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Chinese developers buy land at Britannia

Purchase made in one $30.5 million cash payment



A Chinese development company has big plans for Britannia and the dream is off to a $30.5 million start.

The Taicheng Development Corporation wants to develop the former Makin Lands, the large gravel pit at the south side of Britannia, and the lands to the east, west and south to the top of the Furry Creek hill.

The goals of Taicheng and its presdent Peter Chang were outlined at an invitation-only meeting on Monday, March 12 in Squamish. A team made up of two representatives from Taicheng, the project manager, an architect and a community planning consultant walked a small group made up mainly of realtors through Taicheng's plans to move ahead with a proposed development featuring as many as 4,000 housing units.

Paul Prade, the project manager, said the Chinese company purchased the 202 hectares (500 acres) of land through a court-ordered sale in which the court mandated that the purchaser had to pay in cash without any subjects.

Prade noted that Taicheng had no trouble with the amount and one of his colleagues on the project team, architect Ron Lea, said Taicheng doesn't intend to seek any bank financing for the first phase of development work at what Taicheng is calling South Britannia.

"This property is totally unique, it being right on the oceanfront, being set on the mountainside and being in a pristine state as far as that mountainside is concerned," said Lea, a partner in an architectural firm called Folio.

He said the Taicheng vision for the property is not completely set at this point because the developer wants to work with the community to develop the vision with a goal to have construction started as soon as possible using what was described as a "First Nations west coast oceanfront" theme.

Prade and Lea were joined by Taicheng's Vancouver manager Cary Zhou and Long Cheng (son of Peter Cheng), along with Chuck Brook of Brook Pooni and Associates. Brook said consultation so far has included meetings with Chief Bill Williams of the Squamish Nation, Lions Bay Mayor Brenda Broughton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District director Maurice Freitag, with more meetings to come.

What has been determined so far is that Taicheng plans to develop the project by first creating a town centre at the gravel pit with some commercial space and residential units. Brooks said planned communities in B.C. usually start with residential units to generate revenue to help fund the construction of commercial spaces.

According to Lea, access to the oceanfront is a key component of the Taicheng plan. The oceanfront portion of the property extends from the area across Highway 99 at Galileo Coffee to south of Minaty Bay.

Lea noted that the existing wastewater treatment plant at Britannia was built to handle future growth to the south but a new water intake system will have to be built.

"We have explored the site already," said Lea. "We've dug some wells."

He said the test wells showed that the quality and quantity available from ground sources is excellent and research has also been done into potentially using ground water from Britannia Creek or Daisy Creek.

Brook told the small group of interested Squamish residents on Monday that the official community plan for the area restricts development to 1,000 housing units but he said Taicheng wants to discuss shifting the number up to achieve a viable community for the land.

Prade said the Britannia project is Taicheng's first major project in Canada. The company owns a blueberry farm in Richmond and the development firm is building a 1,900 square metre (20,000 square feet) home in West Vancouver.

A public information meeting is scheduled for tonight (March 15) in the Britannia Community Centre from 7 to 9 p.m.

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