The Latest Urban Buzz

Today is chilly with the threat of snow looming, but the urban condo market is seeing more tightening of inventory with 3 pendings and one closing against just one fresh new listing. Now this is not that unusual during the winter as typically listing activity is quiet this time of year. The real test will be the spring time when the normal listing bump happens. Will the buyers soak up the new inventory? I think they will.

The Columbian had an article last week about a pre-app submittal by a Seattle architecture firm on behalf of Alliance Residential in McMinneville, OR. The proposal would include 172 apartment units in a large 6 story building on Block 17 of the Waterfront. 6 stories is the minimum number allowable in the Waterfront. MINIMUM, not maximum. I was figuring that the back side (North) blocks at the west end of the development would house taller structures that could see over the shorter buildings along the water. These west side blocks are the only blocks that are far enough west to clear FAA height restrictions and allow the city height restrictions to take precedent. Vancouver will allow buildings up to 200 feet tall in that area which works out to a 15-20 story residential tower. Of course apartments in a taller tower that offers views over the nearby shorter buildings would come at a premium rent.

I am fully aware that buildings taller than 6-7 floors become increasingly expensive to build. This is a motivating factor the article discusses. However if cost is the reason for building a larger floor plate mid-rise versus a smaller floor plate high-rise I would expect the city to ensure the units are priced more affordable than what has been put in thus far. I’m not suggesting they build low-income housing on a block that costs as much as these blocks sell for, but something a little more in reach of a middle income earner would be nice. Perhaps the owner could pass on the construction savings to future renters. Buildings like these are likely to remain for many decades maybe as long as 100 years. What ever goes in is going to be there essentially forever.

This proposed 6 story tower will not be able to see over the top of any of the buildings in front it. Block 8 is Riverwest at 7 stories, Block 11 is currently surface parking but once the proposed parking garage is built on block 7, block 11 is expected to have a high rise. Block 16 is planned for a 14 story condo tower, Block 18 has a proposal in the permitting process for a 12 story residential tower, and block 20 has a 7 story apartment building under construction.

I am delighted that another block in the Waterfront is getting some interest, I hope that the company proposing this project will give us a middle class apartment option since they are foregoing the “luxury tower” option.

There can be no doubt the Waterfront is a smashing success. Phase 1 is already completely built out or topped out and several projects for Phase 2 are in the planning stages and Block 20 is already under construction. Block 20 and Block 17 are actually part of Phase 3!

I would love to see some followup from Gramor on the projects that have been proposed but seem to be stalled. Timberhouse on Block 3 and the Trestle on Block 14. These two are taller projects with some real gravitas, both being CLT projects from sustainable timber. Timberhouse looks fantastic in the drawings with a modern cross laminated timber build and classic architectural elements featuring three wings of varying heights.

2020 is looking good for urban dwellers in the ‘Couv’.

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