About 40 per cent of Parks Canada's buildings, forts, bridges and other items of real estate are unsafe or unusable, or require billions of dollars in major repairs, says a new report.
An analysis the agency commissioned from an independent consultant says Parks Canada has deferred up to $9.5 billion in badly needed work – and ought to spend up to $3.3 billion on top of that to cope with the threat of climate change.
Parks Canada's current annual spending on repairs falls short, says the report, despite a $3-billion injection of cash that began in 2014 and is now about half-spent.
CBC News obtained the September 2018 document, produced by New Zealand-based Opus International Consultants, under the Access to Information Act.
Parks Canada paid the consultants about $1 million to review the condition of the agency's 16,618 assets.
"When reviewed, 24 per cent of the asset[s] were assessed as being in good condition, 36 per cent in fair condition, and 40 per cent in poor or very poor condition," says the report.
"Forty per cent is a significant percentage to be in poor/very poor condition, given the interconnected nature of the service that is provided by the PCA [Parks Canada Agency] assets."
The agency now reviews the state of its vast asset pool — 46 national parks, 171 historic sites and other buildings, various bridges — every five years, and asked Opus to verify the findings of its latest catalogue from 2017.
In ordering the Opus work, Parks Canada acknowledged that "under-investment has been a chronic issue impeding the sound management and consistent life cycle management of the portfolio."
Opus directly inspected a sample of 252 assets in 15 locations and examined other data to produce an independent review, including a projection three decades into the future.
[We are] addressing deferred work on Parks Canada's assets across the country and considerable progress is being made.– Agency spokesperson Dominique Tessier
The company's engineers determined Parks Canada had low-balled the replacement value of the assets. Opus says the portfolio is worth $24.1 billion — a figure one-third higher than the $18 billion estimated by the agency's own staff.
The report says that at current low rates of repair, the average condition of the portfolio will decline further over the next 33 years, as more assets fall into poor or very poor condition.
The consultants also noted that the portfolio is not welcoming enough for disabled visitors and estimate that Parks Canada needs to spend $428 million on making its parks and facilities more accessible.
They also say climate change will batter Parks Canada assets with heavy rain and flooding, forest fires and salt water damage. The consultants say protecting parks assets from climate damage will cost between $1.66 billion and $3.3 billion, though they caution the figures are only an "initial indication."
Finally, Opus notes Parks Canada has budgeted $140 million annually to maintain its assets, in addition to special cash injections coming largely from a non-agency budget that have added up to more than $3 billion between 2014 and 2017.
The consultants estimate the agency needs to spend between $825 million and $900 million each year to maintain the average state of the portfolio, aside from any accessibility and climate change-related cash infusions.
A spokesperson for the agency, Dominique Tessier, said Parks Canada has spent only about 48 per cent of the $2.6 billion it was promised from the federal infrastructure investment program.
The program is "addressing deferred work on Parks Canada's assets across the country and considerable progress is being made," she said. "The work completed through the federal infrastructure program will restore and improve the condition of Parks Canada's assets."
Tessier said the agency is also developing a long-term plan "to ensure the effective management and ongoing sustainability of its infrastructure portfolio."
In the meantime, on Jan. 1, 2020, Parks Canada is introducing admission fees at five sites that were previously free of charge, and is increasing fees by a 2.2 per cent adjustment for inflation at 19 other sites — all to ensure visitors pay a fair price that doesn't undercut private operators.
Tessier said the new revenues will be "re-invested in the same places where they are collected to support visitor programs, services and facilities."
The places being hit with new admission fees are: Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan ($5.80); Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ont. ($7.80); Georges Island National Historic Site, Nova Scotia ($7.80); S.S. Keno National Historic Site, Yukon ($3.90); and S.S. Klondike National Historic Site ($3.90).
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Kelowna named best city for real estate investment
Kelowna is the best city for real estate investments in Western Canada.
That’s according to Western Investor, a source for commercial real estate and business opportunities in Western Canada.
Kelowna is Canada’s 53rd most populous city but has the 10th busiest airport, which the Western Investor said is a “telling” statistic that it’s a growing city and the reason why it called it the best.
The report noted two new hotels at the airport, as well as construction of new commercial and residential buildings in the downtown area.
The buildings include the One Water Street condo tower and the Ella Tower. In total, there are 12 residential towers under construction in the city.
The source also pointed out Kelowna has a 4.9 per cent office vacancy, with more office spaces under construction.
“It’s gratifying to see the city’s long-term vision for this area becoming a reality,” Mayor Colin Basran said.
“The mixture of commercial, industrial and residential properties create a dynamic and attractive hub of development where people can work, live and enjoy leisure time all in one spot.”
Other B.C. cities named in the top five include Prince George and Chilliwack.
Centurion follows opportunity, buying 6 W. Canada apartments
Centurion Apartment REIT is both following the opportunities and continuing to diversify its portfolio with the purchase of six apartment properties in three Western Canadian cities, president and CEO Greg Romundt says.
Centurion is making the purchases in four transactions in Regina, Edmonton and Victoria. The properties total just over 1,300 apartment units and bring Centurion’s total assets under management to about $2.9 billion.
Three of the properties are new builds, while three of the Edmonton acquisitions are established properties.
“We’ve seen lots of opportunity in the new construction space in Western Canada, and in general. We’ve been pursuing a strategy for years of diversifying, not being just an Ontario-based shop, doing deals in Western Canada,” Romundt told RENX in an interview.
“We’ve been pretty active in B.C., Alberta particularly this year, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba have gotten a lot of our attention in the past couple of years.
“Part of it is certainly driven by the desire to have a diversified portfolio but the other is just the opportunity set.
“The stuff we’re doing in Western Canada not only is it hitting our dollar metrics, but we’re finding it easier to find, source and complete deals out there without having to pay through the nose to do it.”
The properties are: The Apex at Acre 21 in Regina; Grand Central Manor II and III, Oliver Place, Riverside Towers and The Mayfair on Jasper in Edmonton; and Hockley Corners in Langford just outside Victoria. Closing dates range from early December through March 2020.
Centurion’s $200M equity raise
Centurion is quickly putting to work funds from a successful three-phased share offering which was designed to raise $150 million.
“We decided to accept $200 (million) in three closes,” said Romundt, noting the first close on Nov. 1 was for $110 million. “It’s all allocated. We originally went out for $150 (million), we had subscriptions for $300 (million) and we accepted $200 (million).
“The apartment sector has been doing very well and I think there is a lot of recognition that it still has a lot of strong tailwinds behind it. Vacancy rates are low, interest rates are low, performance has been excellent but also, (in) portfolios across the country the market rent gaps are so large that forward-looking returns are still pretty attractive, too.”
Romundt said two years ago he hoped to build Centurion (Centurion Asset Manager, Centurion Real Estate Opportunities Trust, Centurion Financial Trust and other divisions) to $3 billion in assets within three years, $5 billion within five years.
Centurion again eyes Toronto market
“When all those complete, we’ll be at about $2.9 billion. We seem to be on schedule for that and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re ahead,” he said, noting conditions have been ripe for portfolio expansions.
“We got in early into the new construction space, helping builders finance new developments.
“We weren’t the only guys who saw this, obviously, and there’s been a lot of product that’s now coming available. We’ve positioned ourselves very well to have this very deep pipeline of things we finance, also relationships from that effort that is spinning off into lots of new acquisitions of new product.
“So much being built today is being built by merchant developers, so they want to sell it. That’s perfect for us.”
In the near term, rapidly rising rents across Canada might reopen markets which have been difficult to access. Romundt said its focus has been on secondary markets, or regions just outside the biggest metropolitan areas because of pricing and intense competition in the cores.
Even markets like Toronto might soon be in play.
“We’re partners on a lot of builds. . . . In fact we are even looking at product in Toronto, deals that we’ve worked on for years and couldn’t make the numbers work,” he noted.
“Because rents have moved so much, some of these locations now are starting to make financial sense. I am actually getting a little more optimistic for areas where we would love to be able to build and own.”
Here are some additional details about Centurion’s pending acquisitions:
The Apex at Acre 21
Centurion is acquiring a 50 per cent interest in this new build, on which it was a development partner with Devereaux Group. It will bring Centurion’s portfolio to five properties and 571 rental units in Regina.
Completed in May 2019, the property is in the Greens on Gardiner neighbourhood in southeast Regina. The Apex at Acre 21 includes three buildings with 176 suites.
Apex offers one- and two-bedroom suites with dens and large living spaces. Condo-style finishes include luxury vinyl flooring, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, private balconies, ensuite bathrooms and walk-in closets.
The property has 233 surface parking stalls and a 2,400-square-foot Resident Clubhouse.
The Mayfair on Jasper
The Mayfair on Jasper is a class-A, mixed-use property completed in late 2016 at 10803 Jasper Ave. NW. It was developed and owned by ProCura Real Estate Services.
The 10-storey, 238-unit property has a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom suites with luxury interior finishes. It has a smart-key system, premium concierge, parcel pending automated delivery system, fitness centre and dual rooftop parks. It also has 196 parking stalls and 24,901 square feet of main-floor commercial space.
Grand Central Manor II & III, Oliver Place, Riverside Towers
This family-owned portfolio of three high-rise buildings has 832 units and 38,702 square feet of commercial space. The acquisition would increase Centurion’s Edmonton portfolio to 1,278 rental units (including The Mayfair on Jasper).
The 17-storey Grand Central Manor II and III at 109th Street and Jasper Avenue offers 306 suites with one or two bedrooms, plus penthouses. All feature spacious balconies and six full-size appliances.
The 18-storey Oliver Place, also along Jasper, is a mixed-use building with 234 residential units, a four-storey parkade and a 37,788-square-foot commercial space on the main floor. It also has a fitness centre, social room, outdoor pool and resident lounge. The suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious balconies, in-suite storage and full-size appliances including dishwasher.
The third property is just east of downtown near the Brewery, ICE, Financial, and Government districts. Riverside Towers comprises twin apartment buildings with 292 units, a 914-square-foot commercial space on the main floor and a common recreational area connecting the two 21-storey towers. Units range from studios to three bedrooms and penthouse suites. All suites overlook the North Saskatchewan River Valley.
The newly constructed Hockley Corners is adjacent to five other properties Centurion purchased in July and will bring Centurion’s portfolio to 10 properties and 664 rental units in the Greater Vancouver Area.
The six-storey, purpose-built rental developed by Design Build Services of Langford at 765 Hockley Ave. was completed in August 2019. Hockley Corners has 63 residential units with underground parking and optional out-of-suite storage.
The suites offer one- and two-bedroom units, some with dens. They feature nine-foot ceilings, condo-quality finishes, stainless-steel appliances, individual heating and cooling system, and in-suite washer/dryer.
Hockley Corners is close to Millstream Village Shopping Centre, transit and Bear Mountain Golf Resort
Guelph real estate agents to trek 100 km in Sahara Desert
Four Guelphites will be trekking 100 km across the Sahara Desert in Morocco this month to raise money for the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.
The venture organized in support of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation will see local real estate agent David Halls along with his wife Robin-Lee Norris, real estate agent Ariana Chhina and John Van Buskirk trek for five days straight, seven hours a day across the sand in the hot and dry desert climate.
“Truly it’s about supporting our local shelters. All of us who are participating, we cover 100 per cent of our own costs, our own flights, our own hotels. Every penny that we raise feeds through the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation and then ends up coming back to shelters,” says Halls.
Halls indicates that as a real estate professional, his job is to help clients find the perfect safe place to call home.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 552 residential facilities for victims of abuse across Canada that have seen 68,000 admissions in 2017 — 60.3 per cent of them being women and 39.6 per cent being their accompanying children.
On the snapshot day of April 18, 2018, 3,565 women, 3,137 accompanying children and eight men were staying in residential facilities due to some form of abuse. Over 80 per cent of women on that snapshot day reported abuse as their primary reason for seeking shelter.
The trek this month will include 120 agents and hikers across Canada representing The Royal LePage Foundation where they will be divided into four groups between 29 to 30, reside in large group tents, use camp-stye bathroom facilities and live without electricity, cell phone service and the other comforts of a modern-day home.
To participate, members must raise 5,000 each and cover their own travel costs. Each agent raises funds in any way they can.
“Royal LePage corporately pays all of the overhead expenses, all the staff salary so that every penny raised goes out directly towards a shelter or to education programs against violence,” says Halls adding that each city supports their local shelter.
The trek to the Sahara desert will be Halls’ third trip with the foundation. In 2017, he travelled over 100 km across some of Iceland’s most actively volcanic areas and in 2015, he travelled to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco and visited Ina ruins and Spanish colonial churches where he hiked through remote areas that have been the same for centuries.
“I think part of the experience is that you’re putting yourself in such an uncomfortable position. Most of us are blessed to never have to leave our house and go into a shelter,” says Halls.
“You’re putting yourself in a position that’s uncomfortable for a little period of time just to try and remember there are ladies out there and kids out there who have to do this regularly.”
To date, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation has raised over $30 million in support of Canadian women’s shelters and violence prevention programs.
Halls says he continues to see a passion from everyone involved in the project to support the charity.
“We have a thing through Royal LePage called the commission where every single deal we do, we have a slice of our commission that goes towards this charity. So collectively again across the country its millions of dollars raised. It’s phenomenal,” says Halls.
So far, Halls’ campaign raised helped raise $12,141 which is 1 percent over their goal before he officially kicks off toward the middle of the desert on Nov. 20.
Executive director Sly Castaldi says the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation has been extremely supportive throughout the years and are huge community champions for which the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis is extremely grateful.
“Their impact has been immeasurable to us,” says Castaldi
“Any funds they raise go toward our overall operation which we depend on in terms of overall fundraising goals and managing the organization,” she said adding that the impact is both national and local.
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