The signs are popping up everywhere in Maple Ridge’s historic downtown with plans to build condos and rental apartments on empty lots and knooks and crannies around the central core area.
About 25 residential applications are currently underway at city hall, with a third of those for building rental accommodations.
“There’s a lot of interest and I’ve never seen that,” said Chuck Goddard, Maple Ridge’s manager of development and environmental services.
Goddard cited one example, the Amicon Developments project on 123rd Avenue, where 288 rental apartments will be built in two new buildings to replace the Sunrise and Sorrento buildings.
Goddard said investors are now saying they can get good returns from rental buildings, instead of selling the units as condo developments.
He pointed out the 25 development applications don’t include another 25 that are pending or being considered, or the projects that are currently under construction.
They’re also proceeding without any tax incentives from the city that were offered between 2011 and 2013 as a way to kickstart downtown development.
Ten years ago, there would have been three or four developments a year in the downtown.
“I think it’s a reflection of everything that’s happening in the Lower Mainland right now,” said Goddard.
Condo prices in Maple Ridge’s downtown last year increased by 22 per cent.
“We’re still relatively cheap compared to other communities to the west. We’re catching up, though,” Goddard said.
Larger, streetscape-changing projects are before council, such as Bruce Johnston, Tom Meier and SwissReal Group’s proposal to build four buildings on three hectares (7.35 acres) bordered by Dewdney Trunk Road and which includes the redevelopment of the entire Haney Plaza mall.
Construction is supposed to start within two years and likely will begin with a four- or five-storey building on the west side of the property, said Goddard.
One of most recent projects at council, Polygon’s plan to build 350 homes on former Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure land on Lougheed Highway at Haney Bypass, is supposed to start next spring, while smaller projects are popping up in empty lots.
A five-storey building is being planned for the old boxing club at 117th Avenue and 224th Street that stood as an eyesore for years.
Down the hill on 224th Street, there’s another application to build a 15-condo, four-storey building on the site of the former Gourmet Hideaway Restaurant.
At 22368 North Ave., another pr0ject is sought to allow a four-storey mixed, commercial-residential building that will have six condos atop ground-floor commercial.
New owners are also in place for the site at Brown Avenue and Edge Street, where four towers were proposed three years ago.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan said council tries to get commitments from developers to include rental units in each new condo project. That initially met some resistance, but most developers want to work with the city and build what is needed and contribute to the community, she added.
Bob Terepocki, a Maple Ridge realtor for 40 years, said he has never seen it so busy. Lack of product is leading to multiple offers on homes and condos while the resale market is picking up, as well.
People are now tearing down older homes and rebuilding with larger homes in the western part of the city, where space is limited, he added.
He expects the removal of the tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge on Sept. 1 will bring in more people.
“It’s almost faster to go over the Golden Ears Bridge … than to go through Coquitlam, so you’re going to have more and more people here.”
He’d like to see the Port Haney area south of Lougheed Highway, to continue to develop. “I could see it in the future being like lower Londsale (North Vancouver) if you did it right.”