District’s downtown three acres back on realty market

Maple Ridge seeking ‘iconic development’ that will highlight area

Maple Ridge is putting its three-acres of downtown land, for which it’s seeking an “iconic” development, back on the market.

The District of Maple Ridge bought the three-acre property between Haney Place and Valley Fair malls in 2011 for $3.7 million, to try to jumpstart downtown development.

“It’s a premier location. As a result, it should be able to sustain somewhat of an iconic, legacy development,” district property manager Darrell Denton said Tuesday.

“Because there’s not many three-acre parcels in the downtown where you’re able to do something that extensive in terms of mixed use.”

After it bought the property, several tenants in ramshackle houses were evicted, the homes torn down and the grounds cleared.

After trying to find a buyer to create an exciting, mixed commercial-residential complex in 2012, the district took the property off the market.

However, the district has received several inquiries about the property in the past year, Denton said in a report to council.

With that interest, he recommended issuing a request for proposals, inviting potential purchasers to make their pitch for how they’d like to develop the property.

Council gave its OK at its workshop meeting Monday.

While the development is no longer expected to play as much of a catalyst role to spark development, it’s still expected to be iconic, one that meets the criteria of the downtown area plan and follows walkability principles.

Bordered by Selkirk Avenue, 227th Street and 119th Avenue, the district envisions a mixed use commercial-residential development – following green building principles, along with park space, public art and a percentage of units designated for affordable housing or rental stock.

When the initial request for expressions of interest were released in 2012, about half a dozen companies responded, with two short-listed proponents pursuing the offer further.

But with a slowing real estate market, partly because of the district’s three-year incentive plan – which sparked almost $140 million in new building downtown – the proponents backed out.

Denton said some of the saturated market conditions have now eased.

The three acres, on Selkirk Avenue, isn’t far from Chances Maple Ridge gaming centre, he pointed out. And the condominium complex next door has sold most of its units.

“Property that has sat vacant for the better part of 75 years has now been developed and sold,” while more applications come in, he added in his report.

He said the previous proposals all offered a mix of high rise towers, low-rise residential coupled with commercial.

“Some pretty innovative stuff, just in terms of design.”

He hopes the latest request for proposals will be ready for issuing this summer.

Previous respondents will be contacted to see if they’re still interested.