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Cressey Group’s Jason Turcotte outside the MThree condo project. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)
Cressey Group’s Jason Turcotte outside the MThree condo project. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)

neighbourhood watch

Evergreen Line spurs Coquitlam condos Add to ...

Cressey Development Group officials are hoping that the address they have carefully chosen for a planned 42-storey tower in Coquitlam will be good luck for the condo building, one in a flurry of real-estate projects spurred by the Evergreen rapid-transit line.

Inspired by the lucky number 8 in Chinese culture, Cressey has opted to have 1188 Pinetree Way as the address for its new condo, slated for completion in late 2015.

The much-delayed Evergreen SkyTrain line, scheduled to open in mid-2016, will have a stop at Lincoln station, near the Coquitlam Centre shopping mall and three Cressey residential towers.

Cressey’s latest Coquitlam project, dubbed MThree, is part of the private company’s Metropolitan Residences series. The 27-storey MOne tower opened last year, while the 25-storey MTwo is slated to be finished in the fall of 2013.

Onni Group recently opened its 37-storey Oasis condo tower nearby and is now marketing its Westwood proposal, while other developers with high-rise residential projects in Coquitlam include Bosa Properties and Intergulf Development Group.

The goal of regional planners is to shun urban sprawl and instead encourage high-density living in Vancouver’s suburbs. Large clusters of high-rise condos have already emerged. “All the condo projects are being done on the expectation that rapid transit will serve Coquitlam. Even though we’re in a suburban part of Metro Vancouver, there are urban pockets,” said Jason Turcotte, Cressey’s development manager.

The shopping mall, built in 1979 and expanded in 2001, has been one of the major draws for condo buyers. Coquitlam Centre has familiar tenants such as the Bay department store. There is also a T&T supermarket outlet that specializes in groceries targeting the area’s Chinese and South Korean communities. Yoga-wear chain Lululemon has deemed Coquitlam hip enough for a location in the mall.

Other attractions in the area include aquatic and sports centres, Douglas College, Glen Park and Lafarge Lake. A new public library opened two months ago near the Cressey properties. It all adds up to Coquitlam fulfilling its role as a regional hub, deserving of Evergreen service, Mr. Turcotte said.

Hani Lammam, Cressey’s vice-president of development and acquisitions, grew up in Coquitlam. “The thing about Coquitlam is it is a bit removed, and hasn’t been on the radar in the real estate market like the bidding wars in Vancouver. Coquitlam has been stable and steady and hasn’t seen the price pressure of an overheated market,” Mr. Lammam said.

The benchmark index price for a Coquitlam resale condo in December on the Multiple Listing Service was $248,900, down 1.9 per cent from a year earlier and a 6.5-per-cent decline from December, 2007. Cressey, whose new MOne condos started at $239,000, will begin marketing its MThree units this spring. Compared with condos in Vancouver and other regional markets, prices in Coquitlam are a bargain, Mr. Turcotte said. “We have rapid transit coming, and we really haven’t seen the price escalation yet like in Richmond Centre or Burnaby Metrotown,” he said.

Gordon Price, a former Vancouver city councillor, said Coquitlam is headed down the right path, with residents looking forward to the Evergreen line in 2016.

“It’s not just about the car, or about transit or about bikes. The key is giving people the choices so that they can mix and match,” said Mr. Price, who is now director of Simon Fraser University’s city program in continuing studies. In nearby Port Moody, the Newport Village and Suter Brook condo developments are good examples of mixed-used neighbourhoods with an energetic feel – a community vibrancy that Coquitlam is striving for on a larger scale, he added.

Anthony Perl, a professor of urban studies and political science at SFU, said Coquitlam’s real estate market is notable for condos sprouting up years in advance of rapid transit’s arrival, in contrast to other areas such as Richmond, where towers have been built after the Canada Line’s opening in the summer of 2009.

The Evergreen line took longer than expected to gain approval, but many projects forged ahead anyhow. “If you put a high level of density in and don’t put in public transit, then you get gridlock because you have everyone in cars in a concentrated space,” Prof. Perl said. “The Evergreen line is on and it will be happening.”

In Coquitlam’s field of dreams, developers build condos, and people will come – even though the Evergreen SkyTrain is behind schedule.

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