British Columbia

Bye bye downtown Vancouver stations. It was nice gassing up at you

Gas stations in downtown Vancouver may soon go the way of the dodo bird, driven out by the city's astronomical real estate values.

Soaring land values too high for owners to not cash in, says local real estate expert

It's no wonder Chevron is considering putting its West Georgia Street station on the market. Last year, the land value increased 226 per cent to almost $33 million according to B.C. Assessment. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Gas stations in downtown Vancouver are quickly going the way of the dodo bird, driven out by the city's astronomical real estate values.

Chevron announced last year it was considering selling off one of the last two remaining downtown stations on West Georgia Street near Bidwell.

That would leave the Esso at Davie Street and Burrard Street as the last downtown gas station standing, although word is a "for sale" sign may soon go up at that location as well.  

With a land value of over $36 million, Imperial Oil may sell the Esso station at Burrard Street and Davie Steet, real estate principal Mehdi Shokri told CBC. Once it's gone there would be no more gas stations in downtown Vancouver. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

"My understanding is that station is also being marketed so we're likely to have zero in the near future," said Mehdi Shokri of Avison Young Real Estate.

"We've has such a bull market here on the residential land side ... the numbers are getting so incredibly high that gas stations can't make sense of their business model any more," he said.

The land value of the West Georgia Chevron was pegged at $32.8-million by B.C. Assessment earlier this month, more than triple the value of its 2016 assessment of $10.2-million.

New tax, same story

Shokri says the drag that was expected on real estate prices when the 15 per cent foreign buyers tax was introduced this past summer hasn't materialized in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood where the Chevron station is located. 

"A block away [developer] Bosa went to market with their Cardero project just after the 15 per cent tax so everyone was looking at that project as a sign of where land and condos could be going," said Shokri. "They basically sold out that project averaging $1,800 a square foot.

"You're still seeing presales at historic levels."

Shokri says downtown grocery stores and banks are also changing the way they evaluate their businesses as the value of the land they occupy soars.

"Some of the traditional stores like Safeway are sitting on sizable properties ... and they realize there's a lot of value there. So you're finding a lot of pension funds and development partners giving them an understanding of how they can realize more value by not only selling it, but by becoming part of the development."

Gone for good?

While online banking is making brick and mortar banks less relevant, and grocery stores are moving into ground floors of new high rises, Shokri believes the downtown Vancouver gas station may truly be on the verge of extinction. 

"There's been a trend here with a lot of the downtown condos that parking isn't being used any more. Most of the people who chose to live here do so because of the amenities and, frankly, they don't want to be in a car — they want to walk or ride their bike," he said.

"I really don't think there will be much of an impact from not having a gas station downtown, particularly for local residents."

With files from The Early Edition