Planned bridge boosts development

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

Golden Ears affects land values on both sides of the Fraser

Michael McCullough

It won’t be finished for another four years, but the planned Golden Ears Bridge is already affecting land development on both sides of the Fraser River.

In heavily industrialized north Langley, it’s forcing some companies to relocate to make way for the bridge’s approach.

But the biggest changes are expected in relatively pastoral Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, where the market for industrial land is already heating up.

“On both sides of that bridge you have industrial land,” explained Malcolm Earle, an industrial sales and leasing agent with Colliers International in Vancouver. But there the similarities end.

The south side is essentially built out, Earle said. Occasionally a parcel here or there comes up for sale, at prices averaging $575,000 an acre. But a very large manufacturer or distribution centre has nowhere to go. The vacancy rate stands at about one per cent.

On the north side, by contrast, prices average $300,000-$400,000 an acre and there is raw land for the taking, already zoned for industrial use. In the year before TransLink committed itself to the bridge project this spring, vacancies rose to 8.1 per cent.

It’s not difficult to imagine what’s going to happen, Earle said. With the bridge, suddenly Maple Ridge becomes a viable option for industrial users seeking large plots of land. It becomes easier to move materials in and out of the area, as well as attract employees from other parts of the Lower Mainland.

Colliers is marketing a vacant 90,000-square-foot waterfront building in the municipality.

“There has been a heightened amount of interest because of the bridge,” Earle said. “We all know it’s a reality now.”

The Golden Ears Bridge will cross the Fraser at the 200th Street north-south alignment. It is expected to have six lanes and feature tolls of $2 to $3 for passenger cars. TransLink plans to announce a winning bid in November from among three consortia vying for the $600-million contract. The builder will also operate and maintain the bridge for a period of 20 years.

An economic impact study commissioned by TransLink from Hudema Consulting Ltd. and TyPlan Consulting Ltd. last year suggested that the crossing would boost the rate of population growth in Maple Ridge to 2.9 per cent per year, from 2.2 per cent currently. That will in turn increase residential property values by $332 million.

The crossing will also result in the creation of an additional 800 businesses on either side of the river by 2021 — 370 in Maple Ridge, 172 in Surrey, 155 in the township of Langley, and 44 in Pitt Meadows, the report predicted. Commercial building space will expand by an estimated 1.1 million square feet more than it would without the road link, with half of that growth concentrated in Maple Ridge.

Rainer Weininger, owner-manager of Re/Max Ridge-Meadows Realty, said TransLink’s commitment to the bridge has generated both interest from investors and calls from homeowners worried that it will obstruct their views.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said.

Overall, however, he has no doubt the bridge will accelerate the rise in property values.

While some lament possible loss of Maple Ridge’s small-town character, Weininger said that would happen regardless as suburbia spreads east of Vancouver.

“On our side of the river, there is nowhere to go except Maple Ridge,” he said.

He is confident there will continue to be rural acreage available in the community, although growth nodes such as Albion and Silver Valley will gradually be transformed from rural to residential areas.

The district of Maple Ridge is in the midst of reviewing its official community plan with the certainty of the bridge looming large over potential changes to land use, said director of public works and development Frank Quinn.

Planners will also have to consider surveys that suggest residents strongly value the rural character of much of the municipality, Quinn said.


Development-related impacts of the $600-million Golden Ears Bridge

Number of new businesses 800

Number of new homes 7,100

Residential property value increase $332 million

Added commercial space (by 2021) 1.1 million sq. feet

Bridge construction related employment (person years) 6,600

Source: TransLink

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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