Kevin Falcon paved the way to more real estate development in southwestern B.C.
This week, Burnaby city council has been holding a public hearing on a monumental real-estate development slated for Brentwood Town Centre.
Shape Properties has proposed several residential high-rise buildings between 20 and 70 storeys and two office towers near the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway.
The area has been in the midst of a development boom as a result of the Millennium SkyTrain line, which was completed more than a decade ago and includes the Brentwood Town Centre station.
Developers have also been extremely active around rapid-transit stops in New Westminster, Surrey, Richmond, and Vancouver.
According to Melanie Reuter, manager of research with the Langley-based Real Estate Investment Network, that’s because their projects can generate a “premium of about 15 percent within 800 metres of those stations”.
“People are making lifestyle choices,” Reuter told the Georgia Straight by phone. “They would rather have smaller square footage and be more central to transit to be able to get to where they live, work, and play.”
She said this is particularly true of Generation Y. That was on display in March, when more than 400 homes sold within four hours at the Marine Gateway project at Southwest Marine Drive and Cambie Street. A major reason was this development’s proximity to the Canada Line.
Kevin Falcon facilitated development
Transportation infrastructure has always had a profound impact on real estate. And this is why Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon may have had more influence on the local housing market in recent years than almost anyone else.
Falcon, who stepped down on August 29 as finance minister, worked in real-estate development prior to being elected to the legislature in 2001. As vice president of Northwest Investment Properties, he learned a great deal about what can have an effect on land values.
After his former boss, Gordon Campbell, appointed him transportation minister in 2004, Falcon oversaw huge projects that transformed the region until he left the portfolio in 2009.
He forced through the expansion of the Sea-to-Sky Highway before the 2010 Olympics, which was the catalyst for significant development in the Squamish area. Perhaps too much development. In March, Vancity senior vice president Chris Dobrzanski said at a public forum in Vancouver that housing prices had fallen by 30 percent in the Squamish-to-Whistler area. No doubt, some of that drop can be attributed to the improved highway creating a bit of a building frenzy.
Reuter said that highway infrastructure offers a real-estate premium when new off-ramps are built. But this didn’t occur in the Sea-to-Sky expansion project.
“Access generally is fantastic,” she stated, “but it doesn’t have the same impact as the Port Mann Bridge or the Golden Ears Bridge.”
Falcon was also a strong proponent of the Canada Line, over the objections of many municipal politicians.
The TransLink board voted it down twice before it was finally approved in a third vote of the directors. Later, Falcon took away local autonomy and brought TransLink under more direct provincial control.
There’s a real-estate development rush taking place along Cambie Street, despite uncertainty about how areas around the stations will be zoned. Reuter noted that there is also a lot of activity taking place in Richmond.
In addition, Falcon pushed the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the development of a new $3.3-billion Port Mann Bridge. Reuter stated that the latter project will have a “tremendous effect” on the real-estate market in the Fraser Valley.
“What it’s going to do is bring Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack closer to the downtown, because it will reduce commute times,” she said. “People will now say, ‘Okay, I will live in Abbotsford because we’ve got the Port Mann Bridge. The traffic won’t be as sticky.’ There won’t be as much of a detractor, other than the toll, of course, which will hurt people initially. But they’ll get over it.”
Falcon also oversaw the new William Bennett Bridge in the Okanagan and the expansion of the highway through the Kicking Horse Canyon. He’s probably had more of an impact on the province than any B.C. transportation minister since “Flying Phil” Gaglardi performed this role in the government of W.A.C. Bennett.
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