Archive for February, 2012

Rize Alliance Properties to build a full-block, 19-storey condo tower on the southwest corner of Broadway and Kingsway

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Vancouver residents rise up with Rize development plan

Andrew Fleming
Van. Courier

City council met Monday night to discuss a controversial rezoning application for a high-rise development that some residents worry would make Mount Pleasant a less pleasant place to live.

More than 180 Vancouver residents signed up at the public hearing to give their opinions on the proposed plan by Rize Alliance Properties to build a full-block, 19-storey condo tower on the southwest corner of Broadway and Kingsway. Only one speaker was given a chance at the microphone before the meeting was adjourned at nearly midnight. The hearing was scheduled to continue again on Tuesday after the Courier’s print deadline.

City staff support the project that would see a total of 241 market condos in four distinct buildings ranging from five to 19 storeys tall and 320 underground parking spots. The triangular site, bordered by Broadway, Kingsway, 10th Avenue and Watson Street, is one of three sites specified for taller buildings under the Mount Pleasant Community Plan created in 2010.

Views are mixed over whether the project would undermine the bohemian character of the neighbourhood. The developer claims the building will provide much needed housing and higher density along a busy transit corridor.

“We bought this site with the belief that Mount Pleasant, only minutes from downtown Vancouver, will become a critical area to accommodate Vancouver’s growth,” said Rize president William Lin, who added that the city’s population is expected to double by 2050.

Woodrow Coward, a 94-year-old resident of a seniors care facility located nearby, feels the busy intersection already has too much traffic and that, while increased urban densification is needed, Mount Pleasant isn’t the right place for it.

“This is the Achille’s heel of the whole project, in my opinion,” Coward said. “The project is simply in the wrong place and I think it is the wrong use for that particular piece of land.”

Bob Kronbauer, the founder of the popular website, said the project is an opportunity for the city to help fulfill its intention of becoming the world’s greenest city by 2020.

“I make my living off of this, so you could say that I have a vested interest in the continued ‘awesomeness’ of Vancouver,” said Kronbauer. “As the population of Mount Pleasant continues to grow, I feel it would be a giant step back for the neighbourhood and the city as a whole if this rezoning application doesn’t get approved.”

The original proposal for the site had called for artist-studio space and 62 rental units under the Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program. Last month, the city told Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. that it could instead convert the space to a cash community amenity contribution of $6.25 million, with $4.5 million to be put aside for cultural use in the Mount Pleasant area and $1.75 million into an affordable housing fund.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal and Green Coun. Adrianne Carr both expressed concern that the money might not be spent in Mount Pleasant. “I think there is a lot of concern that it is not going to be used that way and spent within the community,” Deal said.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Port town of Prince Rupert on tenderhooks as governments and resource giants decide its fate

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012


News that a giant LNG plant – that would need 1,000 workers to build – is being considered for the northern port city of Prince Rupert has come hard on the heels of a record-setting year at the second-largest coal and container port on B.C.’s west coast.

But while the economic buzz is building, you can still buy condominium apartments for $30,000, housing sales haven’t budged in four years, hundreds of people have fled and retail and office space is going dark across the the city. “Downtown is like a hockey player’s teeth,” quipped one jaded commercial real estate agent.

“I have been here for 30 years and I have been hearing about the potential boom for 20 of those,” said Lynn Chivers, a realtor with Randall North Real Estate Services in the city of 12,500. According to Chivers, “There has been only one year when you could have flipped a house for a profit.” Indeed. The average detached house price in Prince Rupert is now around $175,000, virtually unchanged from 2008, and you can still find a decent house for even less.

Cheap housing is one of the lures for the port city, agreed Michael Gurney, manager of corporate communications with the Prince Rupert Port Authority; he moved up from Vancouver last May. But as Gurney outlines the port’s stunning performance and potential, the suggestion is that the low prices – and the economic lull – won’t last for long.

Port expansion

The port has already undergone an expansion that has doubled its capacity to 24 million tonnes and there are plans to double that again within nine years under its $300 million expansion plan.

The Fairview container terminal will grow from handling 750,000 containers a year to 1.2 million, and then onto two million annually. Plans are in place for four bulk terminal sites, each capable of handling 10 million tonnes of cargo. On Ridley Island, there is more than 1,000 acres of tidewater industrial land ready for the foundation of an import-export logistics park for warehousing, transloading and reloading customers.

“We are open to inquiries for any type of industrial use,” Gurney said, noting that the industrial land can be leased for up to 100 years.

King coal

At the port’s Ridley terminal, work is high-balling on a multimillion-dollar, four-year port and rail upgrade that will double coal exports to 24 million tonnes a year, which would rank Ridley as the No. 1 coal export terminal in Canada, ahead of Delta in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, which handled 20 million tonnes last year. Ridley takes in coal from B.C., Alberta and even the United States, an indication of how efficient its rail-and-port system is run. It is cheaper to ship coal from Wyoming to China through Ridley than from any U.S. port.

Also in line is a 150-acre general cargo terminal and a barge and short-sea shipping terminal.

Already, 1,500 people work at the port – many making six-figure incomes – and the current $80 million in salaries and wages would balloon to $310 million annually when the expansions are complete. Sums up Don Krusel, president of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, “That’s a big and bold list,” as the port becomes Canada’s major route to China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Yet the port expansion is only part of Prince Rupert’s potential.

LNG dream

As this article was being put together, two economic bombshells landed in Prince Rupert. First was the announcement that the city has been short-listed by British natural gas giant BG Group PLC for a large liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant. David Byford, a Houston, Texas-based spokesman for BG, confirmed an agreement is in place with the Prince Rupert Port Authority to “consider the feasibility” of the LNG plant.

No decision should be expected for two years, but if the plant is approved it would mean 1,000 construction jobs for 24 months and then up to 200 full-time employees, estimates Derek Baker of the Prince Rupert Port Edward Economic Development office.

Prince Rupert‘s main – and tough – competitor for BG’s LNG plant is Kitimat, where Royal Dutch Shell has already bought the old Methanex plant for an LNG terminal.

The second bombshell was lobbed by an Enbridge spokesman who told reporters during an Asian tour with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Enbridge may “reconsider” Prince Rupert, rather than Kitimat, as the terminus for its $6.6 billion Northern Gateway pipeline.

That news would not be greeted with general glee in Rupert. In February more than 600 residents marched in a protest against the pipeline and subsequent oil tankers anywhere on the northwest coast.

Bargain real estate

So, as so often in the past (the history includes the shutdown of the Skeena saw mill, the fall of the Japanese export market, a collapse in coal prices and forestry), investing in Prince Rupert real estate remains something of gamble.

But this time it should be a sure bet, said Gordon Kobza of Realty Executives, the top commercial real estate agent in Prince Rupert.

“We are close enough to the bottom to see our toes,” Kobza said, and the real estate prices and potential bear this out. At Rupert Square, the city’s flagship mall, Wal-Mart has taken over the former Zeller’s space and will take an extra floor when it opens later this year. Mall managers, which will see the exit of the Fields’ store this fall, are offering lease rates from $9 triple net.

Residents are in dire need of more retail, Kobza said, pointing out there is “no DQ, no A&W, no KFC and no Boston Pizza. This town needs everything.”

On Prince Rupert’s main retail strip, sales signs and dark stores are common, and prices are through the floor. The site of the former daily newspaper (which folded last year) is up for sale at $299,000 for a large downtown lot and two buildings. A block away, Kobza has listed a newer two-storey retail and office building, 50 per cent leased, at $550,000. “This was $700,000 two years ago,” he said.

“You can buy a condo here for $40,000, even less,” said Baker, also a recent newcomer to Prince Rupert. Rents are around $500 to $600 for a two-bedroom house or condo. As Kobza notes, many of the rentals are owned by investors who rushed in during the last mini-boom back in 2004. “They still own them,” he said ruefully. This explains why there has been no new multi-family construction in the city for three years.

But even Chivers sees that changing. She said the real housing demand in Prince Rupert now is new “executive”-level detached houses priced above $200,000 – the kind of homes that resource executives and engineers like – but this segment is in short supply.

It will take some time to convince some Prince Rupert residents and investors that the economy has truly turned around. As the latest census shows, many people have already turned their backs on what has been consistently a someday boom town. Between 2006 and 2011, the population of Prince Rupert fell to 12,508 as more than 300 residents packed up and moved on. The 2.4 per cent decline is the biggest in all of B.C. and the fifth-highest in Canada.

“This time is different, “Kobza said.

With China, the prime minister of Canada, the premier of B.C. and resource behemoths from around the globe all rooting for success in the northwest, he could be right. The prince in waiting may have finally arrived.

from Western Investor March 2012


Victoria Facelift – The largest development on the island

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

In Colwood a near-14-acre development will include housing, retail and four floors of office spacet on the Island indicative of urban makeovers in B.C.’s historic capital


Armed with a multimillion-dollar initial construction budget, Victoria-based League Financial Partners launched a $1 billion mixed-use project on Victoria’s West Shore last month. Capital City Centre is not only the biggest urban development on Vancouver Island, it is also indicative of real estate makeovers being seen across the Capital Region.

The centre is replacing two 30-year-old malls and creating a new downtown in Colwood with a near-14-acre development that will include housing, retail and four floors of office space, at least a third of which will be sold as strata.

League CEO and co-founder Adam Gant envisions the office space being snapped up by high-tech and dot-com companies – Victoria is known as startup leader – and the medical community. League’s new headquarters will also be located at the centre.

London Drugs is the current anchor but Gant said negotiations are underway with two national food stores, one of which will open a 35,000-square-foot outlet.

“We are getting urban-level lease rates,” Gant said, with triple-net rates north of $30 per square foot.

The first phase of the project will be developed in three sub-phases over the next five years. The initial work includes a four-storey residential building over a new 35,000-square-foot London Drugs, a five-storey office building and three additional retail buildings.

The second step of the first phase will feature a 26-storey residential tower, making it the tallest building on Vancouver Island. Phase 1C will include a second 26-storey residential tower, a four-storey residential mid-rise building, the grocery anchor and additional retailers.

“By the time we complete this will become the highest-density project in the region,” Gant said.

Colwood is a good choice for a new retail venture. It is part of five communities in the West Shore that accounted for 75 per cent of all population growth in metropolitan Victoria in the past five years, according to the latest Census Canada report. Langford led the way, with its population increasing to 29,228, a 30 per cent jump since 2006. Colwood’s population reached 14,687 in 2011, climbing by 9.6 per cent, more than twice the pace of the City of Victoria, which clocked in with a 4.4 per cent rise in population.

One has to watch the traffic to see the movement. The number of vehicles travelling to and from the West Shore along the Trans-Canada Highway on weekdays increased by 11 per cent between 2005 and 2010. Averaged over a year, the total numbers of vehicles reached 84,465 in 2010, according to the data from Capital Regional District, and has increased since.

Capital City Centre, however, is placed close to the approved alignment of a future rapid-transit system that will connect the West Shore to downtown Victoria.

The centre, starting with the estimated 500 construction workers who will be on site for years, will increase West Shore traffic, but Colwood welcomes the project and considers it an inevitable part of fast growth, according to Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton.

Gant adds that Capital City Centre will benefit from its close location to Royal Rhodes University, which has a healthy international representation among its students. Royal Rhodes has taken office space at the centre, and League was recently involved in a university-led trip to China, where Gant said 19 Chinese buyers signed to register for Capital City Centre condos.


Victoria has seen some major urban renewal projects, most recently the Hudson mixed-use project at the old Hudson Bay Company store, Uptown Phase 1 and the Atrium, all of which are fully leased. Uptown Phase II is scheduled to be completed in 2012, delivering an additional 220,000 square feet of space, which could create some movement throughout the region. A transformation of older buildings has also seen success in the office sector. The ongoing makeovers of both 1112 Fort Street and 1019 Wharf Street are perhaps the best examples.

“These capital investments have yielded substantial dividends by attracting quality tenants such as Microsoft and Elections BC,” Colliers International remarked in a recent report.

Microsoft has been remodelling former government office space on the top floor at 1019 Wharf Street and 1112 Fort Street into a facility called Microsoft Studios Victoria. The tech giant has an option for more space for expansion. Staff should be moving in this year, according to Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division, who lives in Oak Bay. Victoria is well positioned as a game-design hub, he said.

“Victoria offers proximity to world-class universities, a thriving, advanced technology industry with a highly educated and skilled workforce, located in one of Canada’s best communities to live in,” Mattrick said.

Shot down Not all urban makeovers have such a smooth transition from the past to the future.

A proposal to build a $25 million, five-storey commercial/condominium project at the foot of the Johnson Street Bridge stalled after Victoria councillors clashed over the scope of the project and how much public land should be involved.

Reliance Properties Ltd. of Vancouver is proposing the waterfront development, which includes redevelopment of the long-derelict city-owned Wharf Street Northern Junk buildings, built in the 1860s.

Most of the proposed new construction wraps around the heritage buildings on a crescent-shaped parcel of land that is currently a city-owned boulevard and parking lot.

Reliance proposed building 56 residential units over the top of street-level commercial on the city-owned parcel. The development plan includes a waterfront public plaza with a stairway suitable for seating to provide access to the existing marina. A new public connection to the Victoria Harbour Pathway is also planned.

The two heritage buildings were to be rehabilitated and connected with a glass atrium.

Council also nixed a plan by developer Mike Kelly, who wanted to renovate a Traveller’s Inn at 3025 Douglas Street into affordable housing units. Kelly planned to invest about $1.5 million for renovations to the 50-unit motel and turn it into 45 self-contained units that would range from 226 square feet to 387 square feet, but the city found it unacceptable.

Small rentals

Meanwhile, the company planning to reinvent the 101-year-old Victoria Plaza Hotel is also considering a concept that could shrink rental accommodation in Victoria to micro-size.

GMC Projects wants to turn the two-storey building on Pandora Avenue into compact, inexpensive rental suites.

“The idea behind it is to try and provide affordable accommodation within downtown and urban cores, not just in Victoria,” said GMC president Jordan Milne, whose company has been working with Vancouver architect Michael Katz and Victoria architect Eric Barker to create a 35-to-40-unit building that screams small and efficient.

And when they say small, they mean very small: 240 square feet in a studio suite. Rent would be about $599 a month.

GMC has been discussing the project with governments to determine if there may be some assistance, given the focus on affordability. “There is obviously a demand within the city,” Milne said, noting Victoria has one of Canada’s lowest apartment vacancy rates.

The building is currently zoned for a variety of uses, said Andrea Hudson, senior planner of urban design for the City of Victoria.

“It’s zoned CA4, which is the central area commercial office district,” she said. That allows for residential use as long as there is commercial use at grade. Because it is in the downtown, there is no minimum size required for the units.

At this point, the city has not seen a development application from GMC for the 769 Pandora site. The company hopes to submit a development permit application in the next three or four months, with a view to some action on the site before the end of this year.

– With files from the Victoria Colonist

from Western Investor March 2012


HST/PST Transitional Rules from Real R=Estate Lawyer Spagnulo & Company

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012


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New resource on the home buying and selling process available in six languages

Sunday, February 26th, 2012


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MLS Home Price Index Launches in major canadian markets

Sunday, February 26th, 2012


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Home Inspections – the how to report

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A Buyer’s Guide


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Vancouver’s condo market – What goes up…

Friday, February 24th, 2012


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Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) is developing its 724 hectare (1,800 acre) property on the north side of Highway 17 between the Deltaport Terminal and 52nd Street

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Tsawwassen First Nation breaks ground on new development


“We’re building a better future for our members and for the community,” said Chris Hartman, CEO of the TFN Economic Development Corporation, speaking to members of the Richmond/South Delta/Gulf Islands division, on February 2.

“This project will be the most attractive seaside community in Canada and we estimate it could generate as many as 1,200 person years of employment during construction and employ more than 4,500 part-time and full-time workers.”

Hartman explained to REALTORS® that there are agreements in place for a 175 acre mixed use development. Ivanhoe Cambridge will develop two-thirds of this property or roughly 1.2 million square feet into a project known as Tsawwassen Mills, which will feature major retailers, smaller stores, restaurants, entertainment such as movie theatres and a resort hotel.

The Property Group Development will develop the remaining one-third of the mixed use development into a 600,000 square foot outdoor retail space according to Hartman.

Other development will include an industrial park by Roberts Bank, known as The Tsawwassen Gateway Logistics Centre. “The TFN received $3 million in federal and $3 million in provincial infrastructure stimulus funding and contributed $3 million to upgrade infrastructure on industrial lands,” says Hartman. Before the TFN’s historic treaty signed in 2009, which gave the TFN jurisdiction over lands, resources, governance and social programming, the federal government owned the TFN lands under the Indian Act. Members were issued certificates of possession.

“Now, the TFN members own land as individuals and communally with other members in a modified form of fee simple. They can sell their land to other TFN members or they can lease it for up to 99 years to non-members,” explains Hartman. “Title is registered with the Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) of BC.”

The TFN now has powers roughly equivalent to a municipality and a province. The TFN also has a seat on the board of Metro Vancouver and the TransLink Mayors’ Council.

Its 13-member Legislature sits twice a year and has a constitution and powers of taxation. There are bylaws and processes for public hearings and community consultation. Recent consultations have taken place with the Ladner and Tsawwassen business communities, the Delta Chamber of Commerce and local residents.

The TFN Land Use Plan and the TFN Neighbourhood Plan and regulations detail regulatory processes for zoning, subdivision, building permits, development permits and off-site levies.

Residential development on a 250 acre parcel will include 1,600 -1,800 homes. Of these:

·         50% will be large lot (no lane access) and small lot (lane access) detached homes;

·         35% will be townhomes; and

·         15% will be apartments.

The Property Transfer Tax and the Harmonized Sales Tax will apply. Once the HST is phased out, the GST will apply on new homes. Residents will pay property and school taxes to the TFN.

“Our goal is to have a sustainable, walkable community of attractive, affordable homes built to a variety of performance-based standards (such as LEED), where residents live, work and recreate,” says Hartman.

There will be a new town centre, parks and green space and passive recreation including walking and cycle paths. (Currently there are paths which follow the dyke all the way to Ladner).

The TFN has service agreements with Metro Vancouver to provide flood management, roads, parks and recreation; and agreements with the Corporation of Delta for fire, police, library, animal control and other services.

“We’re building a vibrant, prosperous and complete community that will flourish for generations,” says Hartman.

For information go to: and read the TFN Neighbourhood Plan and the TFN Land Use Plan.

© Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver

CMHC Canada Housing Outlook for 2012 & 2012 – starts remain relatively the same

Friday, February 24th, 2012


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