TransLink could make millions from real estate

ctvbc.ca

By Jon Woodward

The authority responsible for public transit in the Lower Mainland is taking stock of its properties and preparing to be a multi-million-dollar real estate broker, a spokesman said today.

In ten years, TransLink could be looking at between $10-million and $50-million in revenues each year for building condominiums around SkyTrain stations, Park and Rides, and old maintenance yards, said spokesman Ken Hardie.

“There are some properties that TransLink owns outright, for instance the old bus depot on 41st, the Oakridge site, a very prime piece of property,” he said. “We also have a very fine piece of property along False Creek that used to be a transit centre way back when, and there are other pieces of land around the region.”

The transit authority is moving quickly on finding a way to make up an $18-million shortfall because of lost revenue from a canceled parking tax. That tax raised $19-million in 2006 and $21-million in 2007.

One idea being explored is a possible property tax hike, Hardie said.

But the idea to develop real estate came up during TransLink’s recent governance review last year, said Hardie.

Then the provincial government made changes to the law in November to allow TransLink to hold property, and TransLink hired a new executive to manage its real estate dealings.

The agency doesn’t have much land around the Expo or Millennium Lines, because it sold off any excess land after it was finished building.

But it’s looking at other properties such as properties near Oak St. and 41st Avenue, and a yard along False Creek near Science World.

Other possible options for development might be the Coquitlam park and ride, which could be turned into a high-density mixed-use hub, he said.

“These are early days. We hired a vice-president real estate in 2007. Up until this point the focus has been to get a good handle on the holdings that we have,” he said.

But soon millions could be acquired, he said.

“For TransLink’s purposes, every dollar that we earn this way is a dollar we don’t have to charge taxpayers or drivers,” he said.

The University of British Columbia has also made millions for its endowment fund by developing portions of its campus.

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