Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jobs and people converge around transit hubs

While mentioning the fact that the Fraser Health Authority has relocated to the Brentwood area, the following Vancouver Sun article notes the high value placed by companies on transit hubs in Metro Vancouver.


Employees prefer to not walk more than 500 metres to get to work

VANCOUVER — Demand is increasing for office towers around Metro Vancouver’s transit lines, with companies willing to pay a premium of $10 per sq. ft. so employees don’t have to walk more than 500 metres to get to work, Metro Vancouver’s regional development and agriculture committee learned in a report Friday.
The Fraser Health Authority, for instance, has moved into a new tower less than two blocks from Brentwood Town Station in Burnaby, while HSBC has occupied a new building next to Renfrew Station in Vancouver.
TransLink is also planning to relocate, to the Brewery District near New Westminster’s Sapperton SkyTrain station, with Coast Capital Savings slated to move its head office to a mixed-use development at King George Station in Surrey City Centre.
“Every week we are dealing with companies, either local or international, every single one that’s going to the suburbs needs to be near transit,” said Scott MacDonald, research associate for Jones Lang LaSalle Real Estate Services Inc., which produced the staff report.
“(It has to be) a five to 10 minute walk …. farther than 500 metres, especially with Vancouver’s weather, they might see that as too far for some of their employees.”
The trend, which is happening in countries around the world, falls in line with Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy, which aims to identify transit-oriented neighbourhoods where people can live and work close to transit in an attempt to reduce vehicle use, protect land for other uses and create vibrant pedestrian communities.
But Metro directors acknowledge it’s often hard to get stand-alone office towers in high-density neighbourhoods because residential buildings take precedence, which has forced businesses in the past few decades to set up shop in suburban office parks.
The staff report, titled Office Development in Metro Vancouver’s Urban Centres, also suggests the region has a relatively slow-growing office market, with a large proportion — 46 per cent — of existing and new office space located in the “Metro core,” which includes downtown Vancouver and the Broadway corridor.
Burnaby and New Westminster have about 21 per cent of the region’s office space, with nine per cent in both Richmond and Surrey/White Rock The rest — less than 10 per cent — is distributed throughout the rest of the region.
“In our city it’s been an issue that has kind of plagued our council because there’s been such a downturn in commercial space and because of developers’ reluctance to build,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. “They’re under pressure to move commercial into residential. I find it very interesting that 500 metres is a crucial figure for almost everybody.”
Corrigan said his city has been lucky to see the development of Metrotower III, crediting the move to the fact that the office tower is located across from a busy SkyTrain station and bustling mall.
Meanwhile, in Coquitlam’s City Centre, there are no stand-alone office towers because there aren’t enough tenants at any one time to fill a building, despite the promise of the planned Evergreen Line rapid transit, said Mayor Richard Stewart.
MacDonald said rapid transit is highly preferred by companies, which will pay a premium to be close to it, while rapid bus is seen as a “consolation prize.”
But Corrigan said rapid bus should not be underestimated, saying Vancouver’s density is a result of its grid of electric buses that used to be the main mode of transportation in the city. The 99 B-Line bus, he added, has also shown the demand for rapid transit along the Broadway corridor, carrying more passengers than any other system in North America.
“You build ridership and you build an argument for rapid transit,” he said.
He cited the situation in Richmond when the Canada Line was built, replacing the 98 B-Line. Surrey Coun. Linda Hepner said her city could use more transit, noting the city’s high office vacancy is a result of having limited access.
Meanwhile, Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said he would be happy with just a direct bus — rather than what he described as a “magical mystery tour” bus — to help serve the growing downtown core.

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