Paul Liberatore

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Big Rock Brewery aiming to be Mount Pleasant’s cornerstone

Savvy strategy

Vancouver may be all about densification, but Calgary-based Big Rock Brewery Inc. is showing what can be done with the city’s industrial space. While flexible zoning has helped make the combination possible, drawing a half-dozen craft brewers to the industrial heart of Mount Pleasant, Big Rock is readying its own facility cognizant that it’s not the only game in town. The 20,000-square-foot facility at Alberta and West 3rd Avenue is a triple threat aimed squarely at local drinkers, with a pub, retail store and commercial brewery all in one building – and each element offering something different.

While it will kick off operations with a Northwest-style red ale, general manager JM Pelland said plans are in place to give each component a distinct flavour.

“By May, June, there’ll always be six to eight different draft beers available, split up between the restaurant and the retail area,” he said.

The facility has 30,000-litre tanks that will enable it to produce beer for broad distribution, while smaller tanks of 3,000 to 6,000 litres will allow small batches for on-site consumption. The retail outlet will also stock product from Big Rock’s Calgary plant.

“I’m quite confident in making it a cornerstone of this neighbourhood,” Pelland said. “It is a unique neighbourhood, and what a great way to capture a multi-faceted audience with a mixed-use building!”

Situated next to the Vancouver Police Department, the brewery receives daily visits from officers wondering when it’s opening.

Pelland expects to produce evidence of the brewery’s handiwork in April.

Housing and incomes

It’s become common of late for commentaries on housing affordability to note that rising home prices are less of an issue than stagnant incomes.

Condo marketer Bob Rennie has long suggested this, arguing that foreign buyers are not dependent on local incomes and should be factored out of discussions of affordability.

But that doesn’t prevent high-level data from grabbing headlines; to wit, the flutter of excitement as the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s benchmark pricing for detached homes crossed the million-dollar mark last fall. That’s indisputably beyond what the median family income in metropolitan Vancouver – which Statistics Canada pegs at below $65,000 a year – can afford.

RBC Economics figures indicate the qualifying income for a standard condo – the most affordable housing type in the region – has averaged approximately $76,000 since mid-2009.

The good news, however, is that qualifying incomes have typically been within $1,500 of that average in recent years. In fact, RBC reports that a condo purchase requires just 39.9% of monthly household income today, versus more than 47% four years ago.

It’s the single-family buyers that have been hit hardest by rising home prices and the affordability crunch. RBC data shows that households now require $44,000 more in annual income to qualify for a simple bungalow than they did in spring 2009 – a gap that local incomes simply can’t bridge. 

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