Concord Pacific Developments has purchased the iconic Molson Coors brewery and disclosed plans to transform one of the city's last remaining industrial sites into a "mixed-use residential neighbourhood."
The developer bought the site for $185-million and the deal closed March 31, according to real estate information service RealNet.
It finally ends months of speculation about a mystery buyer. Last November, Molson Coors had confirmed the sale of the site, but the company would not disclose the buyer or the price. The sale was expected to close in early 2016.
When The Globe and Mail called for a comment on Monday afternoon, Concord Pacific Developments vice-president Peter Webb issued the following statement: "Concord Pacific has finalized the purchase of the Molson Coors Vancouver Burrard location. Concord has agreed to lease back the existing property for Molson to continue brewery operations while a new brewery is being constructed.
"In the meantime, Concord plans to work with the approving authorities and the public to create a new community. The vision is to include a mixed-use residential neighbourhood with a knowledge-based work centre, to attract both local and international tech firms. The reimagined Molson lands will become a vibrant addition to Vancouver."
Molson Coors confirmed it would be leasing the brewery from the developer until it had found a new site.
"I can tell you we sold it to Concord Pacific and we are leasing the property back for at least two years while we build a new brewery in B.C.," said Jennifer Kerr, director of corporate affairs for Molson Coors.
It is one of the last protected industrial sites in Vancouver, safeguarded by Metro Vancouver and City of Vancouver policies that consider the site important for centrally located industrial jobs.
The city, which has repeatedly said it has no plans to rezone the site for anything other than industrial use, sent an e-mail on Monday stating it had not received a rezoning application for the site.
"Any change to that would require a regional amendment by Metro. The city's policies for these lands are set and staff are not contemplating any changes to current policies," it said.
Concord appears to be watching changes in the Mount Pleasant area, which is transforming from a traditional manufacturing zone to one with a new tech-friendly definition of industrial.
Concord Pacific, owner of the 83-hectare former Expo lands, is known for its large-scale residential developments and is not an industrial developer.
Real estate analyst Richard Wozny of Site Economics said he was surprised by the purchase.
"It is unusual that an industrial property would be purchased by a mostly residential developer. Given the prime urban location, perhaps they expect rezoning to something much more dense and much more valuable," Mr. Wozny said. "If this site changes land uses, it would become yet another example of how serious the industrial land shortage has become."
Tom Davidoff, economics professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, is in favour of the Concord Pacific plan, but not necessarily the approach.
"I think adding housing supply and collecting development fees makes more sense than land-intensive industrial use on that site, from a social perspective."
However, he added, "The city has to be careful. My understanding is that land prices are going nuts and developers buy assuming [there will be] upzoning. Arguably, the city shouldn't reward such behaviour – it's critical that paying a lot for land should not entitle the owner to demand city action."
The three-hectare property, on two lots at 1550 Burrard St. and 1655 W 1st Ave., is assessed in the documents at $49,019,400.