Genstar Development Company has ended its plan to create a huge residential area in Silverdale. The San Diego-based company

Genstar development plans cancelled

More than 710 acres of Genstar-owned property is up for sale, along with 460 acres of land owned by Madison Development Corporation.

Genstar Development Company has ended its development plans in Mission, putting all of its Silverdale property on the market.

More than 710 acres of Genstar-owned property is up for sale, along with 460 acres of land owned by Madison Development Corporation, listed as one package with Colliers International.

The property totals more than 40 per cent of the southwest Mission lands slated for urban development in 2004.  The entire area, about 3,400 acres, was to be developed in phases over 40 years and would have increased Mission’s population by 33,000.

Genstar made a corporate decision to pull out of the development scene in B.C and will be closing its regional office in Burnaby, said Genstar president James Hammermeister, speaking from the company’s corporate headquarters in San Diego, California.

He explained the company has struggled in recent years to secure land for development in B.C.

“Land holdings in the Lower Mainland are very fractured,” said Hammermeister, noting his company’s specialty is bringing large tracts of land to the development level.

He estimates it would take at least another two to five years before a development in Mission would be marketable, and there isn’t enough work in the area for the company to sustain a B.C. office until the project in Mission proceeds.

Hammermeister added Genstar would consider working with another partner to move the project forward.

With the operational changes at Genstar, Madison president Sam Grippo told The Record his company had to make some decisions as well.

Grippo said the Madison Group has expertise in commercial developments, not residential projects, and was relying on Genstar to take the lead on the venture.

Now Madison is coordinating with Genstar to offer the whole project for sale, said Grippo.

Mike Younie, Mission’s director of development services, said the developers have done extensive work to prepare the land for development and everything will still be in place if there are new owners.

“I don’t think selling the land will delay the development – it may even speed things up,” he said, suggesting another company may have new ideas and want to get things moving more quickly.

“There are all kinds of questions and ideas when land of that size changes hands.”

Mission’s economic development officer Stacey Crawford said the departure of Genstar is a loss to the community, but agreed change also presents an opportunity to re-evaluate the plan for the southwest area of Mission.

“We’ve had discussions for a number of years to make something happen, however (Genstar’s) priorities and areas of interest have appeared to change.”

Comprised of 48 legal parcels, the Silverdale lands will be marketed locally and internationally. An asking price has not been listed, and interested parties are being asked to suggest their own estimate as to the value of the land.

“It is one of the largest contiguous properties in B.C.,” said Morgan Dyer, senior vice-president of investment and land development with Colliers International, and sales agent for the property.

Dyer noted the property is attractive because there is a neighbourhood plan in place that offers direction for development.

“Silverdale is the next largest land development area in the north-east sector (of the Lower Mainland),” said Dyer. “This could be a game-changer for Vancouver.”

The value of the land is difficult to determine. While Mission Mayor Randy Hawes has said it could be worth more than $200 million dollars, local realtors and builders’ associations agree that an overall value is virtually impossible to assess.

“It totally depends on subdivision potential and density,” said realtor Cal Crawford, adding that some of the land has high density potential.

He said one acre may have 12 units on it and another may have six so calculating the value is difficult.

Genstar and Madison

Genstar has owned land in Silverdale since the 1970s, and assembled close to 1,300 acres, including Silvermere Island, in less than 10 years.

Madison began acquiring property in Silverdale in 1967. When it purchased 460 acres in Silverhill, the company coordinated with Genstar to develop a comprehensive plan for southwest Mission.

The lands were recognized for urban purposes  in Mission’s Official Community Plan in 1978. Genstar and Madison initiated discussions with the District of Mission in 1997 to build in Silverdale.

After a lengthy public hearing, council approved an OCP change to redesignate about 3,400 acres of land in southwest Mission to urban residential in 2004.

The two companies financed extensive research such as geotechnical and environmental studies.

They were to bring municipal water and sewer service to the area at a cost of close to $80 million, and a plan for the first phase of development was presented in 2008.

Neighbourhood One consisted of about 364 acres with 1,400 dwelling units and a village. It was considered by the district to be the most environmentally conscious plan ever created in Mission with a large environmentally sensitive area and a network of trails.

In 2009, the district and the companies signed a 20-year Phased Development Agreement (PDA) to protect the developers from zoning changes in exchange for providing certain amenities to the district, such as parks and trails, lands for transit use and a community centre. Last year, amendments were made to the PDA to allow each developer to proceed with the project on an individual basis.

Younie said it may be “impossible” to determine how much time and money the district spent throughout the process so far, but all the costs associated with consultants and some district staffing costs were covered by the developers.

Silvermere

The first piece of Genstar-owned property in southwest Mission changed hands last year.

Westsea Properties picked up about 25 acres of property that fronts Hayward Street about a year ago from Genstar and completed the sale of Silvermere Island and its lake earlier this year in January.

Previously, Genstar had come up with several proposals for the entire 350- acre property, including developing 70 acres while preserving 261 acres as the lake, and dedicating 12 acres as a park.

The Vancouver-based company is holding it for a syndicate of owners, said Bob Scragg, Westsea’s director of development who declined to reveal the number of people involved.

Scragg said the island “seemed like a nice investment,” but noted Mission has to decide what kind of development it wants first.