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Potential park or resale: Burnaby eyes options for scrapped film studio land

Larco Investments forfeits $20 million in failed Burnaby land deal.
Rendering of the Larco/Bridge Studios film stages proposed, now cancelled, for 3990 Marine Way in Burnaby.

An 18.5-acre plot of industrial land in Burnaby won’t be the home of a new film studio, and while the mayor wants to enhance the property as park, there’s a few potential options for the site, city officials say.

Information released last week said Larco Investments Ltd., owner of Bridge Studios, pulled out of a real estate deal to buy 3990 Marine Way from the city for $136 million.

“They lost their deposit, basically, of $20 million, and decided not to develop, which means the property belongs to us still,” Burnaby’s CAO Leon Gous told the Burnaby NOW.

Gous said the city doesn’t have many details about why Larco walked away from the deal but suggested skyrocketing construction costs might have affected the business case.

The dropped deal won’t affect Burnaby’s finances either, the city says.

The sale was conditional on the development being officially rezoned, a milestone it never reached.

“Since it was a conditional sale, the city has not recorded the purchase price as revenue, and therefore, there is no impact on the city’s finances,” city spokesperson Chris Bryan told the NOW.

Burnaby requested offers on the property in early 2021, with a minimum bid to purchase the lot at $63 million, according to Western Investor.

The property was then worth around $60 million; now it is assessed at $117.4 million.

The film studio was expected to provide more than 1,000 jobs.

Bridge Studios did not respond to requests for comment.

What’s next for the Marine Way property?

Mayor Mike Hurley asked staff to study the “appropriate future land use” of the property and ways to protect its environmental or recreational assets, including creek and wetland features.

“Seeing more and more need to preserve lands of importance in our city, I’ve decided, as this didn’t move forward as an incredible employment opportunity, that now is an opportunity to protect something for future generations,” Hurley said at a council meeting April 15.

The 3990 Marine Way property in Burnaby. Google Maps

He asked staff to advise on what can be done with the property.

Gous told the NOW only about 11 of 18 acres on the property in Big Bend are developable due to the creek that runs through it.

The property is currently zoned for industrial use.

“I will say, early on, … it’s in the middle of a bit of nowhere, so from an absolute community-use park, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense – but we’ll confirm that,” Gous said.

“Alternatively, some of the stuff we might come up with is if we sell the property and use the money to develop a park elsewhere that might be more needed, like in Brentwood, let’s say,” he said, noting the riparian area will be protected in any case.

Critics of last year’s controversial proposal for a compost processing facility on parkland elsewhere in Big Bend suggested the Marine Way property could be a more appropriate location.

Gous indicated there might be potential to use the site for a compost plant, though the size would be quite tight.

But it’s still early in the process and none of that is decided yet.

“They could come back and say it’s worth just designating as park and moving on,” Gous said.

Staff will study the matter and report back to council with recommendations at a later date.