Interfor’s Hammond cedar mill is closing in 2019. (THE NEWS/files)

OUTLOOK 2019: Industrial site up for discussion in Hammond

Interfor closing 11-hectare sawmill operation

It’s central, developable and it’s on the banks of the mighty Fraser River.

So it may be only a matter of time before Interfor’s 11-hectare Hammond cedar mill location will draw interest from a developer or purchaser with big plans for a showpiece site in Maple Ridge.

The Hammond sawmill, owned by Interfor, is in the process of being closed. The last shift took place in October and now clean-up operations are underway, although the property is not yet listed for sale.

According to an Interfor statement announcing the shut down in September, the plan includes “repatriation of working capital tied up at Hammond” and “monetization of related real estate.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Michael Morden said earlier that, if sold, the mill’s property will leave behind a valuable piece of waterfront property. It could remain industrial, or be developed for mixed-use commercial, he added, and the public will have input about what it would like to see there.

“I would hope there’s some collaboration as to what that area might look like because it’s got huge opportunity. We want to make sure it continues to generate employment, as well as to generate a commercial tax base … and if we can leverage other opportunities, then we are really open to looking at that,” he added recently.

“It’s a pretty amazing piece of property. It’s big. It’s waterfront. They’re not making any more of it. What does that look like, we don’t know,” Morden said.

With the mill closing, the city will lose approximately $600,000 in property taxes annually. That is an adjusted rate, as the city has been trying to help the company through tough times in the industry.

But so far, Morden hasn’t heard of any companies interested in the property.

Maple Ridge planning director Christine Carter said that when the city created the Hammond area plan in 2017, it also created the Hammond general industrial land-use designation, based on the current use of the property as a sawmill.

The city still would want the property to be used for employment, but would also consider business-park uses.

“We’re actually open to different ideas. But, really, the focus would be to make sure we keep jobs in the community,” Carter said.

Or, there could be mixed-use in the area, as well with ground-floor retail with offices above or maybe some residential, she added.

Carter said that once a property goes on the market, the city starts getting inquiries.

But that has not started yet, “but I anticipate that will be starting soon.”

So far, the property has not been listed for sale.

Carter said that companies are unlikely to buy the property without checking with the city. And any kind of change in land use would require meetings and public hearings.

“And, at the end of the day, council will make the call on what that land use will be,” Carter said.

Somebody could buy it and simply use it for another industrial purpose, she added.

“It’s really hard to guess what that future land use will look like.”

Union leader Al Bieksa said when the closure announcement was made in September that he wanted to focus on the employees who would be out of work.

“This is not a time to be looking at who to blame. This is a time to be looking at how we can help the members and their families.”

A spokesman for Interfor said in early November that there are no new developments regarding the property.



pmelnychuk@mapleridgenews.com

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