British Columbia

Industrial land in Metro Vancouver shrinking, says report

Metro Vancouver is losing job-creating industrial land throughout the region, says a new report being presented at a regional board meeting on Friday.

Metro Vancouver board chair says cities may need to mix industrial and residential land use

Molson Coors recently sold its iconic brewery in downtown Vancouver to a residential real estate developer. (CBC)

Metro Vancouver is losing job-creating industrial land throughout the region, says a new report being presented at a regional board meeting on Friday.

Between 2010 and 2015, the region lost 352 hectares of land designated for industrial use, largely to encroaching commercial and residential developments. 

"I was shocked and set back," said Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore.

"I know that we see industrial land being used for different purposes these days, but to see that 900 acres of industrial land had been reduced is a little bit concerning to us at Metro and should be to many people across the region."

Moore, who is also the mayor of Port Coquitlam, says about 275,000 people in Metro Vancouver make a living working on industrial land. 

"As we continue to grow as a region, we need to ensure that we keep that employment land for not only our residents today but our residents of the future," he said, adding about 1.1 million people are expected to move to the Lower Mainland in the next 25 years.

A pie chart shows the distribution of vacant industrial land in Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

Evolution of industrial land use

The report comes on the heels of news that the Molson Coors brewery in downtown Vancouver, a site designated for industrial use, was sold for $185 million to a residential real estate developer

But Moore says those kinds of sales may not be bad in the long run and municipalities may need to get more "creative" by mixing industrial and residential properties. 

"So you're not losing industrial land, you're gaining residential land," said Moore. "I think that's how we're going to have to think creatively going forward."

If you're picturing a condo development on top of a heavy metals processor, think again. 

"We're seeing an evolution of our industrial land," said Moore. "There's not a lot of that heavy industry in the Lower Mainland anymore that we would have seen 20, 30 and 40 years ago."

A pie chart shows how industrial land in use in Metro Vancouver is used. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

Other constraints for further developing industrial land in the region, according to the report, include environmental constraints, expensive development costs, and proximity to urban centres. 

The report also says long-term regional planning goals like creating housing, protecting environmental lands, and growing employment are competing against each other for limited space, and that there are few large sites close to transportation infrastructure to truck goods around the region.