A White Rock real estate agent says climbing rental rates on Marine Drive are proving to be a challenge for waterfront businesses.
Jeff Copland met with Peace Arch News after PAN was notified that a waterfront business owner was recently asked to sign a new lease that proposed a 25 per cent rent increase.
Copland estimated that commercial rent on the waterfront averages between $40-$50 per square foot, with some owners asking close to $55 per square foot.
He said rent needs to be less than $40 per square foot for “anything to make sense down here.”
Waterfront business owners are paying prices comparable to Downtown Vancouver, but with less foot traffic, he said.
“For here, it’s seasonal. You come down here in the winter time, it’s tough,” Copland said. “The rents are definitely the highest in South Surrey/White Rock area, but we have the most inconsistent traffic throughout the year.”
Rent is generally more affordable on East Beach, Copland said.
He noted Joseph Richard Group left Marine Drive because they couldn’t make the numbers work, “and that was about $45 per square foot.” JRG owned the Oceanside Yacht Club Public House, located in the old Ocean Beach Hotel building. Copland said the owners of the property are planning to re-open the Ocean Beach restaurant.
Copland said although a few landlords are trying to “push it,” not every owner is making it unaffordable.
“I sold Rock City Burgers and he actually reduced (rent), which is very rare,” Copland said.
He said big companies are hesitant to open up shop on Marine Drive because they’re cautious about working out of older buildings.
“The beach, these buildings are 60 years old, they’re still charging at rates as if it’s new construction.”
Noting that he’s in support of the dogs on the promenade trial project, Copland said there’s more the city can do to bring people to the beach.
He suggested a playground, bike area, closed-in dog park, marina, and a floating waterpark.
White Rock Business Improvement Association executive director Alex Nixon says affordability has been top of mind for quite some time.
“It’s a major issue, not just for businesses in terms of lease rates, but in terms of how much spending money customers have,” Nixon told PAN Monday.
However, Nixon said, this summer will be one of White Rock’s busiest yet in terms of events happening around town.
A Semiahmoo Peninsula native but former resident of Richmond, Nixon said White Rock has more events planned this summer than his former city.
“Which is crazy because Richmond has like 10 times our population,” Nixon said.
“White Rock, in terms of our community, we’ve got a great population but we’re also a tourism town. We try to attract people in the summer and one of the ways the BIA is trying to do that is through events and the theory being that if we can bring people into town, they will eat at the restaurants and shop at the local businesses and use local services.”
Nixon listed a number of events planned for this summer, including the White Rock Craft Beer Festival, Concerts for the Pier series, Five Corners Buskers and Comedy Festival, outdoor movie nights, Snowbirds, multicultural festivals and Picnic on the Pier.