COLUMN: Will Larco project fly, and what will the Anvil cost?

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Just a few thoughts today—and hopefully some helpful tidbits of info.

You may be familiar with what’s known as the Larco property on New West’s waterfront. Today it’s that vast piece of blacktop, a.k.a. the parking lot between the Fraser River Discovery Centre and Westminster Pier Park. Most people who have been here a while look at that property and wish something better could be done with it.

The owner is Larco Investments—or better put, the Lalji family which is ranked this year by Canadian Business magazine as the 23rd “weathiest people” in Canada, and owners of such properties as Park Royal Shopping Centre and a whole whack of federal buildings.

At one time the Pier Park property was slated to have eight towers with 860 units, and the Larco property plans were for more of the same. Thankfully the city bought the former for parkland, and today is working with Larco to pare their ambitions down from five massive towers to three slimmer towers and more park space.

If the changes are approved at a public hearing slated for next spring, does it mean Larco will break ground soon?


Larco has sat on the property for about 20 years. In recent interviews they said market conditions are getting close to where they need to be, but not quite yet.

The upside? When it’s developed, the new plan will be so much better for the city. Downside? We’ll likely be looking at a parking lot for many years to come.

• • • • •

OK, some numbers for the Anvil Centre—the new civic centre under construction on Columbia Street—and the office tower rising above it.

Is this city-led project on track?

Gary Holowatiuk, the city’s finance director, says it’s “coming in on budget.” He says $56M has been spent so far.

Here’s how the $94M budget breaks down:

$41.5 M - Anvil Centre

$12.5 M - Parking structure

$33 M - Office tower

$7 M - Tenant improvements (if the city doesn’t sell tower)

How will it be paid for?

A big chunk, $43M, will come from something called Development Assistance Compensation (DAC) funding, part of a deal the city brokered years ago with the province for hosting Starlight Casino. Of that, $35M was always earmarked for a Downtown facility with convention space, and the city is borrowing the additional $4M in DAC money that had been intended for Quayside dock facilities and $4M of the $10.3M set aside for the Queensborough to Quayside pedestrian bridge.

That leaves $51M still to be paid. How? In a nutshell: by borrowing.

The city’s taking $11M in debt for most of the parking structure, and is taking $40M from its reserve funds intended for capital projects like road improvement and pipe replacement. So, in order to do those projects the city can’t delay, the city’s borrowing as needed. You may recall a big fuss created last year when the city sought authorization to borrow up to $59M—that’s why.

If the city sells the office tower, there’s a decent chance most of the debt will be retired in one fell swoop. If not, the city is confident it will lease the office tower at decent rates and use that revenue to service its debt.

Holowatiuk says the Anvil Centre/office tower is on pace for a May 2014 completion.

But to be sure, there will also be a big splash in the fall, just a few weeks before the election.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.


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