Archive for the ‘Story by Sean Lawson’ Category

Imagine A Marina

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Steveston_Insider_Imperial_Landing_WharfI’d like to discuss the opportunities a full service pleasure craft marina, located in front of Imperial Landing with both long and short term moorage capacity, will afford Steveston Village. I ask you to imagine this full service marina because the Onni development will require the City (again) to decide what to allow or what to do with their empty space in the months to come.

Imagine boaters taking advantage of the moorage. They will support the mixed maritime use shops located at the marina’s doorstep (uses such as marine hardware, electronics, sail and canvas repair, boat charter and rental offices, seafood market, sea cadets, yacht club, etc.) as well as local stores and restaurants as they seek maintenance, upgrades, provisions, and amusement.

Steveston_Insider_PaddleboardsVisualize marina space allowing for small power boat rentals, like those offered at Granville Island and Horseshoe Bay, tempting tourists and locals alike to venture out onto the water to fish, enjoy watersports, explore the river all the way up to Pitt Lake with opportunities to view sea lions, seals, eagles, heron, swans and other wildlife along the shore, journey to the Gulf Islands and so much more. In addition, power boat rentals, dinner cruises, expanded paddle and rowing activities can all be expected. Picture dragon boats, paddle boarders, kayakers, and canoers accessing rentals, lessons, and various clubs putting on competitions and festivals. These activities could be supported and encouraged by the City, Steveston Harbour Authority and the Steveston Merchants Association.

Envision water taxis offering unique sightseeing access, plying the waters and connecting Garry Point Park, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, Fisherman’s Wharf, Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, and even accessing London Landing and London Heritage Farm from the No. 2 Road Pier.

steveston_insider_boatsImagine viewing the work of local artisans and experiencing a Granville Island-style public market at the freshly rehabilitated Net Loft building built out on piles extending out on the waterfront at Britannia. Or exploring and discovering an expansive First Nations museum and a maritime museum located along the picturesque waterfront. These concepts are not a pipe dream; they are all viable ideas and are business opportunities currently being discussed.

The development of a marina will create additional demand for and make viable the maritime mixed-uses that are intended for Imperial Landing, while at the same time provide jobs and experiences currently not available in Steveston, and further enhance the experience for tourists and locals alike.

There is a 10 year wait list for a spot to moor in Steveston right now. The demand for moorage space is undeniable, and any space created would literally be filled overnight. Further, the Steveston Village shopping experience doesn’t need to grow to the east with 65,000 square feet of additional retail space. The traditional village core, including some of the exciting new developments planned in the core, will provide enough space for shopping, dining and business uses.

Steveston_Insider_Onni_RezoningSteveston is a community that cares, gets involved, volunteers, and has an opinion. It is understandably difficult to get a consensus on issues such as parking, building heights, allowable uses, Business Improvement Area formation, and community amenity locations. However, in a recent Steveston Merchants Association survey, 76% of members felt a marina would positively impact their businesses and 57% felt a rezoning of the MMU space at Imperial Landing to retail would negatively impact their businesses. These kinds of majority votes in Steveston are unprecedented. With this level of local passion, I’m confident the dream of a vibrant riverside community with an array of living, working, shopping, eating, and entertainment experiences will be achieved.

It cannot be stressed enough that Steveston is at a crossroads. The retention of the waterfront for the types of uses discussed above is imperative as once lost it will never be regained. Our waterfront can be a vibrant, lively place with locals, tourists and boaters from all over coming to enjoy what we have to offer. We must act now to ensure this opportunity is not lost; make sure your opinion is heard.


Sean_Lawson_RemaxSean Lawson, distinguished Realtor®, B.C.I.T. and U.B.C. trained, has been “Steveston’s Realtor®” since 1989. Raised and educated in Richmond and a resident of Steveston, this experienced builder and award winning Realtor® possesses the academic training, hands-on experience and local market knowledge necessary to satisfy your real estate requirements. Sean Lawson is a graduate of the B.C.I.T. Building Technologies Program and the U.B.C. Urban Land Economics Program, with over twenty years’ experience in real estate sales, re-zoning applications, land assembly and other development projects, making the team “Your Complete Source” for Steveston and Richmond real estate. Sean is an active member of the Steveston Merchants Association, as well as a contributor to family-building initiatives such as school fundraisers, parks, and playgrounds throughout Steveston. As a lifetime Richmond resident, a husband, and father of two daughters Bella and Talia, his roots in the community run deep and increase his commitment to a better Steveston.

Pending Redevelopment Proposals

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

The Cat is out of the Bag!
Pending Redevelopment Proposals Will Reshape Steveston Village
Story by Sean Lawson. Photos by Sandra Steier.

Rods_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaIt’s now official: there is a pending redevelopment process underway for the Rod’s Building Supply site, located at the corner of Moncton Street and Third Avenue. The proposal envisions a mixed-use development with retail on the ground floor and residential above, consistent with the City’s Steveston Area Plan.

The retail includes plans for a “name brand” full service grocery store. The developer, Kyle Shury of Platform Properties, is a “born and raised Richmond lad” and a long-time Steveston resident. After working with Townline Homes for thirteen years, Shury ventured out on his own six years ago and Platform Properties now has projects scattered throughout the Lower Mainland and B.C.

Buck_Ear_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaPlatform Properties’ vision, along with the planned extensive renovation of the Steveston Hotel (now under new ownership and management) and the new construction on the old G&F Financial site, will kick start the revitalization of the northwest section of Steveston Village’s core.

Steveston_Hardware_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaOn the heels of these developments is the Steveston Marine & Hardware site on Moncton Street, which currently has a pending deal in play. These developments will help round out the shopping experience while keeping the Village core intact.

These big moves are not the only plans in the works for our Village; there are currently talks going on at City Hall, spearheaded by Councillor Harold Steves’ stated desire to expedite and make a reality of a much needed pleasure craft marina in Steveston Harbour. The current Mixed Maritime Use (MMU) zoning on Onni’s Bayview site directly in front of this marina will also be in demand when these marina plans are solidified. Steveston Marine & Hardware is already interested in leasing up to 6,000 square feet of the Bayview site, and other maritime related businesses are sure to follow. Yet for the past two years Onni has been embroiled in a proposed zoning change asking for 100 percent retail use for the site which would see these great opportunities dashed.

Onni_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaThe Steveston Merchants Association (SMA) had put forward a measured proposal that called for approximately one-third office space, one-third MMU and one-third retail use for the empty Bayview site.

As discussed in my last opinion piece for Steveston Insider, such a zoning mix would allow for the traditional shopping experience of Steveston Village to remain in place (without dragging retail uses eastward away from the Village core and into a residential area), as well as satisfy Onni’s desire to obtain a higher valued use for its land. Despite what I believe to have been both public and City support for the SMA proposal, Onni did not accept these ideas and again pushed forward for 100 percent retail use of the Bayview site.

Two years have passed and the facts have changed; with the aforementioned significant redevelopment of the northwest Village (including a grocery anchor and more retail space underway), the possibility of a pleasure craft marina and the eventual need to relocate Steveston Marine & Hardware, the demand and appropriateness of the Maritime Mixed Use zoning on the Bayview site needs to be acknowledged. The marina and development sites discussed in this article will go through extensive planning and public process prior to any concrete being poured. All residents and business owners will have plenty of opportunity to have input and there will be well-advertised public information meetings coming soon.

I feel the recommendation from the SMA with respect to the amount of MMU space at the Bayview site needs to be revisited. There is now a strong case to be made for retaining even more MMU space than previously recommended.

It should be noted too that there are uses other than retail that should be considered for any change from MMU at the Bayview site. A public library, a cultural museum, a fitness facility (public or private), a senior’s centre or daycare are just a few that would be welcome additions to the community by residents and businesses alike. Further, any “voluntary contributions” or “cash payments” made by Onni to the City with respect to any rezoning of the Bayview site should be earmarked for use in Steveston only. These funds could be used to help provide additional parking, renovate or rebuild our community centre, help fund our fledgling Business Improvement Area association, etc.

It is Steveston residents and businesses that must live with the consequences of this late-in-the-game zoning change Onni is after. I believe it’s a slippery slope to let a developer build out their project, let it sit vacant while demanding the highest valued use, and then grant their wishes after such practices.

Imperial Landing

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

The Elephant in the Room: A Discussion About Best Practices
Story by Sean Lawson

Imperial Landing, Steveston, Palla MediaThere is an elephant in the room, namely the Imperial Landing waterfront site, as the lower level of the development remains empty and its fate is unresolved.

I think it is fair to say that having the Imperial Landing waterfront occupied would be better than its current “ghost town” condition, but the implications of exactly how this occurs will impact many and shape our village experience for years to come.

The site is currently zoned Maritime Mixed Use (MMU). This zone would allow marine hardware and electronics, the manufacturing and repair of sails and canvas, marine surveyors, lawyers, insurance brokers and architects, marine related subtrades like plumbers and electricians, rigging shops, kayak, canoe and dingy retailers, etc. As an example, think of all the vibrant water-related operations observed on Granville Island. The intent of this zone was to support Steveston’s historic commercial fishing industry and maritime economy by providing appropriate space and opportunity.
The MMU zone was granted and accepted during the original rezoning of the 43 acre Imperial Landing site as a form of “community contribution,” much like a typical townhouse project must build a playground on-site as part of their requirements. In consideration, in part, of the MMU-zoned waterfront parcel, the developer was awarded a very diverse zoning mix for the balance of the site. This included the ability to build commercial retail units (Starbucks, etc.), seven four-storey apartment buildings, three townhouse subdivisions, and single family homes on Easthope and Ewen Avenues, Bayview Street, and Gerrard Place. In addition, there were no affordable housing or childcare conditions imposed on this development in lieu of the MMU “contribution.”

London Landing wharf, Steveston, Palla MediaThe City of Richmond is working on a plan for a pleasure craft marina in front of this site. Councilor Harold Steves has stated that it is his determined goal to make this happen over the next few years. This would be incredibly beneficial as the Steveston Harbour Authority reports they currently have 265 people on a waiting list to obtain moorage in Steveston. Depending on the size of their boat, when applicants call to apply, they are told that the average wait time is five to ten years for a moorage spot. The boater currently at the top of the waiting list thought moorage was imminent and put his name down in 2003. That’s a 12-year wait! With this type of demand, a marina would be a huge overnight success.

After carefully considering the above, the Steveston Merchants Association (SMA) has put forward a very reasonable, well balanced, and thought-out proposal for the site. Their vision includes the east portion, approximately one third of the site, being rezoned to allow for office space, the middle third would remain MMU and provide services to the proposed marina located directly in front of its doors and the west third would be zoned to allow for retail use. This proposal would be a huge win for the developer as MMU space would lease for $18-$20 per square foot, office space for $20-$25 per square foot, and retail rates could be as high as $40 per square foot (approximations based on current market base rents of triple net leases in the area).

This proposal would preserve the traditional village shopping experience by keeping retail uses and shoppers at the west end of the site, close to the heart of the business district, and not drawing shoppers east into a more residential neighbourhood away from the historic village centre.

Parking your car in Steveston can be extremely frustrating, with spots at a premium during the busy summer season and year-round on weekends. Lots and lanes throughout the village are already at capacity, with visitor parking reaching neighbourhood residential streets. The office and MMU uses would likely not operate into the evenings and weekends, thus leaving pay parking options open. This alone would go a long way to helping our parking problems. In addition, employees of the office and MMU spaces would frequent the village shops and restaurants, adding to the economic viability and vibrancy of the existing village businesses.

030I feel if 60,000 square feet of retail space were dumped, seemingly overnight, on the market in Steveston, it would set back the redevelopment of the existing village core by a decade and move the main shopping experience from the traditional core, to which Steveston owes much of its charm, and over to the eastern waterfront. Would this be fair to all the restaurant and shop owners who have made investment decisions through lease or ownership arrangements, including significant investments of time and capital to improvements of these spaces, based on a set of well-established Official Community Plan rules and guidelines?

Just over a year ago, the developer was referred back to city staff for further consult-ation at a planning committee meeting. There have been talks about moving the Steve-ston Library from the community centre to a portion of the Bayview site, which I think is a fantastic idea, but my understanding is that they have been unable to come to an agreement. There currently is no scheduled return visit to the planning committee for this rezoning application and the site remains in limbo. This current state benefits no one. A balanced approach, like the Steveston Merchants Association proposal, will give local residents some of the retail options they covet while enhancing the historic village shopping experience that has made Steveston such a wonderful place to live, work, and visit.

Ask Sean

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Should I Downsize?

Recently I participated in a panel discussion on downsizing sponsored by RBC. We spoke to several groups consisting of financial planners, wealth managers, branch loans officers and managers and also at a public event attended by prospective downsizers.

“I was surprised to discover why most people have such a hard time with taking action on this decision and embarking on the next chapter of their lives…”

Sean-Lawson,-Steveston-RealFrom a real estate/investment perspective, it’s a no brainer for the 65+ aged crowd. Having so much of your nest egg tied up in one asset is a risky proposition. Like a stock portfolio, you have to ask yourself: how would I feel if I woke up after a market correction and found my asset worth 20% less? On a typical West Richmond home, this is a $200,000 reduction in your net worth.

As a lifestyle decision, most 65+ aged homeowners are more than ready to make the move. After having renovated their single family home several times over the decades and finally seen the kids finish college and fly the coop, many have grown tired of frequent repairs and maintaining a large yard. Most downsizers look fondly to the prospect of a newer, simpler housing choice.

So why the reluctance? Amazingly, for many, it’s because of all their stuff! Years of possessions build up and tie homeowners to their existing space. The simple thought of having to deal with and sort through everything is too overwhelming to even contemplate a move! Thankfully there are now reasonably priced professional services to help with this situation so you can get help if you’re delaying this important financial step because you’re overwhelmed. Simply starting with tackling one room at a time is a great idea. Start with the easiest room first to gain positive momentum and start this process early so as not to suffer the stress of an impending move date.

The current downsizing cohort has done very well with the investment in their home. As the Baby Boomers moved through their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, they “moved up” their housing needs each decade and drove prices up along the way. Now aged between 50 to 65 years old, the Baby Boomers are on the verge of becoming downsizers themselves. Married couples without children at home make up the single largest component of families in Richmond according to 2011 Census Data. So what will happen to the prices of single family homes in suburbia? Will immigration pick up all the slack in demand for this housing type once the Baby Boomers have opted out?

I feel the next great investment will be in strata developments catering to these downsizers. They are not looking for the average tiny two bedroom, two bathroom high rise unit with one parking spot located at or near a skytrain station. It’s been my experience that downsizers are looking for a strata unit with a unique community within walking distance (think Steveston, Edgemont, Granville Island, White Rock, etc.), larger rooms that actually fit their dining sets for family dinners, master bedrooms that accommodate a king sized bedroom set, walk-in closets, spa-inspired ensuites, views, etc.

I believe early adopters of these “special location” units will see fantastic price growth over the next few decades as the tide of Baby Boomers wash over this market, much like it did for suburban home prices in the past.

Sean Lawson, President
Steveston Real Estate, RE/MAX Westcoast
Telephone 604-274-7326
12235 No 1 Rd
Richmond, BC V7E 1T6