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Ghost town outside Whistler for sale again after B.C. changes rules

Lack of investors has Chinese development group looking to unload property
Bradian, a former mining town, has been put back on the market seven months after it was bought by Chinese investors

Recent changes to B.C.’s immigration rules for entrepreneurs have made it more difficult to market a potential recreational property north of Whistler to foreign investors, says a realtor involved in the listing for the ghost town Bradian.

The empty mining town, about two hours north of Pemberton or four hours north of Vancouver, has been put back on the market seven months after it was bought by Chinese investors, said realtor Mike Mills.

The town, with 22 dilapidated buildings built in the 1930s and abandoned in the 1970s when the mines closed, still has the roads and hydro, water and sewer lines.

It was sold on Dec. 29 for $995,000 to China Zhong Ya Group, Heibei Canada-China Co., a Chinese development group.

Heibei had intended to find other Chinese investors interested in investing the minimum $200,000 needed to immigrate under B.C.’s Provincial Nominee Program, for instance by opening a gas station in the town, said Mills.

But in March, the province abruptly unveiled revised PNP rules and placed a moratorium on new applications because it had a backlog of applicants.

The rules were changed as of July 2 so that applicants now are awarded points, a change designed to attract entrepreneurs with business and work experience, along with a business proposal that includes job creation and the minimum financial investment, according to the PNP website.

“They (Heibei) had just bought the property and the PNP gets cancelled and now they can’t get other Chinese investors to invest,” said Mills.

A spokeswoman for the PNP program told The Province: “These most recent changes we’ve implemented ensure the PNP is lined up with our labour market demands. We are making a very targeted and very focused change to our intake system so we match high-skilled, in-demand jobs with B.C.’s labour market priorities.”

Bradian, which sits on 50 acres of rural land in the Bridge River Valley in the Squamish/Lillooet regional district, had been on the market since 2010, when previous owners Tom and Katherine Gutenberg, who had been using it as a summer retreat since 1997, decided to sell.

Heibei is asking $1.2 million.

The developer had plans to turn it into a recreational destination, Mills said at the time.

He said the property now will be marketed to locals, “some from Richmond and some from Vancouver,” through a private listing.

A Whistler consultant who is a “very, very experienced marketer,” and has moved property in other areas, including Dubai, will be making a presentation next week to the local investors, said Mills.

“He’s taken some bleak-looking areas and moved them forward,” he said.

If it doesn’t sell after that, Bradian will be added to the Multiple Listing Service.

The town could be developed as a “back-country” serene recreational town to attract those who find Whistler too urban or developed, he said.

There’s lots of snow, yet a temperate climate, ideal for winter activities such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing, and it’s in a good spot for summer activities such as swimming, fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking and even panning for gold or looking for jade, said Mills.

Developers could start small, with a gas station and a small motel, “for, say, $3 million,” and keep adding services, he said.

“It’s the most beautiful place, with Gun Lake nearby and huge mountains all around,” he said.