A Vancouver property development company says it’s committed to building “hundreds of homes” on the Bench area of Terrace.
Speaking last month, SwissReal vice president Jeremy Towning says residents can expect to see construction beginning this year.
SwissReal will first finish off a townhouse development along the 5100 Block of McConnell and bounded by the 3700 Block of Cory Drive on the Bench by adding 28 units to the seven first built in 2015.
After that SwissReal will move to two other pieces of property, also located on the Bench — one adjacent to Uplands Elementary and the other west of that on Halliwell.
“We’ve made those purchases and we’re committed,” said Towning last week. “You’re going to see hundreds of homes there.”
“We see ourselves in Terrace for years to come. We like the community.”
Once completed, the McConnell/Cory Drive development on 2.7 acres, called Terrace Heights, will be the largest of its kind in the city.
Towning said SwissReal had every intention of completing Terrace Heights by now but took a more cautious approach in 2016 when LNG Canada pulled back temporarily from making a final investment decision on its multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat.
LNG Canada announced that decision in late 2018, sparking an immediate rush on residential sales in Terrace and Kitimat.
City of Terrace development services director David Block confirmed SwissReal’s intentions last week, saying building permit fees for the next phase of Terrace Heights were paid in early January 2019 and permits were issued.
“The permits will expire after two years if construction has not commenced,” said Block. “I expect (SwissReal) will start construction Spring 2020 but to date we have not been notified as to who their general contractor for construction will be.”
While SwissReal is concentrating on the Bench area, it shelved initial plans last year to purchase a large block of City of Terrace acreage in the light industrial area on the Southside.
That surfaced last April when the city issued a notice of its intention to sell one property at 3111 Kenney and two at 5014 Keith and 5020 Keith, purchases which would have added $2.98 million to city coffers.
Although eager at first, Towning said it decided to forego the purchase upon doing due diligence on the properties which once formed a part of the dismantled sawmill complex along Keith eastward toward the Sande Overpass.
“With the history of that property, its use, the possibility of contaminants, we just couldn’t take the risk,” said Towning.
“In development, it’s about risk. At 15 acres, the risk wasn’t acceptable. We really tried to do something there.”
That property was once part of the Skeena Cellulose sawmill development which closed in the early 2000s when parent company Repap went out of business.
An attempt through local developers under the name of the Terrace Lumber Company and involving the financial backing of the City of Terrace operated the mill briefly before it closed again.
The City of Terrace acquired the property through a complex set of financial arrangements as part of the winding up the Terrace Lumber Company.
The city did, however, find a purchaser for one piece of acreage there, just under five acres on the corner of Kenney and Keith, to the company that owns the local Chrysler and Toyota dealerships.
That purchase was made in 2014 for $1 million.
Although SwissReal backed out of its purchase plan, Block said there has been other interest.
“We have had general inquiries since last spring about various city-owned properties, including these parcels on Keith/Kenney,” he said.