Chinese land development company Taicheng as bought 500-acres of land outside Britannia Beach;BC where they intend to build a 4000-home community. The project;known as South Britannia;incorporates the Makin land including a large gravel pit area and land east;west and south of Furry Creek. A Chinese development company feels it has struck gold with a $30.5 million purchase of land surrounding Britannia’s infamous mine.
The Taicheng Development Corporation plans on constructing a sustainable community of up to 4,000 homes after scooping up close to 480 acres of land through a court-ordered, cash sale. The property includes the gravel pit directly south of Britannia mine, the former Makin Lands, and land that stretches up to the top of Furry Creek, said project manager Paul Prade on Saturday.
“(Taicheng) have been scouting projects in different areas and when they saw this, the owner, Peter Cheng, just absolutely fell in love with the property and its location,” Prade said. “It was something he couldn’t believe was available.”
This is the first major project Taicheng has been involved in outside mainland China, where the company has developed high-density communities and hotels for nearly 15 years. Prade said the company envisions a “truly Westcoast-style development” with a first-nation theme to complement the already standing community of 200 to 300 Britannia residents. “It’s a clean canvas. One of the goals is to build a complete community that’s sustainable, with enough people to support the amenities that are needed,” said Prade.
The official community plan for Britannia in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District envisions a development of between 1,800-2,000 homes — not big enough to include amenities Taicheng wants included such as a grocery store, medical clinic, schools, rec centre, a marina and maybe a library, said Prade.
“We’re looking to push that number up towards 4,000 residential units which would be everything from small lot housing to large lots on the hillside, to condos and town houses,’ he said. The company is also in talks with the Government to purchase Crown land on the largely inaccessible Britannia Beach waterfront to make it a “truly oceanfront community.” The first in a series of public consultations took place Thursday, with close to 100 Britannia, Lions Bay and Squamish residents voicing their excitement, and their concerns. “Without a doubt, there were some people who were skeptical because literally that site’s been sitting there as a kind of gravel pit for two decades or more,” said Prade. “We’re trying to show people that Taicheng has the financial capabilities to carry a project like this through, plus the experience,” he said.
The former owner of the land fell into financial hardship and had been unable to sell the property. The first phase of the development, called South Britannia, is between one to two years away from the start of construction, and will feature a town centre at the gravel pit location with some commercial space and residential units. Taicheng will bring in more funds to complete the project. Civil engineers drilled wells in the area in late 2011, and water levels will be tested for 12 months. A water treatment plant built in 2005 can facilitate more growth, said Prade. Local environmental consultants and local leaders — including the Mayor of Lions Bay Brenda Broughton and Squamish Chief Bill Williams — have been engaged in the process. Neither were available for comment Saturday. “We want to see their view and what the support level would be — and it’s been very positive,” said Prade, who described “a good feeling” between Taicheng and the Squamish Nation. “We want culture and character to be reflected in the community, in collaboration with the Squamish Nation,” said Prade. Taicheng has also created a website for the development.