These Vancouver jewels aren't for sale, but we couldn't help wondering...
Putting a price on the famous landmarks yields some big numbers
How much would you pay for the Lions Gate Bridge? Assuming, you know, you were in the market? Stanley Park, too. You’ll want to have a nice setting for your new toy.
First, remember to examine the credentials of the sellers. There’s a long history of people offering to sell bridges without having proper title. But there’s also a legitimate span-selling precedent—in 1962, Robert McCulloch purchased London Bridge for US$2.46 million and had it shipped to Lake Havasu City, Arizona (at a cost of US$7 million), and reassembled.
So assuming the business cards look legit and the phone numbers connect to Victoria, the next question is price. Recent conventions of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have featured speculative valuations of famous North American landmarks, and since this year’s event was held in Vancouver, two expert appraisers did their best to calculate the value of these local treasures.
Andrew Rurak, chief estimator with the Richmond office of engineering firm Dragados Canada, set out to estimate the price of the bridge, while Barden Prisant, president of New York–based International Art Advisors, was tasked with summing up the retail value of Stanley Park. (All figures are in Canadian dollars except where indicated.)
Rurak examined the history of the Lions Gate, originally funded and owned by the Guinness family (a 1927 bridge-building plebiscite failed, but a 1933 rerun that held the promise of Depression-era jobs passed). The project began March 31, 1937, and was completed 18 months later. Tolls paid off the initial cost, and in 1955 the Guinness family sold the structure to the province for just under $6 million (essentially the cost of construction). There were further tolls to earn back that purchase price, ending in 1963.
The 1955 price paid by the province works out to $57,250,000 in current dollars. Good luck getting that kind of deal today. In calculating a new value, Rurak looked chiefly at replacement cost—how much would have to be spent to construct a new crossing? He examined various options, including a twinning of the existing bridge and a new four-lane bridge, before settling on what he judged to be the only politically viable option: a four-lane tunnel (with the bridge likely retained for non-vehicular traffic). Based on that consideration, Rurak stickered the Lions Gate Bridge at $2.4 billion.
But let’s not forget those beloved Charles Marega–sculpted stone lions, which could conceivably be chiselled off and sold separately. This was Prisant’s territory, and for comparables he turned first to the stone lions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which he valued at $180,000 for the pair. But they’re much larger and carved in granite, while Marega’s are mere concrete—hence a smaller total value of $80,000 for the bridge guardians.
Prisant then launched his assessment of Stanley Park. First, the bric-a-brac. The Stanley Park Train was relatively simple: a website showed a longer one for sale for US$95,000. Allowing for the shorter length, Prisant knocked the price down somewhat, to $100,000 Canadian. The Brockton Point totem poles were compared to other, mostly smaller, poles sold internationally, including one 36-foot-high specimen that sold for $43,000, ultimately leading to a total totem value of $360,000.
The park’s three Susan Point Gateway sculptures were assessed at $150,000. The Girl in a Wetsuit statue came in at a modest $5,000. “Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a mainstream market for the works of Elek Imredy,” Prisant said.
Assessing the Hollow Tree was trickier. Prisant considered various approaches before landing on the US$40 million “renovation” of Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove. The grove’s 500 sequoias must have been valued at a minimum of US$110,000 each to justify the project, so Prisant (while acknowledging it as a rough estimate) assigned a similar ballpark value to the Hollow Tree.
Adding the items together, Prisant arrived at a total of $805,000, which he rounded down to an even 800 Gs. (Consider Girl in a Wetsuit a bonus gift.)
Now, the land value. An analysis of various West End properties led Prisant to an average land value of $2,581 per square foot. At 43,396,214 square feet, Stanley Park land comes in at an initial gross value of $112,010,497,338. But there are discounts.
Twenty percent of the land is undevelopable lagoon or marsh; provision of services would cost an estimated $300,000 per acre; and the considerable delay in selling individual parcels of land, 10 to 25 years by Prisant’s estimate, led him to discount the value of the remaining real estate by 57 percent.
Prisant examined other issues, such as possible naming rights (insurer Geico apparently offered US$1.6 million annually to put its name on the George Washington Bridge) and insurance costs, before calculating his final totals. Ultimately, his assessed value for Stanley Park, not including memorabilia, came in at $32 billion.
The summary: $800,000 for memorabilia, $2.4 billion for the Lions Gate Bridge, $32 billion for Stanley Park. Put it together, and the whole shooting match could be yours for roughly $34.5 billion, according to Rurak and Prisant.
To qualify for this offer, you should probably be Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the House of Saud or the government of Norway. Operators are standing by to take your call.
So you’ve purchased Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge, but you’re still in the mood to shop. What else might be on your list? Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors conventions in various cities have featured other evaluations of famous landmarks and facilities. A few prices, in ascending order (all figures in U.S. dollars):
1. The White House: $250 million (the land is unzoned and may be undevelopable)
2. Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field: $2.5 billion
3. Tower of London (and the Crown Jewels): $5.5 billion
4. Disney World, Orlando: $5.5 billion
5. NASA Mission Control Center, Houston: $5.7 billion
6. CN Tower, Toronto: $6.4 billion
7. Brooklyn Bridge, New York: $66 billion
8. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco: $80 billion