The Lower Mainland's transit agency has won a jackpot – a result of the city's skyrocketing real estate prices – that will provide $440-million for the region's ambitious system expansion.
TransLink announced on Tuesday the six-hectare Oakridge Transit Centre has been sold to a partnership between a long-time local development company, Intergulf Development Group, and Asian developer Modern Green Development Co. for an amount triple what the agency estimated it could get for the land five years ago.
"At the end of the day, we're extremely excited to be able to announce this," said Derrick Cheung, TransLink's vice-president of strategic sourcing and real estate. TransLink called the sale one of the biggest transactions in B.C. real-estate history.
The province sold the Little Mountain social-housing site in central Vancouver to Holborn Group in 2007 for $300-million.
Although some details of the sale had dribbled out in recent months, Mr. Cheung said the deal, which required TransLink to move the last of its bus operations off the site, was finalized only in the past two months.
Mr. Cheung said the prospect of the high sale price has allowed the agency start buying properties for stations along the planned new rapid-transit lines in Vancouver and Surrey, and sites needed for the new Pattullo Bridge and a bus exchange.
Those assets will be part of what the agency is able to offer as contributions when Ottawa and B.C. work out their shares in the new year in the second phase of transit funding for the region.
Besides providing a huge boost to the transit system, the sale of Oakridge Transit Centre means a significant change to the neighbourhood around 41st Avenue and Oak Street.
The large site has already gone through a preliminary process with Vancouver city council that has resulted in a policy statement outlining the density, height and amenities the city expects when it is redeveloped.
That process, which helped TransLink achieve the higher sale price, means about 1,000 new units of housing, a large park and a childcare centre.
One of the new owners of the site said the company is thrilled to have acquired such a key piece of land in Vancouver.
"To find 14 acres like this in the city of Vancouver, it is irreplaceable," said Shaadi Faris, vice-president of Intergulf. The Intergulf-Modern Green partnership beat 13 other bidders. "And having a road map from the city is so important to de-risk the project."
Intergulf has projects throughout the Lower Mainland, including in Burnaby and on Cambie Street. Modern Green, which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, recently completed a development at the University of B.C.
Although Vancouver council did approve a policy statement late in 2015, the company will still have to go through the usual rezoning and public-hearing process.
The city's policy statement stipulated that the site should have a mix of housing, including market condos, rentals, affordable housing, family housing and housing for people with mental illness or addictions.
The developer has to provide a park that is almost a sixth of the entire site.
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the sale will add to the momentum of the region's 10-year transit plan.
That plan, which appeared stalled after a failed transit referendum last year, has been revived with the injection of $616-million in federal and provincial funds. As well, mayors just voted to increase property taxes and fares to start making improvements in the system immediately.