Remnants of the global recession are evident throughout the valley with many stalled construction projects having sat dormant for years.
The most notable repercussions from the market crash in Invermere are seen in CastleRock Estates and Grizzly Ridge Properties Inc. (both of which are now owned by the same developer), Pine Ridge Mountain Resort, and the townhouses across from the Invermere and District hospital on 10th Avenue.
More than five years after the financial collapse, Invermere’s housing market is showing steady signs of revival. But the impact in the valley wasn’t felt in sync with the rest of the world.
“There wasn’t a clear cut time from when things just stopped,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, adding that many people in the valley were reluctant to accept the reality of the global recession.
“Even after the stock market crashed in late 2008, there wasn’t any immediate noticeable impact,” he said. “Things kept proceeding as normal; there were still projects being built and things being finished.”
But by the summer of 2009, nearly every project in town had either completed construction or ground to a halt, he said.
Though many of the stalled projects happened in developing subdivisions, Mr. Taft said that half-finished multi-family units have a bigger impact on a community.
“When you have a multi-family building that gets partially constructed and then they stop construction part way through, what you see is the shell of a building that just sits empty,” he said.
Subdivisions, on the other hand, are generally completed in a phased approach, which grow in stages through market demand, reducing the risk of buildings going unsold through incremental expansion.
Grizzly Ridge began developing land on the southwest corner of Invermere, but never broke ground on a building before the project stalled.
Before CastleRock was acquired by CastleRock Estates Limited Partnership (a Grizzly Ridge subsidiary), the subdivision was owned by CastleRock Estates Ltd., which claimed bankruptcy shortly after the recession began. Until CastleRock was purchased in January, it was in the possession of creditors, which prevented any further development. CastleRock was in the midst of developing its third phase when bankruptcy was declared by the original developers.
Phase three has had much of its infrastructure laid out and will continue as planned, but details of further phases have not yet been decided upon.
“We are going to be working with the (CastleRock Estates) Community Association to come up with an overall plan,” said the president of Grizzly Ridge Properties Inc., Mark Himmelspach.
He said that 15 out of the 45 lots in phase three were sold before the bankruptcy. Because sewer and power had not been installed at that point, those 15 landowners had no way of developing their lots. Mr. Himmelspach said that sewer and power installation is now underway, and the rest of the lots in Phase 3 are intended to be on the market by the end of spring.
“We’d like to attract a lot more primary home owners, but realistically there will be a combination of both (primary and secondary).”
Still applicable from when it was passed years ago, zoning was approved for commercial developments in CastleRock, but Mr. Himmelspach doesn’t see it happening too soon.
“It’s part of the broader vision,” he said, adding it’s currently not known which phase of development commercial properties will come about.
Development of properties in CastleRock will take priority over Grizzly Ridge, Mr. Himmelspach said, with Grizzly Ridge’s development on hold while CastleRock finds its bearings. However, he said a walking trail may possibly be build into Grizzly Ridge’s waterfall park.
Similar to Grizzly Ridge, the recession didn’t cause Pine Ridge Mountain Resort to go bankrupt, but the market still forced their development plans to come to a grinding stop.
Ron Friesen, vice president of development of Pine Ridge Mountain Resort, said that lots at Pine Ridge were selling for about double the price of today six or seven years ago. Since 2010, there have only been about six sales he said.
“We’re looking to do better in 2015,” he noted.
To entice buyers, development of recreational attractions, such as a zipline, were part of the original plan, and Mr. Friesen said that’s still going to happen.
“We have zoning to make it happen, but need more sales first.”
The planned recreational amenities there also include a Himalayan-style golf course (a par three putting course) and a rock climbing wall.
The recession also caused Cardel Homes to stall a project in Invermere – the near-finished townhouses across from the hospital on 10th Avenue.
Cardel didn’t claim bankruptcy and has continued paying land taxes, Mr. Taft said. A spokesperson wasn’t able to contact the Valley Echo by press deadline, but construction was recently observed taking place.
While the crash of Invermere’s housing market had an immediate impact, prior growth of the community was exceeding the demand.
“Sometimes its necessary to step back and take a longer term look,” Mr. Taft said, adding that over a period of ten years, growth has been relatively healthy.
Municipal governments have very little control over the rate of growth, he said, as the free market has far more pull.
“”I’m not sure any moratorium or restrictions on development would have had much of an impact,” he said.
In exploring how housing developments in Invermere were affected by the global recession in last week’s edition of the Valley Echo, no two developments were the same – and as we look to the south, many of Invermere’s neighbouring communities have had their own unique challenges.
Significant projects stalled since 2008 include the Spirits Reach community and the Columbia Eagle condominiums in Fairmont Hot Springs, as well as the Painted Ridge subdivision in Canal Flats.
Spirits Reach sold the seventh of its nine lots shortly after the recession began, and was unable to sell the remaining two until earlier this year.
“Because of all the inventory out there, we have to wait a little,” said Spirits Ridge co-owner Donna Rae, adding phase two of the development cannot begin under current market conditions.
Closer to the heart of Fairmont lies the foundation of the Columbia Eagle condominiums. The project’s framing was well underway and had reached the lock-up stage — around 50 per cent completion – before the recession caused it to stall. Then in December 2012, a fire reduced the project back to a foundation and rebar. Damage was estimated between $1.5 and $2 million and the owners were uninsured.
“Columbia Eagle was the biggest victim of the financial crash of 2008,” said Wendy Booth, the Regional District of East Kootenay area F director.
Before a collapsing real estate market could prevent the Painted Ridge development from succeeding, the quality of water available through Canal Flats didn’t meet the standards of the Drinking Water Protection Act, which prevented any building permits from being issued.
“I wasn’t slowed down by the recession; I was slowed down by the municipality,” said Painted Ridge president (and former Calgary Flames goaltender) Mike Vernon.
Canal Flats was reprimanded by Interior Health for its water system seven years ago, he said, but the village waited until the penalties were looming before making the upgrade.
“That should have been done back in 2007,” said Mr. Vernon. Since then, a solution has been agreed upon to take care of that problem.
“By July, the water system will be installed,” said Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras. “No building permits can be issued before then, but we have agreed that people can start the application process.”
Seven of the subdivision’s 31 lots have been sold, and the remaining 23 will be able to go on the market after the water upgrade.
“The lack of potable water for Painted Ridge has been a hurdle for the developer for many years,” added Ms. Booth. “It will be nice to see the water project complete, so the development can proceed.”
As developments in the valley continue to deal with the aftermath of a boom-and-bust, the Valley Echo will be looking to the north of Invermere in next week’s issue.