Chilliwack home to residential, industrial opportunities; real estate deals in B.C.’s wine country bearing fruit in 2015

The Cottages at Cultus Lake is helping drive the rapid growth of recreation hot spot Cultus Lake near Chilliwack | Frosst Creek Developments

Cultus following

The tiny community bordering Cultus Lake is getting a lot larger thanks to Frosst Creek Developments Ltd. of Chilliwack, which is developing 360 residential units at the south end of the lake.

The Cottages at Cultus Lake, a 231-unit development, is largely sold out (13 units remain), while Creekside Mills at Cultus Lake will bring 129 single-family units to the area.

By comparison, Cultus Lake Park hosts 480 residential units.

However, that could change as the Fraser Valley Regional District and the Cultus Lake Park Board near completion of PlanCultus, a two-year-old initiative to update the 1997 Cultus Lake Park Plan.

A survey regarding the latest draft of a proposed community plan closed last week, and a final draft is scheduled for September.

Key elements of the draft plan include upgrading water and waste-water infrastructure, amending zoning to allow at least 160 new residential units, and establishing a village centre similar to what exists at Garrison Crossing on the former Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack.

The changes make sense to Steve Van Geel, a principal of Frosst, who said the lake’s growing popularity demands a response. Not only will better infrastructure help the park, it will serve everyone in the area.

“They want to make … the main beach area a bit more attractive, add some more amenities,” Van Geel said. “From our point of view it’s great. … It will bring more awareness to Cultus Lake, add some more infrastructure for the general … area.”

Chilliwack’s cheaper

Avison Young’s latest report on the Fraser Valley industrial market notes that strong activity elsewhere in the region has left Chilliwack with one of the cheapest, most available sources of land in the region. This works out to low rents for existing premises, while local land prices are “significantly discounted” relative to the rest of the Fraser Valley.

“There are very few opportunities to acquire land elsewhere in the region,” Avison Young notes, pointing out that owner-users can expect to wait up to two years for a build-to-suit opportunity.

“Guys are going to head back out there again just because of the lack of supply closer in. Opportunities just aren’t there in Abbotsford or Langley on any sort of large tracts,” said John Eakin, a vice-president with Avison Young in Vancouver.

While that should make Chilliwack a winner, the city’s distance from the core is what keeps costs low as much as anything else.

But with its location on Highway 1, Chilliwack is ideal for companies that want to be close to Alberta without leaving the Lower Mainland. This is important, Eakin said, as trucking companies keep closer tabs on drivers through digital logs and seek more efficient routes.

Crush time

With the B.C. grape harvest underway, it’s worth noting the crop of wineries whose real estate plans bore fruit this year.

Singletree Winery opened an 800-square-foot tasting room this past January in Abbotsford at a cost of $300,000, tame in comparison to the cost of a full-scale winery. Singletree’s premises include the tasting room and three tanks, but winemaking itself takes place at Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland.

Summerland is where industry veteran Harry McWatters opened Evolve Cellars in renovated premises in May. He’s also moving forward with construction of Time Estate Winery on Black Sage Road near Oliver, near where Bartier Bros. hopes to build a facility for its own winery.

Pipe Dreams Estate Winery plans to open its own facility on the north side of Oliver this fall, while Bordertown Vineyards in Osoyoos, Clos du Soleil in Cawston and Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan all opened new premises in 2015.

All told, investments in the sector have easily added up to a few million dollars this year – not bad given oft-voiced fears of over-exuberant growth in an industry with approximately 10,000 acres of vines to its credit.