Business & Economy
January 11, 2021

The Rise & Fall of the Developer’s Dream Subdivision ~”Montrelynview”

 

There is a large flashy ad on twitter. A new development is being announced in Metro Vancouver. It  is at the crossroads of three different rapid transit routes,  a new transportation hub to everywhere in the region and there are only 176 lots available to savvy investors. There’s a great pre-sale, there are real estate agents available at the development site to sign you up, and even better one of the purchasers of the limited number of lots will also win the lot that has an original farmhouse that had been built twenty years earlier.

This is not a current offer for sale, but one from 110 years ago when “Montrelynview, Greater Vancouver’s Tram Car Centre” was created for property sales. In 1911 the large advertisements started to appear in The Vancouver World newspaper~”Montrelynview! Greater Vancouver’s Tram Car Centre Sale Starts with 176 lots only!”


Charles Gordon, a real estate speculator had acquired Wintermute farm which is at 7640 Berkley Street  in Burnaby near Canada Way and Imperial. He then devised a plan to whip up public interest in selling the subdivided lots from the farm property and created a clever marketing campaign.

Mr. Gordon hosted a competition to name his new development and offered a first prize of $50.00 which is worth about $2,800 today for the winning name.  He wanted a moniker that would reference the mountain view, the fact you could see Burnaby Lake from the location, and that also noted the proximity to the three streetcar lines.

There were over 5,000 potential names submitted in the contest, but none satisfied Mr. Gordon. Awkwardly, he devised  his own brand for the development, calling it  “Montrelynview”which he felt recognized the mountain view, the lake view, and the proximity to transit. The prize of $50.00 went to the person that suggested “Tricarlocheights” which meant “mountains and omit(s) view”.

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The D. A Smith Furniture Company appears on Vancouver’s  Granville Street and moves into a “larger” premises at 931 Granville Street in 1911. Here is the Christmas advertising that was first used, with the admonishment

“Every year we notice an increase in the number of odd pieces sold at Christmas time. People are coming around to the proper idea of Christmas giving. If you feel you want to make somebody a present, why, be sure and give something that will be useful as well as ornamental”.

 

 

Even this early there is the start of a business association with co-operative Christmas advertising appearing in the Vancouver Sun in 1912 with gift suggestions for “Father, Mother, Wife, Husband, Boy, Girl and Baby”. All the suggestions of gifts were from local Granville and Hastings Streets businesses.

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Harold Steves needs no introduction to people in Metro Vancouver. He is one of the longest serving city councillors in Canada, serving with the City of Richmond. Mr. Steves was first elected in 1969, then served as an elected MLA in the Provincial government, then returned to Richmond Council in 1977 where he’s been bringing  to the forefront the importance of agriculture, sustainability, and respect of the existing natural environments.

Mr. Steves started one of the first pollution awareness societies in Canada, was a founding member of the Agricultural Land Reserve (he drafted the original motion too) in 1973. The Steves family still farm the homestead property in Richmond. His family arrived here over 150 years ago, and operated the first seed company in British Columbia and brought in the first holstein cattle. That little town of Steveston is named after this family.

But as Maria Rantanen reports in Richmond News Mr. Steves says the time is now to understand the importance of the Fraser River estuary where Richmond and Delta are seated upon, and finally develop at the provincial level a coastal zone act for all estuaries across the province.

In fact Mr. Steves had introduced a private member’s bill on this decades ago in the provincial legislature while he was an MLA..

“The Fraser River estuary is home to half of B.C.’s population but only 30 per cent of its natural habitat is currently intact, according to a recent study by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.Threats to the estuary include pollution, resource exploitation, dredging and diking, intense farming, sprawl, climate change and future large-scale industrial development.”

I have already written about  the UBC Scientific Team study that concluded over one hundred species would become extinct  within 25 years in this area if an overall governance model was not introduced for the Fraser River estuary.

While river deltas and estuaries are recognized as important, they have not been clearly identified in legislation. There’s a messy jurisdiction for estuaries, that has made co-ordinated planning and regulation difficult and stressful.

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What does the Port of Vancouver know that it is not telling us? Former British Columbia  Premier and former Mayor of Vancouver Mike Harcourt has written in the Vancouver Sun that Port executives and the board of directors “are pushing a little-known master plan that would displace Vancouver waterfront, Canadian-owned agricultural processors and grain shippers in favour of a massive container terminal.”

A new massive container terminal is also on the Port of Vancouver’s books for Roberts Bank near Tsawwassen. Everyone used to a clear and transparent process has assumed that the outcome of the huge new Deltaport Terminal was wending its way through the Federal review process. Most people also assumed that there would be some severe pushback with the huge environmental impacts this new terminal would create.

The Tsawwassen First Nation has expressed worry about this shipping expansion as fish stocks decline.The existing terminal at Roberts Bank protrudes through an eelgrass seabed that is used by migrating juvenile salmon. I have already written about the proposed port terminal’s impact which would make extinct the flight path of the Alaska bound migratory western sandpiper, that feeds exclusively on the biofilm available only at the  proposed site of this new terminal.

To give you an idea of the size of this project, Stephanie Wood in the Narwhal notes that the new terminal “will double the size of Deltaport, creating an artificial island about the size of 150 football fields. The Fraser estuary has already lost 70 per cent of its salmon habitat, and the proposed project would deplete an additional 177 hectares'”.

But surprise!

The Port of Vancouver is already hiring an engineer to manage the infrastructure delivery of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Procurement Process, and that has been published on the  Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia job page.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (Port Vancouver) are looking for a Manager (to report to the Director) to “deliver infrastructure projects related to terminal construction, land reclamation, and/or terminal and road/rail access. This billion dollar plus project is a design-build in the planning stage and will involve support for contract formation before transitioning to heavily technical construction management.”

You can take a look at the complete job description  which includes items like building a “high performing team”,building and maintaining relationships with Indigenous groups, partners, and other government agencies, tenants, stakeholders, and the community; including the negotiation of agreements while maintaining the port’s reputation in all matters.”

This position will be staffing up positions and working with ” Legal, Infrastructure Real Estate, and Planning Departments to ensure that land tenure and project permitting requirements are clearly understood and advanced as required.”

And perhaps my favourite metric: “Representing Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in negotiations, at conferences and conventions, and in the media as required, ensuring clear communication of the business strategy and key messages, and the presentation of a positive and professional image of the business.”

But there’s more: on December 7, 2020 Delta Council heard a delegation from Global  Container Terminals (GCT), which is the group that runs the existing container terminal of 85 hectares (210 acres)  at Deltaport. While claiming not to be unhappy with the proposal for Deltaport’s Terminal 2, they have developed another option, building an expansion off their existing terminal in Deltaport.  As they stated to Delta Council, their proposed option for expansion is in their words “the most economical way to grow the port and provide competitive offerings.”

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It has been frustrating watching the proposed shipping container terminal expansion at Deltaport near Tsawwassen. This is the  Port of Vancouver’s jurisdiction. They are stickhandling the Terminal 2 expansion proposal through the review process. The Port hopes to create more  turf by drivepiling a new industrial island  in waters off Roberts Bank. This is on the traditional  territory of the Tsawwassen First Nations. That black area you see in the photo above is Deltaport’s coal terminal.

It is Vancouver Port’s dirty secret~American ports on the west coast refuse to ship thermal coal for environmental reasons. But not the Port of Vancouver, which has doubled thermal coal exports in nine years to over 11 million tons. This dirty American coal also moves tariff free.

The Port was relentless in their pursuit of the Terminal 2 prize expansion, despite the fact that Roberts Bank is one of the few places on the planet for the migrating western sandpipers going to their spring Arctic breeding grounds. As I have already written these birds feed solely on an algae that is only available on these mudflats.

That algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this important bird migration on the Pacific Flyway would be annihilated with port expansion. Extinct.

 Larry Pynn in The Province pointed out that the written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area. Their exact words were Among the findings, the panel report also notes there would be “significant adverse and cumulative effects on wetlands and wetland functions at Roberts Bank.”

Environment Canada was not happy, and it was at this time Global Containers (GCT), Deltaport Terminal’s operator did a bait and switch, stating that the proposed Terminal 2 complex at Roberts Banks was “outmoded and no longer viable.”

Sadly, abandoning this terminal expansion and working smarter (this is the only major port on the Pacific Coast that does not work on a 24 hour basis)  was not something proposed by Global Containers Terminal (GCT) .

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Planning for the Post-Pandemic City by Simon Fraser University Public Square

When Planning Vancouver Together started in November 2019, no one could’ve imagined what was just around the corner. While a global pandemic altered our relationship with our city, it also laid bare and amplified the pre-existing inequalities of our society. COVID-19 has tested the resiliency and adaptability of Vancouver’s social, economic and physical fabric. While certain parts of the city have weathered this pandemic, others have struggled.

What have we learned and experienced in the last eight months that might shape the next 30 years? How can the Vancouver Plan – a long-term strategic citywide plan – course-correct and continue to plan for a future city that is resilient to new and existing shocks and stressors, while striving for a city that truly works for all who live, work and play here?

Speakers
Gil Kelley (GM of Planning, City of Vancouver) Gil Kelley, FAICP, is an internationally recognized urban strategist and visionary, having served as Chief Planner for several West Coast cities and as an independent advisor to cities and governments across the globe. He currently serves as the General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability for the City of Vancouver, British Columbia. In the past, he has served as the Director of Citywide Planning for the City of San Francisco, the Director of Planning for the City of Portland, Oregon and the Director of Planning and Development for the City of Berkeley, California.

Lisa Cavicchia (Program Director, Canadian Urban Institute) Lisa is a Program Director and urban planner with more than 20 years of experience managing city-building initiatives for the Canadian Urban Institute. She is responsible for developing and implementing partnerships with cities and communities across Canada and in almost 20 countries and more than 100 cities across Europe, South-East Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean that connect individuals and organizations in cities to research, plan, fund and deliver initiatives that strengthen local economies, improve sustainable development outcomes, and create jobs for youth, women and men.

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Three years ago I wrote about the turf of the  iconic Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Vancouver at Granville and Georgia Streets being for sale, and in 2018 I wrote that the store’s property had been bought by an undisclosed Asian buyer for 675 million dollars.

The Hudson’s Bay Company  had previously leased their New York City store location to WeWork, a shared workspace business, setting the stage for a suggested change in the ownership (and purpose) for the Vancouver store. This arguably is on one of the most important heritage sites in the city, a block away from the Vancouver Art Gallery, and right beside the Canada Line.

What a shift a Covid pandemic year makes, where trends that would have taken longer to come to fruition have had a chance for accelerated growth, with less angst expressed by the public.  It was expected that  Hudson’s Bay  was to sign a 20-year lease with the new owner, and have WeWork, the shared office space operator,  leasing  the top floors of the Vancouver and other Hudson’s Bay stores.  That was pre-Covid.

Department store retail  and the demand for downtown shared work facilities has shrivelled during the pandemic. Sadly even though Hudson’s Bay Company has been in Vancouver since 1887, first operating out of a storefront on Pender Street, their way of leaving has not been so glamourous.

As reported by Rachelle  Younglai and Susan Krashinsky in the Globe and Mail HBC have not paying their bills, and they are being a bit obstreperous about it.

The Hudson’s Bay store in Coquitlam  Centre was shuttered on the weekend, because the company did not pay their rent.

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC)  who also own Saks Fifth Avenue and  Saks Off Fifth department store chains, is “facing legal actions for unpaid rent in at least 20 locations in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, as well as in Florida, according to court documents.”

It appears that rent has not been covered by HBC for many Hudson’s Bay stores across Canada,  with Morguard REIT  alone out $2.79-million in unpaid rent for five locations in shopping centres in Ottawa, Toronto, Brampton, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C. And there’s more outstanding debt on leased space too.

HBC had privatized pre pandemic, and there had been accusations of the chain not running “first-class” operations, especially at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto which is the flagship store and a top producing mall.

In the “best defence is a good offence” strategy, HBC has responded legally by saying the same thing about the landlords that own the various properties that the stores are positioned on.

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