Condos for Molson Brewery site? A look at current zoning and The Province article on ‘Sea view apartment development’

Molson Brewery site zoning

Was it only a matter of time that a residential redevelopment proposal came forward for the Molson Brewery site at 1550 Burrard Street? A number of reports of the sale of the property came in November of 2015. The CBC article stated, “The brewery was reportedly sold for close to $200 million.” That’s a fairly hefty price for industrially zoned land.

Amid this backdrop, Sam Cooper reported in The Province: ‘Sea view apartment development’ on tap for Vancouver’s Molson site – Chinese syndicate invites investors to join project; city officials say it’s news to them (January 14, 2016)

The article states that promotional material to potential investors reportedly claimed that there was “zero risk, high return” associated with a ‘sea view apartment development’ project. There are also statements by City Staff “no one has come in and talked to us” and that the City has not received “any new applications” related to this site.

An open question to ask: Is it reasonable to accept that investors paid $200 million for a site without any assurance that it could be rezoned for residential apartment use? The development plans might be new to City officials, but is it news to insiders? Is it truly ‘zero risk’? Were there other discussions and incentives offered in order to get private assurance of approval? Time may tell.

The Molson site is currently zoned as M-2 industrial. Under the Zoning and Development Bylaw, the M-2 District Schedule only allows for very limited residential uses. These include a “dwelling unit for a caretaker or watchman” and a “residential unit associated”…”with an Artist Studio” (limited to a maximum of 10% of the existing floor area).

The uses intended for the M-2 Industrial zones are primarily manufacturing related. These uses include brewing or distilling. A few other related uses such as gasoline stations, animal clinics, catering establishments, cold storage plants and wholesale are also permitted outright. A number of similar uses are conditional (require approval from the City). The maximum FSR for M-2 zoning is 5.0 while the maximum building height is 30.5 metres (100 feet).

The City of Vancouver has recently spot-zoned a number industrially zoned properties. These include PCI’s Marine Gateway, Wall’s 955 East Hastings and 1077 Great Northern Way. There is also recent news of a general office space rezoning for a joint Westbank and Hootesuite office complex for an entire block of industrial land along East 4th Avenue.

BC Assessment currently values the land at $28,275,000 for Molson site, the buildings at $15,400,000. This works out to a total assessed value of $43,675,000 for 1550 Burrard Street. Why would the purchaser have paid nearly five times the assessed value?

Further information about the sale of the Molson brewery site can be found in the following articles:

RGS Molson Plant

vanmap molsons site
Molson’s site and context in City’s VanMap application.

Molson Plant (in background) as seen from Burrard and West 1st Avenue

Molson Plant (in background) as seen from Burrard and West 1st Avenue

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