After years of the doldrums and disinterest, some pieces of Maple Ridge’s industrial inventory are being picked up and the district’s dream of growing its tax base is starting to unfold.
After languishing unused for years, the former Albion ferry terminal at 23850 River Rd. is now drawing interest, said realtor Bill Hobbs.
The property has been vacant and surrounded by chain link fence since 2009, when TransLink cancelled the Albion ferry and opened the Golden Ears Bridge.
TransLink has been trying to sell it since, despite pleas from the District of Maple Ridge to maintain the property for public riverfront access.
“We’ve got a number of good offers in play,” Hobbs said Thursday.
The 2.5-acre parcel is listed for $2.5 million.
Also in the Albion Industrial Area, a Maple Ridge company that needs to expand is looking at three parcels that comprise 10 acres.
At the same time, the Kanaka Business Park, which long sat empty in the industrial zone at the north end of 256th Street, is now 53 per cent sold. Lot prices have jumped from below $300,000 at the beginning of the year to $425,000.
“We’ve raised prices six times throughout the past seven-month period,” Hobbs said.
“But it’s still the most affordable land in Metro Vancouver. It’s cheaper than going out to Chilliwack.”
One of the largest deals recently signed in Kanaka Business Park is with Ardex, a German floor and building supply company that will be building a 70,000 sq. foot plant on seven acres.
After years of stumbling recovery from the 2008 recession, Hobbs said the economy is starting to move and with that the demand for land.
“We’re starting to see land move that we haven’t seen before.”
In the Maple Meadows Business Park, “right now you can’t buy a lot within the park because everything’s been sold.”
The Albion Industrial Area is now seeing other businesses join the traditional wood-based ones there.
But he said that land has to be protected to provide a base for industry and jobs and disagrees with rezoning of the area.
“I would strongly discourage that because already in Metro Vancouver you have a dramatic shortage of serviced, industrial acreage.”
Instead, more industrial land needs to be on the market.
“People shouldn’t be commuting out of Maple Ridge. They should be having the employment and tax base located within the borders. We need a strong council and governance that will support keeping business within the confines,” of municipal boundaries.
Commercial and office space realtor Adrian Keenan, however, hasn’t noticed much change in the demand for store and business space.
“It’s not what it could be,” he said.
Many businesses are having a tough time and are just hanging on, he said.
Still, the district’s incentive programs to spur residential and commercial building in the downtown have been a good thing, he added.
He favours maintaining the industrial use of the Albion Industrial Area.
“I think that would be good to keep.”
Keenan pointed out that land prices still aren’t high enough to justify tearing down ramshackle buildings and replacing them with new structures.
The District of Maple Ridge is in the process of finalizing its commercial-industrial strategy, to identify future areas for industrial use.
One of those areas is the former location of the Pelton tree nursery, at 203rd Street and Golden Ears Way. The Agricultural Land Commission, however, has rejected removing that parcel of land from the reserve for business uses.
Hobbs says that’s a shame because the land is close to roads and bridges, two factors that make desirable industrial land.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin wants to listen to property owners in the Albion area about their plans. If the owners wanted a marina, as proposed in some concepts, he wouldn’t want to force a particular use.
“You obviously have to listen to them and not ram whatever through.”
However, right now the district’s thought is that Albion Industrial Area is “employment-or business park.”
Daykin would support any better use of the properties, excluding residential development, which would squeeze out industrial properties. Staff have told council that allowing residential development in the Albion Industrial Area would polarize the downtown.
In the meantime, a proposal to put a major condo development near Port Haney Wharf, outside the Albion Industrial Area, is about to go back to council.