,” said BMO chief economist Rick Egelton. “This should allow real GDP growth to rise slightly faster than potential.”

As a result, the jobless rate will slip to a new 30-year low average of 6.3 per cent, it said.

Meanwhile, housing construction activity will slow further from its 2004 peak as the Bank of Canada continues to raise interest rates, while the dollar, now near 86 cents US, will strengthen to trade in a range of 86.4 cents US to 87 cents US.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s growth will slip to 2.5 from 3.0.

The adjustment of the manufacturing sector to the stronger dollar, meanwhile, will boost growth in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and New Brunswick, it said. Ontario’s growth will rise to 3.1 per cent from 2.9, Quebec’s to 2.7 from 2.2, Manitoba’s to 3.0 from 2.5, and New Brunswick’s to 3.0 from 2.5.

Nova Scotia‘s growth will also accelerate to 2.5 per cent from 2.0 thanks to stronger exports, while Prince Edward Island will see its growth slow to 1.8 from 2.5, reflecting weakness in construction.

B.C. MEGAPROJECTS = MEGABUCKS:

Major projects expected to sustain the B.C. building boom involve big numbers, including:

$510 million for Winter Games venues, although the need for more money is already apparent;

$1 billion for the expansion at the Port of Vancouver;

$500 million for a container terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert;

$1.8 billion for the 10-year expansion of the Vancouver Airport;

$1.7 billion for the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line;

$800 million for Coquitlam light rail service;

$626 million for the upgrade of the Sea to Sky Highway now under construction;

$800 million for the Golden Ears Bridge linking Maple Ridge to Surrey/Langley, to start in 2006 and open 2009.

Source: Vancouver Sun

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Construction boom to boost growth

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Paul Luke
Province

B.C.’s economy will stay in the pink next year and beyond as the province ramps up a slew of huge capital projects, Bank of Montreal says.

Powered by infrastructure building, the province will post 4.0-per-cent growth in GDP next year, up from 3.5 per cent in 2005, the bank said yesterday in its provincial outlook.

That performance will hand British Columbia third place in the national growth rankings, right behind top-placed Newfoundland and runner-up Alberta, BMO’s forecast said.

National growth in 2006 will rise to 3.5 per cent from 2.9 per cent in 2005, the bank said.

“Next year, the westward tilt is expected to continue, although Newfoundland and Labrador will be the exception to the rule as major developments in the mining and oil sectors ramp up to full production,” said Rick Egelton, chief economist at BMO Financial Group.

“In British Columbia, a construction boom — in part due to preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics — will increase growth.”

That boom will help to drag B.C.’s unemployment rate down to 5.0 per cent next year from an average of 5.9 per cent this year, BMO said.

In 2007, the jobless rate is expected to sink even lower to 4.8 per cent.

A myriad of big infrastructure investments will dominate activity in industrial, commercial and institutional construction next year, the bank said.

The bank identified the $1.7-billion Richmond-Airport-Vancouver line and the 10-year, $1.8-billion expansion of the Vancouver airport as two of the largest projects.

The bank said demand for lumber will soften as the North American housing boom winds down over the next few years.

“An abrupt decline in commodity prices — particularly lumber prices, which might result from a quick end to the U.S. housing boom — could result in significantly lower growth over the medium term,” BMO said.

The province’s GDP growth will ease to 3.5 per cent in 2007 and 3.2 per cent between 2008 and 2010, BMO said.

Still, that will outpace national growth of 3.2 per cent in 2007 and three per cent from 2008 to 2010, BMO said.

The loon should trade between 86.4 cents and 87 cents US over the next year, the bank said.

Central Canada, Manitoba, and New Brunswick will continue to grow next year as manufacturers adjust to the stronger loon, BMO said.

- – -

MENU FOR MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR BUILDING BANQUET

B.C.’s economy will dine at a multibillion-dollar banquet of construction projects. Those listed by Bank of Montreal include:

- The planned $800-million Coquitlam light-rail service, the $626-million upgrade of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the planned $650-million Golden Ears Bridge, an $800-million expansion of the Port Mann Bridge and the $800-million South Fraser Perimeter Road.

- A $615-million expansion of the Vancouver Convention Centre is already underway, as is a $670-million upgrade of the Trans-Canada Highway through Kicking Horse Canyon.

As well, there are two proposals for multibillion-dollar pipelines from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat and two other proposals to build LNG terminals at Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

Other projects underway or proposed are three ski resorts, two generating stations and a water-treatment plant.

The 2010 Winter Olympics has it own $620-million infrastructure budget.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Implementing windfarms

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Proposed Squamish plant would serve global market

Brian Lewis
Province

A $150-million wind-turbine manufacturing plant employing up to 250 workers soon could be blowin’ in the legendary Squamish winds.

Windfarm markets are global. — AFP

If a Kelowna-based energy business developer can pull it off, up to 500 new jobs could soon be blowin‘ in the legendary Squamish winds to offset the impending closure of the Howe Sound community’s Woodfibre pulp mill.

Rick West, who heads Westtech Energy, a Kelowna company that develops small wind-driven electricity generators for residential use, now has his eyes on a much larger project — a major wind-turbine manufacturing plant in Squamish to serve commercial windfarm markets in Canada, the U.S. and offshore.

West said in an interview yesterday that the $150-million manufacturing facility would build the massive wind turbines in four sizes, from 50 kilowatts to one megawatt.

A one-megawatt turbine supplies enough power to run up to 1,000 homes. The plant would employ about 250 full-time and there would be another 250 spin-off jobs in the area, West estimates.

West says he’s already acquired the rights to a five-hectare plant site that has a 250,000 square-foot building. The property is located beside the region’s rail tracks and also has access to Squamish’s deep-water port facilities.

“Being beside the rail tracks means we can export to the rest of Canada and to the U.S. at the drop of a pin,” West says. “And having access to deep water will allow us to export globally.”

West has formed a private company, Quantum Power Corp., to develop the manufacturing plant.

He’s also working with the District of Squamish and local First Nations to bring the project to fruition and will be working closely with the federal government, which has funding programs to assist in developing wind-energy business initiatives.

While funding for the project is far from complete, West says he already has about $25 million from private investors. He’s counting on up to about $100 million from federal-government development programs that are linked with the Kyoto Accord.

As the project develops, West says the company will likely seek additional development capital from the equity markets.

“I’ve already had telephone calls from brokerages offering to set us up as a public company,” he says.

Although Squamish mayor Ian Sutherland could not be reached for comment yesterday, he told the Squamish Chief newspaper in its latest edition that the district has been looking into wind-power generation for some time.

“The potential for jobs and our local economy is huge if it all comes together,” he said.

“It certainly won’t erase the problem of Woodfibre closing but, when we get to the point of having another 250 high-paying jobs in manufacturing, it is always a good thing for the local economy.”

The company would also use Squamish to build working demonstration models of its turbines, which would take advantage of the Squamish winds, West added.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Sinkhole keeps Pender closed for two weeks

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

TRAFFIC I ‘We’ll see how that goes,’ city maintenance superintendent says of repair

Chad Skelton
Sun

City officials expect it will take two weeks before the sinkhole on Pender at Bute is fixed. Photograph by : Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

It could be up to two weeks before a section of Pender Street that collapsed Boxing Day is repaired and reopened to traffic, a city official said Tuesday.

“We’re saying two weeks and we’ll see how that goes,” said Murray Wightman, maintenance superintendent for the city.

A 20-centimetre water main burst at the corner of Pender and Bute streets about 10 a.m. Monday, sending thousands of litres of water gushing into an adjacent construction site being excavated for a highrise condominium.

Giant slabs of concrete, pieces of sidewalk, utility wires and part of the road also crumbled into the site.

Pender was blocked off between Bute and Jervis Tuesday, with traffic diverted to Hastings.

City engineer Tom Timm said it could stay that way for a while.

“This is likely to impact on traffic through into the new year. This won’t be fixed in the short term.”

Geotechnical engineers for both the city and the construction company were onsite Tuesday trying to determine what caused the collapse.

But Timm said the city doesn’t believe the water main is to blame.

He said reports from the scene suggest the shoring system of concrete and steel collapsed before the water main broke.

“It’s some kind of a failure of the shoring system . . . either a design issue or the way it was put in place,” he said.

The city has issued a stop-work notice on the project, preventing the company from continuing to excavate the site.

Matcon Excavation and Shoring is the company that was working on the site.

Axel Meinardus, a superintendent with Matcon, refused to answer questions Tuesday about the shoring system.

“There’s a pending investigation. Nobody knows anything at this point,” he said. “We’re not able to talk at this point.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Expect commuter chaos with closure

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

City, developer need weeks to do repairs

John Bermingham
Province

It will be weeks before the cave-in at Bute and West Pender is repaired, and until then traffic will have to be rerouted, city officials say. The city is now in the process of investigating how a nearby excavation may have created the problem. Photograph by : Gerry Kahrmann, The Province

The city has issued a stop-work order to a company excavating a site for a highrise as it tries to get to the bottom of a cave-in that sucked in part of Pender Street.

“[We've] issued a stop-work order for further work on the excavation,” city engineer Tom Timm said yesterday as engineers assessed the damage.

“We have required that they get their geo-technical consultant to give us a plan for putting the road back together, and expediting that work as quickly as possible.

“We’ve also hired our own consultant, an expert soils engineer, to evaluate that plan, and to advise us on it, as well as advising us with regard to causes of the failure,” Timm said.

Timm said drivers can expect traffic problems on West Pender Street for weeks.

Drivers coming into Vancouver off the Lions Gate Bridge in the morning rush hour won’t be able to turn left onto West Pender if they’re in the counter-flow lane.

“It will be closed at Jervis,” said Timm. “And that doesn’t leave you a lot of options.”

Drivers should use West Georgia instead of Pender to get downtown.

“I think it’s advisable for people to stay on West Georgia, to get past this area,” he said.

The city is putting up electronic message-board signs to remind drivers of the closure.

West Pender will remain closed between Bute and Jervis until well into the New Year.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s a matter of weeks rather than days,” said Timm, who added westbound traffic may have access earlier than that.

At least 20 metres of Pender Street at Bute collapsed into the excavation site on Boxing Day.

No one was injured, but power was cut to hundreds of highrise residents for the day after the collapse broke a hydro duct.

The cave-in also burst an eight-inch water main, and the flooding was compounded by pools of rainwater from days of heavy rain.

Timm figures the collapse may have been a failure to anchor the walls of the hole as it was being dug.

“At this point, it would appear to me it was simply a failure of the shoring system,” he said.

When digging holes adjacent to the street, he said, the walls are covered with steel mesh, sprayed with concrete and then anchor rods are inserted under the road.

“The anchors gave way, or something failed in that system, because you do need something to hold the face of the excavation vertical.”

He said the city is working with the developer of the residential tower, Pinnacle International (Ritz) Plaza Inc., to get the street repaired as soon as possible.

Pinnacle International did not return a call yesterday.

- The 19 bus between Metrotown and Stanley Park has been rerouted and now terminates downtown at Pender and Seymour. Shuttle buses run every 15 minutes. For more information call TransLink at 604-953-3333

© The Vancouver Province 2005