Developers eye White Rock density boost; green building boom on

Bosa Properties Inc.’s Miramar Village is among the higher-density developments completed in White Rock since 2010 | Bosa Properties Inc.

White Rock grows young

White Rock is reviewing its official community plan (OCP), and that’s music to the ears of developers, who see opportunity as the waterfront city welcomes an unprecedented number of young families.

While well-known developers such as Bosa Properties Inc. and Ledingham McAllister have built towers in the community, smaller projects by Forge Properties Inc., Cressey Development Group and other developers promise to boost density as well as housing options.

“There’s been a lot of changes in terms of the nature of the community,” said Karen Cooper, director of planning and development services for White Rock, noting that the OCP has had 13 amendments since 2008. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of families moving into White Rock. … White Rock has a reputation for being a retirement community, and the demographics are showing that’s not what’s happening. And that’s a pretty significant change.”

The current review of the OCP is taking a particular interest in White Rock’s built form to determine how best to accommodate future growth. An initial report is due in June, which will guide reviews of development applications until a new OCP is in place.

“There’s a lot of development activity in White Rock,” Cooper said. “They’re a much larger scale, they involve more properties instead of just one property, and they’re major developers.”

Townhouses and low-rise multi-family properties dominate the shift, but Michael Ferreira, principal of market research firm Urban Analytics Inc., said activity will continue to hinge on retirees.

“It’s really a local, empty-nester-driven market there,” he said. “It’s people who are already living in White Rock or the South Surrey area and just want to downsize into something … close to the water.”

LEED lagging

“Raising the bar” will be the theme when Canada Green Building Council president and CEO Thomas Mueller and Martin Nielsen, a principal in the Vancouver office of the integrated design consultancy Dialog, hold forth at the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties breakfast meeting later this week.

Recapping statistics on certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard earlier this year, Mueller described the green building sector as “thriving.”

“The stringency and rigour of the LEED standard is enabling real progress in constructing better-performing buildings and reducing environmental impacts from the buildings sector,” he said. “As we move into 2015, our work will continue, with a focus on supporting the market in building on these achievements and aiming for higher performance.”

But if quality is the concern, quantity is equally of the moment.

While there are more than 5,000 registered projects – of which 924 are in B.C. – the number that achieve certification is somewhat lower, at just 395.

Moreover, a glance at the registration numbers indicates that interest peaked in 2010 with a record 144 registrations. Annual certification numbers have never exceeded 90, peaking in 2013 at 87.

Projects plugging along

Building permit issuances posted a strong start across B.C. in the first quarter, and now the latest issue of the B.C. Major Projects Inventory indicates that proposals for future development are also robust.

The aggregate cost estimate for major projects rose to $396 billion in the final quarter of 2014, up from $376.8 billion in the third quarter. The inventory logged 33 new projects, up from 31 new projects during the third quarter.

But the number of projects on the go dipped from 371 to 351, a loss of approximately $1.7 billion in construction activity. Meanwhile, projects on hold jumped from 78 to 83, a pause worth $3.6 billion.

While the North Coast remains the land of hopes, with $151.8 billion worth of proposed projects, the Lower Mainland-Southwest continues to lead the province with $39.4 billion worth of projects under construction. 

pmitham@telus.net