Friday, December 14, 2018

How Vancouver property developers cash in on community gardens

Converting empty lots into garden plots makes the city greener—and also delivers a generous tax break

At the corner of Alma Street and West 10th Avenue in Vancouver, a long-standing vacant lot that was once a gas station has recently become a 24,000-square-foot garden brimming with vegetables, fruit and flowers.

Neighbourhood gardeners who make use of its 100 plots, for a nominal fee of $15 a year, have a real estate developer to thank for their future bounty. Landa Global Properties hired a non-profit gardening group to transform the lot—decommissioned by Shell Canada Ltd. when it sold the property in 2008—into a series of raised garden beds, with seating, public art and fruit trees, as well as a water supply. Gardeners can only be assured of a crop from season to season, though, because the land is a future condo development.

Temporary gardens, and sometimes parks, have popped up throughout Vancouver, usually in places undergoing densification, around Olympic Village or the downtown core. The Davie Village Community Garden at Burrard and Davie streets is owned by Prima Properties, which plans to build a mixed-use tower on the site. London Drugs Ltd. has a community garden next to its store on East Hastings Street while the company holds the land for a mixed-use residential development. A spokesperson said London Drugs will submit a proposal to the city later this year.

A big incentive for developers and landowners to convert empty commercial space into a community garden is the substantial tax break. “Properties just aren’t ready for development, and developers are seeing this as a way to lower cost,” says tax consultant Paul Sullivan, a principal at Vancouver-based commercial real estate appraisal firm Burgess Cawley Sullivan & Associates Ltd

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