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Maple Ridge downtown site sitting idle

Maple Ridge has high hopes for the three acres it owns in the downtown, but it will have to wait awhile for the proper suitor to come along and take the property off its hands.

After seeking some expressions of interest for the land on Selkirk Avenue, between 226th and 227th streets, the district decided earlier this year to take a wait-and-see approach.

The district bought the land in 2011 for $3.7 million, so it could resell it and ensure it gets the type of development it wants.

It wants to see a mixed use commercial-residential development – one that is environmentally sustainable with park space, public art, and affordable housing as part of the mix. Roads and pathways connecting Haney Place Mall and Valley Fair Mall is another goal.

Part of the plan was to get higher-than-usual population density, which could mean concrete high-rise construction.

But proposals to the district only considered the usual types of projects, such as are already underway throughout the downtown.

Coun. Al Hogarth, a realtor, said Maple Ridge didn’t put the land up for sale, only expressions of interest were sought.

“There didn’t seem to be any that came to the table based on the perceptions we had, which were higher density.

No one was that interested and said, “We’ve got to have it – and here’s the cheque.”

Creating such a project could draw more people to Maple Ridge who are attracted by the growing mix of housing in the downtown, he added.

“The hope was for high-rise, more density, high-rise type of scenario.”

Council didn’t set any time frame and the word is out that the district wants to sell, so the district could still entertain an offer, he added. Any proposal would have to meet the district’s goals.

“I think we all consider it to be a pretty central piece of land.”

Hogarth said other developers are building concrete high-rises, such as that proposed for Edge Street and Brown Avenue, and said he was surprised there were no suitable proposals.

“I think we’re starting to come into our own in terms of a more urban type centre. I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Taxpayers shouldn’t worry, though, about any losses from the district’s venture into development.

Based on prices now being attained per square foot in the downtown, “I think it’s a pretty decent purchase that they made.”

“I think at the end of the day, the district is going to do just fine.”

Meanwhile, the big-box mall planned for Kwantlen band land on the south side of Lougheed Highway and 250th Street is still moving ahead.

Property Development Group, in partnership with Kwantlen First Nation, still wants to start construction of up to 275,000-sq.-foot of retail space.

“We’re still working on it and we’re making progress,” said PDG chairman Lawrence Rank, Tuesday.

Rank said retail tenants today do more research and take longer to make decisions on where to locate.

The company hopes to begin construction by next spring and is negotiating with key tenants that would allow it to start.

He said the project won’t be affected by any development that could happen in Albion flats at 105th Avenue on Lougheed Highway. Smart Centres mall company wants to make a land swap with the district to allow it to develop on the east side of 105th.

Rank said, “That really doesn’t have any positive or negative impact. The market’s big enough for both sites to be developed as shopping centres. It’s just a matter of getting an adequate amount of pre-leasing in place to go forward.”

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