Where did $43 million go? Did Vancouver City Hall give a developer an overly sweet deal? And did taxpayers lose almost $45 million in a complex land swap? These are all questions that are raised in reading this week’s Georgia Straight article, City of Vancouver Downtown Land Swap Questioned.
Author Carlito Pablo points to a huge discrepancy between the value that the City attributed to the property at 508 Helmcken in 2014 and its new 2015 assessed value.
The Land Swap
As readers of this site will recall, 508 Helmcken and 1077/1099 Richards are set to be traded in a land swap agreement between the City and a developer, Brenhill. As part of that deal, the City valued its property at 508 Helmcken in 2014 at $15 million. The difference in the value of the swapped properties, according to the City, was $6.6 million.
2015 Assessment Surprise
Recently, the City issued its 2015 Property Assessments for the two properties. Surprise! 508 Helmcken is now valued at more than $59 million–and will soon become the property of developer Brenhill. The difference in value for these same swapped properties in 2015 is now suddenly nearly $50 million.
That $50 difference is roughly $44 million more than the city’s own estimate just a year ago. Brenhill will soon own this $59 million property, on terms based on last year’s $15 million valuation.
How Could This Happen?
Why did the City agree to trade away its land based on an assessment that is $44 million lower than its current value? Did Brenhill get an unusually sweet deal? Did Vancouver taxpayers lose out, big time? Why isn’t the City getting full value for its property?
And perhaps most importantly, how could this kind of deal happen?