David Coon

Annual real estate tour brings investors to town

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz promised “bold” action for the city’s downtown to a group of real estate and investment professionals during a tour of commercial properties on Friday.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz promised “bold” action for the city’s downtown to a group of real estate and investment professionals during a tour of commercial properties on Friday.

Gaetz, keynote speaker at ninth annual Chilliwack Commercial Real Estate Tour, said the city’s Downtown Revitalization Strategy is almost ready for release. And while not willing to disclose details prematurely, she said with enthusiasm: “I got to tell you, it’s bold.”

The tour was organized by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board, with assistance from Chilliwack Economic Partners (CEPCO). It drew real estate and business professionals from throughout the region and as far away as Whistler.

The intent of the tour is to showcase investment opportunities in Chilliwack.

And there are plenty, said Gaetz.

Significantly, the group boarded two large tour buses at the former site of the Empress Hotel. The land is one of several properties in the downtown owned by the city that CEPCO wants to see developed. But there are other private opportunities, like the former Safeway site on Main Street, and the former courthouse site on College Street.

The Downtown Revitalization Strategy is the latest attempt to spur redevelopment in the downtown. Earlier studies estimated it would take 30 years for revitalization plans to come to fruition, Gaetz said. But that would take too long.

“We want to see something in our lifetime,” she said.

Chilliwack remains a good place to invest and do business, Gaetz told the group while it stopped briefly during a tour of the auction facilities at Ritchie Brothers. The city’s low tax rate and pay-as-you-go philosophy has brought significant amenities, but no debt. Meanwhile, incentives like the Industrial Revitalization Strategy – which provides a tax exemptions for developers willing to commit more than a $1 million – are encouraging investment.

The scale of business investment in the community was evident at the first stop on the tour, Eagle Landing. Because of construction last year the tour buses stopped on the roadside. This year, with construction complete at Walmart and Home Depot, they pulled into the parking lot of the 30,000 square-foot Galaxy Cineplex Theatre. There, David Coon, executive vice-president of the Property Development Group, announced a few new tenants for the 650,000 square-foot development, like the Bank of Montreal, a Carl’s Jr. restaurant, and a Visions Electronics store.

Change was also evident farther south as the tour passed the future site of the city’s southside library. It stopped at Garrison Crossing, were the group was told about the remaining properties Canada Lands’ hopes to develop as it completes the sale of land formerly held by Canada’s military.

The tour concluded back downtown with a tour of the $5 million renovation of the Coast Hotel.

This Friday the tour buses will roll again. But this time it will be the Chilliwack Agricultural Commission partnering with CEPCO to highlight the city’s agriculture sector.

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