Views from downtown Maple Ridge offered

Opportunities pitched for development

Anybody want to build a 12-storey green building, on prime real estate, with views of the Fraser River in Maple Ridge’s downtown?

Give Dr. Bob Harrison a call at the medical/dental building on Selkirk Avenue and 223rd Street.

He and other owners have put together Golden Eyries Holdings with visions of putting up a residential/commercial building on the properties at 22313/22321 Selkirk Ave.

Harrison points out the development could take advantage of the district’s investment-incentive program, which offers tax breaks and outright grants for building downtown.

“Imagine the stunning views from a mixed-use tower on this site. To the south – the mighty Fraser River and Mount Baker – to the north, the majestic Golden Ears mountains and, on a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of Vancouver Island to the west.”

The property occupies 1,373 square metres and is next door to the same-sized property owned by Maple Ridge and currently used as downtown parking. If the district likes the idea, it could sell its lots to expand the footprint.

“The owners are open to discussing potential development options, including comprehensive development proposals and a range of ownership models,” Harrison says in a one-page sheet included in a promotional package given to 300 real estate investors, part of the Real Estate Investment Network’s tour of Maple Ridge Friday.

The district offers incentives for energy-smart buildings, which Harrison says already are sought in the market place. He says buyers are often looking for energy-smart buildings, which can mean quicker sales and higher rents.

“The LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] rating system, when appropriately used within a design, can also help in marketing of these types of buildings.”

Maple Ridge’s economic development manager Sandy Blue said relatively lower real estate prices in Maple Ridge have made putting up concrete towers less viable than low-rise buildings, but said incentives, particularly those for green buildings, could make the difference in the numbers.

For instance, Fortis B.C., formerly Terasen, could partner with a developer and install an alternative-energy heating and ventilation system, which Fortis would own and operate.

Marcus Wong, with Fortis BC, said the company will provide the expertise and capital to install a geothermal or geoexchange system, which uses the earth’s heat, for warming a building.

It would own and operate the system, then bill the building or strata owners for the costs. With up to 75-per-cent reduction in energy costs, customers still would save money.

Harrison though said so far, he hasn’t had any phone calls.

“We’ll just bide our time and wait until it happens.”

Two doctors and two dentists own the building as well as the vacant lot to the east.

Blue said if the project happens, it could spur interest in the entire block, particularly the building which currently houses the Haney Bingo Plex or Maple Ridge Community Gaming Centre on 224th Street.

That building could be vacant when Great Canadian Gaming occupies its new premises on 227th Street and Lougheed Highway in two years.

Blue said there’s already been some interest in the bingo plex, nothing firm but just an appreciation of the location.

“That’s exactly the kind of target property we [developers] want, large enough to do something, where there’s an incentive.”

Her department could help with that by having a potential investor ready if the current owner ever wanted to sell.

Meanwhile, council learned Monday of the first recipient of its “partnering incentive” grant. The developer of the apartment building at the foot of 224th Street qualifies for the first $31,000 of the $500,000 the district is offering this year in cash grants for building downtown.

The “partnering incentive” grant has the district pay a developer up to $50,000 to cover the development cost charges. It’s the latest tactic approved by council as it tries to kickstart downtown development.

Actual approval of the cheque that the district will write to the developer will take place at a future council meeting.

Providing the cash incentive up front is worthwhile to the district given the amount of tax revenue the building will rake in over its lifetime.

In addition to the cash grant, the project will also qualify for a 50-per-cent reduction in the building permit fee, plus another discount of $6,000.

That works out to a savings of $20,000 in what the developer normally would have to pay in building permit fees, said Laura Benson, manager of sustainability and corporate planning.

Once completed, the new building also would get a three-year holiday from municipal property taxes.

Blue said other cities also offer rewards for building, but “we haven’t seen anything which is for the entire town centre.”