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Effort underway to get big money Lower Mainland developers to build in Kamloops

Venture Kamloops has found major developers don't feel enough there is enough money to be made with projects in town but a campaign is ongoing to change that view.
October 04, 2017 - 4:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A campaign by Venture Kamloops to bring more residential development to the Tournament Capital has found major developers don't see the economic upside of building here.

The executive director of the City's economic development agency Jim Anderson says in 2016 former mayor Peter Milobar expressed concerns that during his regular trips to the Lower Mainland no one was talking about development opportunities in Kamloops.

That sparked a project funded by Venture Kamloops aimed at raising the profile of the city with developers in the Vancouver area. Anderson says he has found the major reason large companies have avoided building in Kamloops is there simply isn't enough money to be made.

"They have to get more comfortable with the idea that the dollar values in Kamloops are infinitely smaller than the dollar values of the projects they work on in the Lower Mainland," he says. "However, the percentage returns are identical if not better. They just have to come to grips with the fact they can do projects with a much smaller initial outlay and a much smaller time frame, but they'll get a better return for their dollar."

Anderson says there could be a major turning point soon in Venture's ability to attract Lower Mainland developers.

The trend of people moving from the larger urban centres on the west coast to Interior communities like Kamloops is still too fresh to compile usable data, but once there is empirical proof, the sales pitch to build in Kamloops should be a lot easier.

"They say to us 'I've never built in Kamloops, I don't know what I would build there' but if the buyers are coming from the Lower Mainland, then we can say to these developers build what you build in Vancouver, it's the same people," Anderson says.

A real estate market assessment done as part of the project to attract developers to Kamloops found the city will need 505 news households each year until 2022. That same study found the areas that need the most population in-fill are the downtown core and the Tranquille Market corridor.

"We did that market assessment to prove the opportunities are available," he says. "We asked 'does this idea of in-fill make sense' because that's where Kamplan is headed, promoting in-fill wherever possible. With that sort of direction in mind we decided to see if it's possible, and not only is it possible, but it's an opportunity."

Kamplan is the official community planning document that the City uses to determine how to deal with matters like economic development.

Anderson says this campaign to bring Lower Mainland developers to Kamloops is all part of a much larger picture that could see a major economic uptick. He says when you look around town now you see plenty of vacant retail space, including at the city's largest shopping centre, the Aberdeen Mall.

He says having more major developers build in the city could help turn the retail sector around.

"In the downtown, office space is there, it's available, but there are some other amenities that are missing," he says. "But those types of retail amenities will go where the market is and that means there have to be people there. If you want that market to flourish, you need to bring the people."

Anderson says if the City wants to attract development in areas like downtown and Tranquille, it must stop building homes outside those major centres.

"In-fill from just a city management logistical perspective has got to happen," he says. "We just can't continue to climb up into the hills."


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