55-acre university in Squamish listed for sale for its development potential

Sep 4 2020, 9:27 am

The sprawling campus of Quest University in Squamish has been listed for sale, largely for its development potential value, as a way for the financially struggling post-secondary institution to survive under a mountain of debt.

In February, the private, not-for-profit university became insolvent and filed for creditor protection, with the court in early August granting an extension of the protections until December 24.

The financial problems existed long before COVID-19, but they have been exacerbated by the ongoing health and economic crisis.

According to commercial real estate firm Colliers International, the sale of “surplus assets” will enable the university to restructure its financial obligations.

The 55-acre property is located at 3200 University Boulevard — at the foot of the Sea to Sky Corridor’s western mountains, and just east of the Garibaldi Highlands neighbourhood and Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club.

The listing price was not provided, but BC Assessment pegs the assessed value at $60.5 million, with $13.1 million for the land and $47.4 million for the structures.

Quest University 3200 University Boulevard Squamish

Quest University campus at 3200 University Boulevard, Squamish. (Colliers International)

The academic campus, sports field, and recreational centre currently occupy about 20 acres, comprising about 132,000 sq. ft. of total building floor area. In addition, the university has a 25-year lease purchase agreement for four student residence buildings that provide over 400 beds over 132,000 sqft of floor area.

Over 38 acres are deemed to be developable land for residential, commercial, and institutional uses. The municipal government has indicated its preliminary support for up to 424 homes — with 10% of the units set aside as rental tenure — and 30,000 sqft of commercial space.

The area’s growing population will also likely require the construction of a public elementary school and additional park space.

Through the comprehensive sale of the entire property, Quest University is looking for a long-term leaseback.

Quest University 3200 University Boulevard Squamish

Quest University campus at 3200 University Boulevard, Squamish. (Colliers International)

Quest University 3200 University Boulevard Squamish

Quest University campus at 3200 University Boulevard, Squamish. (Colliers International)

The university, offering an undergraduate degree in liberal arts and science, first opened in 2007. Its capacity has since grown to up to 700 students and employment for over 100 faculty and staff.

“Located halfway between Vancouver and Whistler in BC’s Coast Mountains, Quest’s campus comprises academic buildings, student residences, support buildings, in addition to its remaining lands that will provide for potential university expansion and growth as well as market housing and commercial services,” reads the listing.

Quest University 3200 University Boulevard Squamish

Quest University campus at 3200 University Boulevard, Squamish. (Colliers International)

Quest University 3200 University Boulevard Squamish

Quest University campus at 3200 University Boulevard, Squamish. (Colliers International)

The campus and the surrounding residential neighbourhoods are based on a master plan of 240 acres. Over time, parcels of this site have been sold or developed to provide equity for the university’s development and long-term operation.

This includes the University Heights development, immediately west of Quest University, which is owned by Vancouver-based developer Holborn Group and not part of the listing. The two-phase development entails 200 single-family, duplex, and multi-family homes.

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