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Building heartland for heavy industry

In the past year, 31 acres have been sold in the Kanaka Business Park.
Alex Volkov of Volex Auto Recycling won’t be the sole occupant of the Kanaka Business Park for much longer.

Maple Ridge’s dream of developing north 256th Street into an industrial heartland has a pulse now with the sale of land to four new owners.

In the past year, 31 acres have been sold in the Kanaka Business Park – more than half the 55 available in the far-flung park allocated to heavy industry.

“I think they hit the sweet spot on price,” to compensate for the location, Mayor Ernie Daykin said Wednesday.

“I think it’s great that there’s actually action up there. It’s going to create some local jobs, broadening the tax base.”

Magnum Fabricators, which builds major structural components for bridges, is one of the companies that will enjoy the new space after purchasing two acres.

The company built the girders for Maple Ridge’s latest bridge over the North Alouette River at 232nd Street and needs heavy industrial zoning that allows outside storage of materials.

“We’re heavy industry and it’s a heavy industrial site,” said Mike Harasin.

However, it might be two years before the move over from 104th Avenue in Surrey is fully complete.

“We’ve been watching the property for quite a while. The people of Maple Ridge are just fabulous,” he added.

Another new buyer is International Machinery, which refurbishes heavy duty and industrial trucks.

“It was the price that sold that property,” said Mike Faulkner. “Cheapest industrial park from Vancouver to Hope.”

His company bought four acres in the park and will move from its location in Maple Meadows Business Park.

Developer Eric Van Maren said dropping the price of the lots is what kickstarted the sales late last year.

The park had sat largely empty since it went on the market in 2008.

“We sold three or four lots right off the bat,” said van Maren.

Then the recession hit and nothing moved and the old gravel pit, restored to enhance local streams, sat empty, waiting for occupants.

“The longer it sat there, the longer people were wondering, ‘Is this the right place?’”

Then the price was dropped, which attracted some buyers and created demand. The price per acre is now between $400,000 and $450,000 per acre. That’s half the $1.2 million or $1.5 million per acre demanded in Langley business parks.

The district has been focused on attracting industrial operations to Maple Ridge because the higher taxes can ease the load on residential taxpayers.

Van Maren agreed that the main access from Vancouver to the park, via busy and narrow Dewdney Trunk Road, is a factor.

“It’s definitely an impediment because it slows down access.

“But everything comes down to price, eventually.”

The district hasn’t decided whether to extend Abernethy Way east from 232nd Street, through agricultural and residential land, to connect to 256th Street, or whether to upgrade Dewdney Trunk Road.

Kanaka Business Park’s one and only occupant at the top of the hill is Alex Volkov at Volex Auto Recycling. He opened in 2010, before the roads were completed or power or telephone lines were connected.

“For some people who like to sell ice cream, of course it’s not a good place. But for my business, it’s OK. The place is good. I like it. It’s very reasonably priced and the location is good.”

He dismantles auto wrecks, then ships out the parts in containers. Not far from the shop, a rushing mountain stream gives a soothing backdrop to the industrial setting.

He hopes with more occupants, park security can be improved.

Brikers Heavy Equipment Cab Specialist, which rebuilds cabs for heavy equipment, is also moving in next year after relocating from Surrey.

And another 7.5 acres is being bought by a German floor manufacturing company. That will entail a 60,000-sq..-ft. building.

Van Maren said he was relieved to get the sales and will welcome selling the rest, though the pressure is off.

“We’re not in a rush to sell more land now that we’ve established it as a park.”

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