Vancouver in Position for Post Pandemic Boom

An article in yesterday’s Columbian showed Vancouver and Clark County in good shape relative to the metro area on office space. Vancouver is still a bit overstocked on leasable office space, but compared to Portland we are in great shape. The article dove into the stats with the overall metro office vacancy rate at over 25% and Vancouver sitting at 16%. Interviews with prominent commercial brokers and developers all had a positive look at Vancouver. Although the article indicated that many businesses were “eyeing” Vancouver for relocation from out of the area as well as Portland.

The article failed to mention anything of the general exodus out of Portland due in my opinion and the opinion of several local business people I spoke to, largely to the local government’s complete loss of control in the city center. Rampaging thugs vandalizing businesses on a regular basis and thousands of homeless camping out on the streets tends to chase away traditional office tenants. Portland can blame the pandemic for now, but when those companies decide not to return and move elsewhere, the Mayor and city council will have some challenging questions from the local business community and many of their residents I reckon as well.

To make matters worse, reports state that statistics show the homicide rate in Portland is up 750% this year over last year. Portland has never been a violent city. Sure it has had a robust counter-culture of protesting and such, but murders? No way! Portland in fact, for a city of its size has had up until recently one of the lowest murder rates in the nation. Now it starting to look more like Oakland, CA. Portland is falling apart and Vancouver can capitalize on their failures by attracting and relocating businesses to the urban core here. There is no other city in the metro area with a proper urban downtown. It’s Portland or Vancouver. Some of the business leaving Portland may end up in the burbs’ perhaps Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, or even Vancouver’s Eastside, but many will seek out Vancouver Downtown, with its robust upward trend in modern mid-rise and high-rise development, as well as a favorable tax and business climate.

Our Mayor and city council should take notice of what is happening in Portland. There is a lesson to be learned: Vancouver should not follow Portland in any way shape or form. Positive development, new business and residents leads to strong revenue growth for the city which in turn provides much needed infrastructure and social service funds that benefit us all including the least fortunate among us. Vancouver has been reaping rewards of improved real estate in the city core for the last 20 years and the Waterfront and new urban infill will continue that trend. As a benefit of this increased local revenue many affordable income restricted projects have been developed in the city center that provide housing at a significant reduction in rent. These projects include the excellent Esther Short Commons run by Vancouver Housing Authority, 13 West and 15 West, in Midtown which are clean and nice Section 42 income restricted units based on 60% of the County Median Income. There are many more of these types of projects in Vancouver and they are funded through various entities from the Feds, to the State, and even locally with revenues generated by boosted property taxes and new business revenue from converting an under improved block into a highest and best use block. It’s been a win-win for Vancouver these last two decades and all the current administration has to do is not screw it up. No trick plays, no fancy passes, it’s Marshawn Lynch up the middle for the win.

So long as Vancouver continues to be the ‘Anti-Portland’ it will continue to thrive and succeed. The bulk of voters in Vancouver like our city the way it is, clean, good traffic, safe streets, and on the rise. These are the things drawing people here. We are holding an excellent hand in America’s Vancouver. No need to take a card, just play the hand we have.

Ground is broken and preliminary construction prep is underway on Block 3 at the Waterfront. This is another big project similar in scope to the Block 20 project due to complete this fall. This is the Timberhouse originally planned as a 12 story cross laminated timber building, now a more traditional 10 story concrete and steel affair. Two underground parking levels and 8 above ground floors with the retail/commercial space and 227 apartments. Although the Summit Development website still shows a delivery date of October 2022, that is not going to happen, probably more like 2023. It’s all good, these things take time to construct. Yet another tower crane will rise up to support this development.

The CCRA meets Thursday to go over the usual business. One item is the new Terminal One development for Block A and C a very nice proposal that includes a fabulous public benefit of both utility and recreation. The utility is in a 505 space garage hidden in the rear of the project facing the BNSF berm. Two 7 story towers, one residential, the other office will rise up with a spectacular staircase between to the buildings and a future pedestrian bridge over the BNSF berm to connect to the new Waterfront Gateway district under initial planning now. This project is expected to stat construction near the end of the year or early 2022. I like it. Parking is something that will be very important as the Terminal One project builds out and the Waterfront area as well. More info on this project here.

OK condos: activity was similar this week to last with an over all net zero gain to inventory. A few new listings, a couple pending and closed. I did see two failed sales one in Parkview the other in Shorewood. Hopefully lenders aren’t getting weird on us. We don’t need any of that now, do we?

There is a Viewpoint condo listed and that is a rare bird. This is a west facing 8th floor unit listed at $969,900. I’ve been in a half dozen homes in Viewpoint but never in a west facing unit. With the emerging development on the waterfront, that view is increasingly more urbanesque. I’ll have to check that one out. I may have someone interested in Viewpoint.

I had the chance to have dinner at the new DosAlas restaurant above Wildfin in the Jean Building at the Grant Street Pier. They have done a nice job creating a sort of South Florida vibe with a nice mix of dishes in a latin theme. They have some serious connoisseur level cocktails and adult beverages on the menu. It is a refreshing new style for Vancouver that may not suit everyone, but provides yet another reason not to go to Portland for fine dining. With the arrival of several new upscale restaurants to Downtown and the Waterfront, including the locally famous El Gaucho, Vancouver may shed its reputation as a fine dining desert.

Urban living in the ‘Couv’ continues to get better and better.

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