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May 2,2008 Tri City News

By Diane Strandberg - The Tri-City News - May 02, 2008
Making the best use of land near high-capacity transit services for the highest possible return on public investment is the goal of TransLink’s new real estate division headed up by Phil Christie, who joined TransLink last July to manage the transportation’s land and property assets. Here is what he had to say about TransLink’s plans for its fledgling real estate division in an email interview with The Tri-City News.

The Tri-City News: What kind of real estate transactions would TransLink’s real estate division undertake?

Christie: Outright sales of surplus properties:

• Leasing and licensing of long-term holding properties, and partnerships and joint venture type of agreements.

• Obtaining right of way and leasing — the whole range of real estate dealings.

TCN: Would it first sell some assets to generate income to finance future land purchases, which it could sell off to pay for transportation improvements?

Christie: Yes — our early activity will involve selling properties to help finance transit

TCN: How much money could TransLink potentially generate through land sales?

Christie: Our initial estimates are in the $30 million/year range on average. So after two to three years to ramp up to this size, we could make $300 million over a 10-year period.

TCN: What other revenue sources might there be?

Christie: Joint ventures with partners, but estimating what may happen in the years ahead is difficult.

TCN: Does TransLink own the Coquitlam park and ride, how large is that property and what is the value?

Christie: Yes — 14 acres, assessed value is around $14.5 million, although the market value will be higher. How much higher, it’s too early to say.

TCN: Would this property be among the assets to be sold for future development?

Christie: Yes — but not until after the line has been built.

TCN: Would the Evergreen Line be among TransLink’s first opportunities to flex its muscles as a real estate developer?

Christie: TransLink is NOT a real estate developer. We’ll be a catalyst with the development industry and will work in partnerships with municipalities and developers, but the Evergreen Line will be one of the first opportunities to work with our new real estate strategy.

TCN: How does TransLink plan to work with the cities to promote its real estate aims and what advantage would there be for cities in a working partnership with TransLink?

Christie: We’ll work very closely with municipalities. Working in partnerships, the municipalities would get more amenities, especially around new station areas, and together we can help build new higher-density communities. That should help improve security and comfort of transit riders, living in transit-oriented developments.

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