Mayor says it’s the Right Time, Right Place, Right Players
Around two hundred business people gathered in the new addition to the North Delta Rec Centre for the annual Mayor’s Breakfast which provides a report on the state of the city.
Mayor Lois Jackson began the morning with an overview of Delta’s strengths and accomplishments.
“When I started out as mayor 18 years ago, Delta was $58 million in debt. Next year we will be debt free. Delta has continued to build significant community infrastructure and assets, capitalizing on grants from both provincial and federal governments. Since 2009, Delta has been successful in obtaining over $50 million, for twenty-two capital projects with a construction value of more than $82 million, adding that through careful management the projects were constructed for less than 40 cents on the dollar, completed on time and under budget.”
“Our tax revitalization incentive programs have also proven to be very successful in stimulating development,” said the Mayor, “including the Delta Rise on Scott Road, the soon to be developed town house complexes on 72nd Avenue, and several industrial sites along River Road including Ocean Trailers in Tilbury and the Beedie Group developments which transformed two vacant brownfield sites into thriving businesses.”
Delta Chief Administrative Officer, George Harvie, offered a report card on the city’s progress.
“We’re talking about not borrowing. Since 2012 to 2017, Mayor Jackson and the council have approved Delta road improvements totaling $85 million that have been completed within that period of time with an additional $30 million planned to be applied between 2018 and 2021. Since 2001, we’ve invested $200 million here in Delta without borrowing. We’ve been able to do that by being really bullish in developing our industrial lands with our private partners.”
The Hon. Carl Qualterough, Delta’s MP and Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, has worked closely with the city to get Delta’s issues to Ottawa, to access the grants and help the community with local issues in front of the key decision-makers here.
“I think it’s important to come together as a community in events like this breakfast to celebrate the little engine that could, that is Delta. We regularly punch above our weight class economically, regularly delivering both locally, regionally and nationally for our economy in a way that I don’t think people have fully appreciated yet,” said Qualtrough. “Four agencies in Delta received New Horizons for Seniors facilities improvement grants, of more than $100,000. We’ve given grants to over thirty neighbourhood accessibility funds to make Delta more accessible. Every month, fifteen thousand children, that’s 9,000 Delta families, receive the Child Benefit. Last summer almost 200 youth were employed in the Canada Summer Jobs program, and a month ago, a $1.1 million grant was announced for a local company through Innovation Canada, for development of their agriculture technology.”
The Hon. Peter Fassbender, the MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood, and Minister for Community Sport and Cultural development, and Minister Responsible for TransLink, spoke for the provincial government.
“Delta is leading Metro in the kinds of initiatives that fit the larger economic plan and future of BC and Canada, and what’s described as the gateway to the country for the Asia Pacific, will continue to grow.
I was humbled when, along with Environment Minister Pollack, I signed the Environmental Certificate for the George Massey Replacement Project. It’s all about opening up the gateway even more to economic growth.”
He added that some people who oppose the project don’t see what the mayor and council see in their 20 year vision to keep the economic engine going.
“We’ve done our homework to make sure that all of the issues that were raised, have been addressed in the design and the scope of the project.” said Fassbender. ‘Fifteen years from now people will applaud the decision to build the project and all the additional necessary infrastructure.”
Chris MacCauley, Senior Vice President of the CBRE Group (Commercial Business Real Estate) spoke about the state of affairs in industrial development concerning Delta, in relation to the rest of Metro Vancouver and the outlook for industrial land development and large occupier assignments.
“Over most of my career there haven’t been many peaks and valleys, and a lot of people talk about the crazy residential market and how that must affect my market,” said MacCauley, saying this market didn’t have such fluctuations. “But that all changed two to three years ago and I can’t explain what has been happening now. In the last two years alone we have set more records than I’ve ever seen in my career and it’s not going to stop tomorrow with everything that we have going on. We’re poised for some great growth for three to four years which I don’t think can be said south of the border for the same period.”
MacCauley explained the vacancy rate for Metro Vancouver is 2.4%, the lowest since 2007. The five-year average is 4.3%.
“We’re truly in landlord’s market and that’s definitely not healthy because new entrants to the market, don’t have options for growth,” MacCauley said. “In my opinion, vacancy would have to be in the 4 to 4.5 range to be considered a healthy market, so people can have options. I don’t know if I’ll see it again in my career. We hope they will find ways to overcome the lack of supply. Of all the deals made in Metro Vancouver over the last year, Delta accounts for over half of them. Looking at construction, we’re showing a slight decrease over 2017, due to where we’re at in the development cycle. In 2018 we will get back to near record numbers.”
“I have been asked to talk about what makes Delta so successful,” said MacCauley. “It’s a cliché but it’s location. Nowhere else has Delta’s proximity to the Asian gateway, to Canada, Deltaport or the US border, and the new South Fraser Perimeter Road with access to the Trans Canada Highway. The Massey replacement project will be another game changer providing much needed improved access to the core and YVR. Secondly, your access to labour is important. Delta is a great place to live and offers a great work force, as well as next door to a very large industrial labour pool, being the Fraser Valley. The third aspect of success is the local government. Delta is considered a development friendly municipality that understands the needs of the market. They are accessible and still cost effective on development permits. You should be very proud of what you created here, from the local businesses to all levels of government. It’s a pleasure to do business here.”
Geoff Freer, Project Director of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project reminded everyone that it’s not just about building a bridge. It’s part of $600 million in transit improvements, 50 kilometres of dedicated transit lanes with integrated bus stops, a bus overpass to access the Bridgeport station from the dedicated transit lanes, integrated pedestrian and cycling pathways. It’s about safety. We cannot bring the existing tunnel up to the existing seismic standards. It will vastly improve traffic safety, eliminating the risk of accidents in the confined space of the tunnel, and it will reduce traffic congestion and all of the idling that goes along with that.”
Freer said consultations involving over a thousand participants said something had to be done with the tunnel, sooner rather than later. Out of five different options the preferred one was a new bridge within the existing corridor. Clearly, from a technical perspective this option would also produce the least impact on agriculture, environment, the Fraser River, residential properties and the lowest cost to taxpayers. Freer said, that with the environmental assessment approved, the project now moves into a new phase with preloading expected to begin in March. A contractor to do the major design will be selected by next summer, with major construction to start next fall. Opening day will be in 2022 with the tunnel decommissioned in 2024.”
Philip Seel from the Fraser Elliott Real Estate Group was the final speaker. He reviewed the market trends with residential development and noting unprecedented market trends, underscored the need to continue developing more dense housing options, citing and lauding the 37 story Delta Rise, to a six story project at 75th and Scott Road and condominium developments along 72ndAvenue with vehicle access at the rear, removing driveways from an widened arterial, expediting Alex Fraser access.