Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast

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July 27, 2022
VCREP #61: Vancouver Island’s Diamond in the Rough Investment with Mayor Ed Mayne

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We've talked a lot about Victoria and Nanaimo, but we haven't spoken about what we bet could be a sleeper investment opportunity in Vancouver Island. This week, Cory and Adam welcome Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne to discuss the exciting opportunities Parksville is currently experiencing in the Central Island market.

As Nanaimo continues to boom, just 20 minutes up the road sits Parksville, which has seen a development boom of their own, led by a proactive mayor who has the business experience to guide the community into 2022 and beyond.

Mayor Mayne breaks down the growth of his city and what's in store for Parksville, as a spike in development permits and the attraction to the island lifestyle grows in beautiful Parksville. Don't underestimate the growth of smaller communities on Vancouver Island as Parksville checks a lot of the boxes.

Who is Mayor Ed Mayne?

I’m 70-odd years old and have been the mayor of Parksville for the last four years. I was also mayor from 2008 to 2010 and resigned in 2010 to take a run at leadership with the Liberal party. When I wasn’t successful at that, I left politics for a while.

I’ve been in real estate, construction and development with fast food since the 1970s. I worked as VP of construction with Tim Hortons. I now own a number of Tim Hortons stores around the Island.

I originally thought I would run for city council in Parksville and shared that idea with my wife. She said to me that I am a driver, not a passenger, and that if I don’t run for mayor, I will regret it. So I decided to run for mayor instead and I won.

What’s happening in Parksville in 2022? How has Parksville changed in the last 5-10 years?

Over the last 3-4 years with the new city council, we all recognized that Parksville could no longer be a retirement community if we wanted to be sustainable. We knew we needed to attract young families. So we built over 1000 stratas and apartments over the last four years.

We’ve worked on reducing permit times; we now average about one week to get a building permit out for housing and 2-3 weeks for commercial development. Processes that would take 6-12 months now take us just 2-3 months. We want to provide service to the development community so Parksville becomes a developer’s first stop.

Was it difficult to change the zoning process in Parksville?

A few weeks after I took over as mayor, we hired a new chief administrator with planning experience who has built a dynamic team. Their motto is, “How can we help get it done?” instead of, “How can we slow this down?” Staff here are phenomenal.

Has Parksville experienced a halo effect from people moving to Nanaimo?

We are seeing a number of individuals move to Parksville because they’re able to work from home. They can do the same job they were doing in Vancouver but actually afford to buy a house here.

We have had a difficult time on the industrial side because we don’t have the workforce. Our average age is 62 or 63 years old. That’s why we want to attract young families and build up our workforce.

Has Parksville faced issues with the doctor shortage?

We could do a whole episode on the medical situation in the province or the country. There just aren’t enough doctors! We only graduate 2500 doctors each year in Canada and only 30% of those are family doctors. If we can’t attract carpenters or tradespeople to our community, how are we going to attract doctors? It’s a big issue and we need to fix it.

What is Parksville’s strategy to attract young people?

We’ve been focusing strongly on amenities. We just refurbished a community centre and added 91 daycare spaces. We have really been concentrating on daycare spaces across the city. We opened up a new outdoor theatre and have spent millions on our community park. We want Parksville to be attractive for young families.

How has your past experience working in fast food chains lent itself to running a city?

For me, it’s about leadership. When I first came to office, there were binders full of 100-page business plans. It was nonsense! So the first thing I did was host a mayor’s roundtable. We sat down with 80-90 people from Parksville from all walks of life and asked them what they wanted us to do. From there, we came away with five key objectives and that is what we focus our work on.

It’s the same in construction. You have to stay focused and follow a sequence of events. You have to be disciplined, stay focused on what you’re doing, and then move onto the next item.

What are the five key objectives for the city of Parksville?

The five key objectives are public safety, economic development, affordable housing, doctors and recreation. Even though the municipality has no control over doctors, it’s still a concern. Anytime someone from the province is here, I’m in their ear and letting them know they need to do something about it.

Can you incentivize doctors to come to Parksville?

It’s hard because you’re competing for a very small pool of individuals and competing against every other city in Canada. If you graduate from UBC with $300,000 in student loans, are you going to Parksville or a big city where you can make more money? It’s hard to incentivize. We can’t pay a doctor’s rent – that’s against the law.

How is Parksville tackling housing affordability?

The reality is that up until 4-5 years ago, Parksville’s vacancy rate on rental apartment units was 0.5%. There were no apartments available and it was all single family homes. But 42% of the houses in Parksville only have one person living in them and another 47% have just two people. So that’s almost 90% of our housing with two or less people. That affects the price of housing.

We’ve now moved that vacancy rate up to 1.9% and will probably be at 2.5% in the next year.

If I had the land available, we would build all day long. Looking at Mississauga in Ontario, they’ve had a population decrease over the last 10 years because they’re in a similar situation to us. Big families get smaller until there’s just one or two people living in the house.

What makes you excited about the future of the Parksville region?

I get excited every day when I walk to work. Parksville is a wonderful place to live. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Parksville for their summer holidays and we get the pleasure of enjoying that 12 months a year.

We have one of the best community parks. On the financial side, we have more money per capita in our reserve than any other municipality on the island, we have one of the lowest tax increases and we have zero debt. We’re also ranked as one of the most sustainable communities in BC. We have the fundamentals, but we just need to get more young families in here.

What real estate projects are coming up in Parksville, BC?

We have so many projects coming up in Parksville right now. We don’t have skyscrapers – our limit is 5-6 storeys. But we do have a number of multi-family residential buildings coming in. We’re working on a new swimming pool and multiplex for the area. We just opened up the downtown memorial plaza to create a pedestrian way. And we just opened the refurbished community centre. It’s exciting!

What is the future of Parksville?

We need to increase affordable housing in Parksville; we need about 500-600 more units of affordable housing. We also need to improve Parksville downtown core – and we do that by moving people in. We need 5 storey buildings there with commercial on the ground floor and residences above. We need to convince doctors to come to Parksville. So there’s lots for us to do here.

The main industries in Parksville are retirement and tourism. All of the hotels and restaurants in Parksville create jobs here and we have a number of retirement homes. I think it would be difficult to introduce a new industry to the area but I’m always open. We would have to figure out where to put it and how to get the support staff because we don’t have the workforce and we are pushing the city limits. But in five years when we have the workforce, this could be a different conversation.

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Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast

For all the curious minds interested in commercial real estate investing, grab a coffee and pull up a chair because we have exclusive stories and tips from commercial real estate brokers, investors, developers, economists, urban planners, and everyone in-between. From the successes and failures to the motivations and lessons learned, the Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast is your insight into commercial real estate in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, and beyond.

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