Grocer for Downtown?

The Columbian reported over the weekend that Cascadia Development Partners has proposed a development on the long vacant block at 15th and Main that would offer a New Seasons Market to serve downtown. Let there be no doubt, Vancouver city officials have been trying to get a market downtown for decades. This is not exactly “Downtown” but it is close enough.

What has been presented shows a modern NW style structure yet traditional suburban style grocery store: a single level 26,000 SF store (smallish for a supermarket) and a parking lot to support 71 cars. As near as I can tell this project will occupy the entire block. It’s not exactly a high density project. I don’t mind a bit if they build it as shown, because a supermarket is about the only thing missing from Vancouver’s urban core. Currently Downtown and waterfront residents have to travel about two miles to the Fred Meyer at Grand Central or about the same to Safeway at 37th and Main.

Where the hell was New Seasons when Gramor was trying to court grocers for Block Ten? New Seasons is a high end store that would have flourished on Block Ten with that dense development and higher end residences at Viewpoint, Heritage Place, Frontier Block, and the Waterfront. But at this location New Seasons could be a bit “rich” for the neighborhood. Of course the residents near Esther Short park will still prefer this location to the longer distances at Freddies or Safeway, but will they walk? Hmm… I don’t know about that. It is a slightly more car dependent area as opposed to the walkable nature of lower Downtown. I still think New Seasons will be successful at this location as well.

I’m not suggesting this is a ‘bad’ project, but it seems a little bit of an under utilization of the property. This really should be a mixed used project with some residential units over the top of the store. I’m not suggesting an expensive mid-rise or high-rise, but can they not build 10-12 units of apartments on four floors over the top of the grocery store? Of course they can. Cascadia built the Uptown and the Aria. They definitely have the chops for it.

I feel like the city will be quite receptive to the notion, since it checks off an important milestone for the Downtown area. Cascadia could leverage that a bit and get a larger project pushed through quickly that includes needed apartment space. We will just have to see how it all washes out, whether it goes as planned or becomes a larger, more sophisticated project; it is a positive enhancement for the community.

More action in the local urban condo market. New units came to market and about an equal number went pending or closed. Inventory is about the same level. I see a nice broad range of pricing is available across the local urban condo market.

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