Making the business case for waterfront development

The Mission harbour waterfront.

The Mission harbour waterfront.

Developing Mission’s waterfront makes good business sense, according to a recently released report by the district.

“The business case demonstrated it is financially viable to do the development,” noted economic development officer Stacey Crawford. “The fact the numbers make sense is critical.”

He noted that developing 150 acres in the flood plain will require $1.4 billion from investors, and includes road realignments, fill requirements, potential soil remediation as well as the water, sewer, hydro and other services that any development needs.

Patrick Cotter Architect prepared the document for the municipality. Sharon Fletcher, the district’s director of planning, said their approach was to evaluate the business case as though one developer was in charge of the entire 150-acre project. Of course, several developers will likely be involved; with residential, commercial and other projects being constructed over a period of 30 to 40 years.

Cotter found a developer could reasonably expect a 20 per cent return on investment.

He also recommended the project would be most viable if it were done in phases, and identified the first portion as the Horne Street corridor, from the south end of Horne at the waterfront, north to the downtown. Fletcher explained that the corridor will eventually tie together two commercial areas — the waterfront and First Avenue.

The next major step in the planning process is to prepare a land use plan. Fletcher said the district needs to continue with a systematic approach.

“This is a massive development project — it’s bigger than False Creek,” she noted. “You need to do it right.”

Fletcher said the land use planning process would be very public — much like the official community plan. She believes the waterfront should be built to serve the people of Mission first, with tourism a byproduct.

“You build it for the community, then let the tourists come and enjoy it with us,” she said.

Fletcher said potential developers are watching the district’s approach, and waiting to see the land-use plan.

“There’s been interest from developers for a number of years.”

The work to date, and the public input, will be presented to council at a future meeting. A process for land-use planning will need to be set out and approved by councillors.