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Surrey condo tower developer defends substantial delay

Edmonton-based Everest Developments claims four-year pause in construction was due to outside forces and it is now on track to completion - but some pre-sale buyers are skeptical

Edmonton-based developer Haris Thiara, president of Everest Development Group, is defending a four-year delay in construction of a nearly sold-out Surrey condo project that is now not expected to complete until December 2024.

But, unlike some other Metro Vancouver developers who have bailed out of troubled projects, Thiara said Everest would meet the new deadline and honour the original prices.

The Centra, a 167-unit, 23-storey condo tower at 13852 101 Avenue in central Surrey, was issued a development permit on October 4, 2016, and building permits in 2018 “allowing the start of construction”, according to the City of Surrey.

The project was virtually sold out in 2019 with the understanding the tower would complete in June 2022. Instead, work largely stalled until recently when construction restarted on what one disgruntled buyer called a “hole in the ground.”

“The City does not have an update on the reasons that construction activity was paused on the site or when activity will resume,” said an emailed statement from the Surrey planning department.

“The project is taking longer but that is the norm today,” Thiara said, claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic, which started early in 2020, rising interest rates, a labour shortage and soaring construction costs have stalled many residential projects, including Centra.

There are many examples.

In the last few months, a major 800-unit condo complex in Richmond was stopped and the developer was forced into receivership, and Vancouver’s once-giant condo developer Coromandel has stopped work on 16 projects across Metro Vancouver as it seeks credit protection.

On May 26, pre-sale buyers of Minoru Square, a 400-condo Richmond project, were told the developer has “paused” the project and will return their 20 per cent deposits. Minoru Square, being built by Thind Properties, is an 11-storey, residential tower that was to open in 2025.

Thiara claims he released an amendment to Centra’s construction schedule in 2022 extending the completion date until December 2024.

“We have assurances from our engineers and general contractor, who are experts in the industry, that we can finish the project by that time,” Thiara told Western Investor.

 But some buyers doubt the Centra will open next year and are calling for their deposits to be repaid.

Mayur Arora, a Surrey realtor who bought a Centra condo as a pre-sale in 2019, is skeptical of the timeline. “It takes longer than that to build a detached house,” she said.

Violet Smith (she asked that her real name not be used), who put up a total of $66,200 in three down payments for a $429,900 junior two-bedroom at the Centra, also doubts the latest estimate. She noted the project’s completion was first extended to 2023 and then to 2024.

“This project has shown all the signs of never coming to completion,” said Smith, a long-time Vancouver renter. “I would just like to get my deposit back and move on.”

That is not likely to happen.

Smith, like all the Centra buyers, signed the Everest fourth amendment last year that extended the completion data.

“We are confident that we will complete on time,” Thiara said on May 31. “We have spent $11 million so far on construction and this week we had 25 workers from subcontractors on the site.”

Thiara noted that, despite the higher construction cost and financing charges Everest faces building Centra, “we will honour the pre-sale prices that buyers paid in 2019.”

According to Fraser Valley Real Estate Board data, the median price of central Surrey condo apartment has increased 36 per cent from May 2019 to a May 2023 average in excess of $521,000.