Downtown Maple Ridge keeps growing

Another $41 million in projects so for this year, the incentive program's second.

The first year of Maple Ridge’s downtown incentive program sparked about $33 million in a mini-construction boom in the suburban centre.

Now, only halfway into its second year, the program has bumped that up by half – and kickstarted another $41 million in projects, as outlined through development applications.

The numbers come from Invest Maple Ridge, the District of Maple Ridge’s economic development office.

“The unprecedented level of developer interest and resulting construction boom clearly demonstrate how the vision of Maple Ridge council for the town centre has caught the imagination of the marketplace,” Invest Maple Ridge says in its newsletter.

The newsletter points to one project in particular, a draft proposal to put a mix of residential, retail, park and industry along the Fraser River waterfront, east of Port Haney, to provide a connection from Port Haney waterfront to Kanaka Creek Regional Park.

As of June, 360 applications for projects had been filed, with most of those in the downtown area.

The growth in the central area has been encouraged by a package of incentives ranging from cash rebates for development fees, reductions in building permit fees and property tax exemptions.

The program, though, only runs for three years.

Increasing the population density of the downtown is part of the district’s long-term plan. By 2021, there is supposed to be 11,065 condos or apartments in the downtown.

The district has set yearly targets of the numbers of new condos it wants to see each year. For each of the last three years, about 5,800 new condos were built-in the downtown.

However, the numbers are off target when it comes to the percentage of new units built in the downtown centre. The economic development office wants half of all new construction to go in the downtown. But in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively, the percentage of new homes going into the downtown were 45, 25 and 35 per cent.

• All of the major projects currently underway in the downtown have participated in the incentive program, including Thrifty Foods and Haney Place Mall, Great Canadian Gaming, the builder of the hotel on 224th Street, along with three mixed-use projects with both commercial and residential.

Incentives include the district paying up to $75,000 to cover part of the development charges on a green, four-storey apartment project, to more than 50-per-cent discounts for building permits, to fast-tracking projects, to exemption from property taxes for either three or six years.