On the chopping block

"Surplus' government properties could be up for sale in Greater Victoria

Is this Wharf Street parking lot up for sale.

Is this Wharf Street parking lot up for sale.

The B.C. Government is keeping tight-lipped about which properties it intends to sell, leaving many Victoria residents nervous about the fate of key downtown properties.

“I come from a real estate investment background, and the last thing you want to show is your hand on the properties you’re going to be selling,” said Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.

The B.C. government announced its intention to sell 100 “surplus” properties in last week’s budget to generate revenue for the province.

Falcon would only identify a parking lot on the west side of Menzies street across from the B.C. legislature among the Victoria area properties for sale.

“This is almost three acres (1.2 hectares) of land that’s sitting there being used for staff to park. We can have a development take place there, with underground parking so staff can still park, but also get the benefit of all the construction jobs.”

The Provincial Capital Commission developed its own list of surplus properties between 2003 and 2005.

PCC board chair Bill Wellburn said he can’t share the list, but was able to give a sense for the board’s priorities.

Crystal Garden, the CPR Terminal Building and the Tourist Information building on Wharf Street are all iconic, revenue-generating assets, he said.

St. Ann’s Academy, while iconic, does not generate revenue.

The PCC also owns the waterfront parking lot down from Wharf Street, beside Wharfside Seafood Grille. Wellburn said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if this underutilized property is listed for sale.

Many other lesser known PCC properties hug the Trans-Canada Highway and the Galloping Goose Trail.

The priority is to retain these green corridors when they can been seen from the road, Wellburn said.

Many however, extend over a hill and beyond the sight lines of drivers.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” not to open these up to development opportunities, he added.

Surplus land is defined as properties no longer in use, not required in the future, or of no strategic benefit for the province.

Of those properties currently in operation, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said:  “I don’t think the public or the tenants particularly care who their landlord is.

 

“Again, at a time when we are trying to be responsible and disciplined and get back to balanced budget, holding on to non-strategic surplus properties is not something the government needs to do. We’re trying to find ways to avoid having to go to taxpayers for money, or to have to borrow more.”