Thursday, December 10, 2015

Study finds high-quality sidewalks, streetlights, and transit key to attracting industry to Langley City

The City of Langley recently released a study called “Industrial Business Attraction & Expansion Study.” The study was prepared by Colliers International. The preservation of land that can be used for industrial purposes has been a hot topic lately. Using land for industrial purposes can yield a lower profit for developers, and a lower tax dollar per acre for local governments compared to land used for retail and offices uses.

According to Colliers, the vacancy rate for industrial properties was 4.1% in 2014, and went down to 3.3% in 2015 throughout Metro Vancouver. This seems to fit with the messaging from Metro Vancouver, Port Metro Vancouver, and other groups that are saying we are running out of industrial land. Interesting in Langley, the vacancy rate has increased from 1.8% in 2014 to 2.9% in 2015. Colliers notes that this is because of the new “24,000-square-foot multi-tenant Northview Business Centre facility in Gloucester Industrial Estate.” The vacancy rate is likely to go down as this new development fills up with tenants.

Not all industrial land is the same though. The following map shows less valuable industrial land in green. More valuable industrial land is in red. According to Colliers “industrial transactions in the region occurred within industrial parks along major transit routes, with the exception of Campbell Heights in Surrey, and the Kanaka area of Maple Ridge.” Interestingly enough, places like Campbell Heights have the least valuable industrial land value per acre and are nowhere near good transit service.

Shows the sales of industrially-zoned lands in the Metro Vancouver area since 1999. The sales are scaled by relative size of the subject parcels, and are shaded according to relative price, with green being a lower and red being a higher price per acre. Select map to enlarge.

So what kind of industry should the City of Langley be trying to attract?

Given that larger warehouse operations typically require only 1,000 square feet of floor space per employee, whereas multi-tenant industrial buildings require 800 square feet per employee and flex/office buildings require 600 square feet per employee, the City of Langley could stand to benefit from higher employment if it were capable of attracting more flex/office or multi-tenant industrial tenants. The higher-order uses would also generate more tax revenue.

Unfortunately, the City of Langley hasn’t kept up with investing in the public realm in some parts of the community. “Street-side improvements are aging, often unattractive, and less likely to be desired by [higher-order uses].”

If Langley City wants to attract high-value industry to the City, Colliers recommends that the City improve the public realm in the following ways:

  • Improve streetscape and infrastructure in industrial areas to promote redevelopment and intensification of sites, and the consolidation of office and higher order functions to the city.
    • Sidewalks
    • Streetlights
    • Transit service with bus shelters
    • Increased police patrols and bylaw enforcement
  • Explore a Local Area Improvement Bylaw to enhance infrastructure deficiencies (sidewalks, street lighting, landscaping/street trees).

More recommendations are listed on the last page of the study. While some people think that investing in high-quality, attractive public infrastructure is a waste of money, it actually is one of the best things a city can do to support a healthy local economy.

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