Triovest oversees purchase, renovation of Vantage Way property; Richmond farmland listing draws ALR protest

Triovest buys
Vantage point: Triovest is sinking approximately $7 million into renovations to redevelop this industrial property on Vantage Way in Delta for large-format industrial tenants

Triovest buys

Delta’s industrial landscape is set to change with Triovest Realty Advisors Inc.’s February 6 purchase of an 11.5-acre property on behalf of a major Canadian pension fund manager.

The purchase price and the fund manager remain undisclosed, but Jarvis Rouillard, vice-president, investments with Triovest, said the two buildings that occupy 7831-7979 Vantage Way in Delta will be made over as a new industrial centre with approximately 280,000 square feet of space suitable for a range of users.

The property is occupied by Buckeye Technologies Inc., also the former owner, which is consolidating operations at its headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.

Buckeye’s relocation of operations in the U.S. is allowing Triovest to renovate and reconfigure the existing buildings as the South Fraser Industrial Centre, a task it has handed to Omicron AEC.

“We’re going to be spending millions of dollars retrofitting and gutting them and creating them into industrial centres,” Rouillard said, noting that while the buildings are older they’re close to new infrastructure developments such as the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

“With existing ceiling heights over 30 feet clear in both buildings, rail access, a mixture of both dock and grade loading doors, and an abundance of power for users who may require it, the buildings will be fully refreshed,” he said.

The makeover is scheduled to be completed this summer, providing an important source of new industrial space for tenants.

“With limited new supply under construction for delivery in 2013,” Rouillard said, “Triovest sees this as an opportunity ... to offer tier-one quality, large-bay product to the market in a strategic location where there are currently very few options for larger users.”

Hopewell builds

Demand for new, large-format industrial space is underscored by the third phase of the Hopewell Distribution Centre on Blundell Road in Richmond.

The development has close to 280,000 square feet on 11.7 acres, and like Triovest’s project in Delta, boasts 30-foot ceilings. The project is now 75% leased, with just 65,000 square feet now available.

Colliers lists estates

The listing by Colliers International of 324.5 acres of land in Richmond, amounting to 1% of the city’s land base, has drawn cries of protest from farmland advocates.

Gilmore Estates, which includes 10 titles and 800 feet of frontage on the Fraser River south of Steveston Highway between No. 4 and Shell roads, is being offered for $55 million.

But because it’s in the agricultural land reserve (ALR), farmland advocate and Richmond councillor Harold Steves has given notice that any purchaser buying it with the aim of removing it from the ALR can expect opposition from Richmond.

Steves was outraged when Port Metro Vancouver snapped up the Gilmore farm at No. 8 Road and Westminster Highway in 2009 for approximately $20 million, or just short of $93,000 an acre. The current listing works out to close to $170,000 an acre.

Kirk Kuester, managing director for Colliers International in Vancouver, feels the fears lack basis.

The listing brochure describes the property as an investment opportunity, and shies from highlighting the development potential.

“There is no suggestion or representation that rezoning or reclassification is possible,” he said, adding that “interest to date has come from long term, strategic and private ALR investors who will continue to hold the lands in their current form.  We also have interest from ALR users who may take all or a portion of the site and utilize the lands for agricultural purposes.”

On the other hand, Kuester notes that the property’s prime location prompted Richmond to designate it for industrial use prior to imposition of the agricultural land reserve in 1973.

Whether or not the property is held for farm use or is designated industrial is a difficult question to answer, but it’s one many people are asking these days as reserves of developable industrial land fall short.

“The brokerage community’s getting creative, trying to bring in lots more ALR opportunities,” Jarvis Rouillard, vice-president, investments with Triovest Realty Advisors Inc. told commercial real estate association NAIOP last month. “[But] there’s timing risk, there’s cost risk, there’s political risk, there’s liquidity risk. And a lot of those opportunities don’t necessarily price that risk into the equation.” •

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