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Line land could be lucrative

Alan Campbell, Richmond News, August 22, 2008

Investing in real estate within 500 metres of three of Richmond's new Canada Line stations could spark a cash bonanza.

A report released this week by real estate experts Landcor Data Corporation predicts it might take a few years for property values to increase substantially.

But the report adds that Richmond's current plans for urban villages near the stations makes the city more prepared than anywhere along the line for the arrival of the Canada Line.

That's good news for developers planning to build high density multi-family housing near Richmond's Capstan, Lansdowne and Brighouse Canada Line stations.

"Richmond has the right commercial and residential high density zoning in place to receive the Canada Line," Landcor president Rudy Nielsen said.

"The city is ahead of Vancouver in that respect because it has prepared for the Canada Line more.

"It has plans for high-density housing close to the stations. The mayor, council and planning department should get credit for that."

Landcor's report, titled Lessons from Expo 86 for the 2010 Winter Games, evaluates the potential for residential development around the Canada Line being built in time for the 2010 Winter Games. It compares what happened during Expo 86, another international event held in Vancouver, which also saw new rapid transit.

"The Expo Line changed the face of Metro Vancouver and helped introduce our city to the world in 1986," Nielsen said.

"We believe that the Canada Line has the potential to do the same."

Landcor found that in the 10 years following the Expo Line completion, 1986-1996, residential construction took off within 500 metres of some Expo Line stations in Burnaby, New Westminster and Vancouver.

Landcor also found that vacant residential land prices within 500 metres of Expo Line stations increased 251 per cent between 1986 and 1996, compared to 133 per cent for overall housing prices within the surrounding community.

Key to the rapid increase in value, however, is the need for high-density zoning.

"Richmond is already planning transit-oriented, high-density urban villages at three of five stations to take advantage of the opportunities the Canada Line brings," Nielsen said.

Another vital component to the property boom is the people who'll live in the housing near the stations, said Don Campbell, of Real Estate Investment Network.

"It will work if the people are earning lower than the median income," he added.

"They are the people that tend to use transit more.

"It's been shown across North America that areas with higher incomes tend not to use transit anyway."

There is a fear among some Richmond residents that the Canada Line will bring social ills like increased crime. Their apprehension is based on the stigma attached to certain areas around Skytrain stations.

"Actually, areas surrounding Skytrain stations are now showing positive signs and some are now quite lucrative," Nielsen said.