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Keltic looks to 'activate' industrial property near Oval with homes, nightlife

Keltic Canada has bought 27 acres in west Richmond that they'd like to convert from offices, warehouses into a residential community
Andy Tam, CEO Rachel Li Lei and Steve Jedreicich with Keltic Canada at the 27-acre property recently bought by the development company.

Keltic Canada, a development company that just bought 27 acres of land close to the Oval, sees young people looking for a more modern lifestyle in the Lower Mainland, and the wealth to realize it.

The vision for the Richmond property – currently populated by warehouses and offices - is to build a community based on a master plan with condos, rentals, seniors housing, retail and cafes as well as public amenities, explained Keltic CEO Rachel Li Lei.

But, she added, many young Asians are looking for in the Lower Mainland what they’ve seen in large cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

“There’s a lot of wealth packed into this city with new immigrant wealth and they are actually longing for a slightly more modern life,” Lei told the Richmond News.

Keltic recently built The Paramount on No. 3 Road, across from Richmond Centre, and during that process they heard from the public about the lack of leisure places and night life in Metro Vancouver – everything from karaoke places to badminton facilities.

Largest land purchase in 2021

The 27-acre parcel was the largest land purchase in B.C. in 2021 with a price tag of $300 million from QuadReal.

Keltic wants to build two million square feet, of which three-quarters would be residential and one quarter commercial and office buildings, integrated into the Oval precinct where other residential projects are already built or currently under construction. There would be a six-acre park on the property.

“The vision is to have a great place to live and socialize, but we really see a possibility of a destination for other local Richmond residents and Metro Van residents,” explained Steve Jedreicich, senior vice-president of development with Keltic, something that’s active in the daytime and evenings, and connected to the Oval.

The property, just north of Westminster Highway and east of No. 2 Road, is currently zoned industrial and it will take an amendment to the Official Community Plan and rezoning to realize Keltic’s current vision.

“I think it would be a loss to the city to continue to make this a fairly lifeless industrial area with the opportunity to build around the Oval, which is such a critical community amenity,” Jedreicich said.

He acknowledged, though, given it’s just off No. 2 Road, the property is currently a “fairly decent industrial site.”

“What we know is there is strong interest with everyone to create a more vibrant Oval district,” Jedreicich added.

Other properties are going up in the area, developed by Landa, Onni and Richmond developer Panatch Group, and Jedreicich explained Keltic wants to coordinate this project – which may take 10 to 15 years to build in several phases - with other projects in the area.

While it’s early days to determine what the 27 acres will entail, the property could have a couple thousand units of housing, a mixture of condos, rentals, seniors housing and other types of housing as well as office, retail and possibly some industrial, Jedreicich explained.

A lot will flesh out in public consultation process, added Andy Tam, vice-president of business development.

It will ultimately be up to Richmond city council to decide, when an application comes forward, whether to change its zoning from industrial to other uses.

Keltic, however, looked at both possibilities – keeping it industrial or changing the zoning – and concluded before buying the property that both would be profitable, Jedreicich added.

The area is part of city centre, and, therefore, is subject to the city’s policy of providing 15 per cent affordable rentals (low-end market rentals).

Keltic is hoping to bring an initial plan to the city in about 12 months.