Latest Urban Buzz

There is a lot of activity happening in Urban Vancouver these days. I’ll go over some updates to the ‘Urban Pipeline’ as well as urban condo activity. The urban projects list saw quite a bit of revision and additions over the last few weeks and the condo activity remains solid.

The most recent CCRA (City Center Redevelopment Authority) meeting on the 19th featured the Holland Partner Group’s presentation on their revised Block Ten proposal. Originally they indicated they would have an 11 story office tower, a 2-3 level parking garage, and a 7 story residential tower. The garage is now slated to cover most of the block with two levels and retail store fronts along the perimeter. The residential tower remains intact as five floors of apartments over two floors of parking/retail. The office tower has been scaled down to 4 floors of office over two floors of parking/retail. Holland officials cited among other things the construction expenses associated with a high rise structure versus the more affordable options available in mid-rise buildings.

My concern is that if Holland is unable to pencil a large office tower then other potential firms may not find it feasible either. Vancouver needs the housing they are building and deserve kudos for getting some excellent projects from paper to product. Downtown also needs more good paying jobs and office towers are certainly a place where companies employ highly educated and skilled personnel. Holland should have been able to feel confident in building that original tower. City leaders need to put a committee together to drive business to the Downtown. This may mean sending delegations to major urban centers like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston to pitch the ‘Couv’ as an excellent regional HQ locale or even a full company relocation and/or expansion. There are a lot of tower cranes over in Portland, some of those should be here instead of there.

Block ten is an ideal spot for something taller. Riverview Tower and Vancouver Center are just north and south respectively and feature taller structures. I suppose the tenants in the south facing upper floors of Riverview Tower are delighted with the new shorter building proposal as are those in Vancouver Center Tower 3 at 700 Washington Street.  Holland is planning on getting this project started early in 2020 so the smaller building may also help get the project moving faster. There is a time sensitive issue surrounding the opportunity zone requiring certain things be done THIS year. That may be as much a reason to scale back the office tower as actual expenses. Honestly, I hope that it is more about time than financial viability. I do want to see that block developed sooner rather than later. I hate empty downtown lots, they are effectively a blight.

The Academy released information about Marathon’s plans for a second phase at the Academy site. You may remember that they are pushing the project called ‘Aegis’ through the permitting process and should break ground sometime in the next 6 months. Phase two is similar and will occupy the north side of the 7 acre Academy complex. The drawings released show the local landmark Academy Chimney intact. The other two buildings near the chimney are too far gone to preserve. Don’t forget, that place was erected 150 years ago! I know that the Academy is an important feature in Vancouver’s downtown area and for our local history. I feel like Marathon has done a great job of incorporating elements in their modern design proposals to tie into the character of the historic Academy building. This is a good looking project. I do hope they can save the Chimney, and based on the renderings, that is clearly the intention. Some are opposed to any development on the site, these are often people who believe in the tooth fairy, and that magic money is available for preservation of historic properties. There is no tooth fairy. The Academy grounds are ragged and ugly, the main building looks great, and more money is needed to keep that structure viable in the 21st century. This project will enhance the whole block and allow the continued maintenance and upgrades to the beautiful Academy building and grounds.

On the urban condo scene no new units appeared on the market this past week. One pending unit in Columbia Shores however is back on market. There were a couple of price reductions on units that have lingered in the market for a bit. But the inventory tightened up by -2 this week.

Things are looking good in urban Vancouver.

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