Community Spotlight: Heritage Place

Before I dive into the community that started Vancouver’s Downtown revitalization efforts back in the late 90s, I have a bit of news. Last week saw a significant number of new listed units enter the market with several pending and closed sales as well, but a slight bump in favor of buyers in the inventory level. There is also a rare opportunity at Columbia Shores to buy one of the townhomes that front the river. Kirkland Tower closed on another unit leaving fewer than a dozen remaining in what is the top tier urban condominium project in the region. Interest rates have also settled down a bit making things a bit more stable, this is also a boost for consumer confidence in housing.

OK Heritage Place: what is it? In the late 1990s the City of Vancouver decided it was time to clean up the decrepit Downtown area surrounding Esther Short Park. The park itself had become a dangerous place and the empty former brewery complex nearby sat crumbling in disrepair. That old complex was razed and the city began to renovate the park. Heritage Place was designed to be a two square block mixed use urban development. What it lacks in height it makes of for in location, design, and convenience. The parking is in a partial submerged garage in the back of the two buildings on each block while the front half facing Esther Short Park features retail, restaurants and such. A very nice compliment of options from fine dining to Subway sandwiches. This was the first of a great many new and exciting projects to complete and some 180 units designed as condominiums were built. The design is a wrap around an interior courtyard. The courtyards are actually quite lovely. Units will either have an interior view over the courtyard or exterior view over the street and or Esther Short Park.

These units tend to be a bit larger in living space than nearby Parkview at Vancouvercenter. They are also a little bit nicer but like Parkview they are getting a bit long in the tooth style wise. All of these units are above street level and offer access via a secure garage and or lobby. The two buildings are connected via a second floor skybridge. Amenities which were state of the art back in the day are now fairly standard in apartment and condo projects but include a clubhouse, fitness center, and of course the absolutely lovely interior courtyards.

The buildings are divided in to east and west with the eastern building at the corner of Columbia and West 8th and the western building at the corner of Esther and West Eight. Both buildings offer units that face the park. Units in the eastern building facing Columbia Street used to have a view out over the makeshift park on Block Ten and the urban skyline, but the recently completed Block Ten project has a seven story apartment building tall enough to block all views. I would expect these east facing units to be offered at slightly lower prices than similar units in the west building that can see over the short office building at Esther and West 8th. All of the units facing north currently offer decent city scape views but there is quite a bit of vacant lots serving as surface parking at the moment but could very quickly be snatched up by developers and end up with taller projects that might block views in the future.

Regarding views, generally Heritage Place is not so much about the views, this is after all a four story project. Most of the trees in the area including all those along streets are mature and as tall as the buildings themselves. Those looking for a city style view are better served looking at Parkview, Frontier Block, or Viewpoint. This property has aged well, seems to be well kept, and to my knowledge has not had much in the way of HOA financial drama. It should be noted that there is a single entity that owns a large quantity of units in the project and some lenders may be a bit squeamish about that. However there are plenty of lenders that will allow this, so it doesn’t seem to affect the marketability of the units.

For people who want to live in the thick of the urban activity, this location is hard to match. The park serves as a center for festivals, concerts, and Vancouver’s excellent weekend Farmer’s Market that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. This neighborhood can be quite busy particularly in the late spring, summer, and early fall.

Compared to Parkview that sits caddy-corner from Heritage Place, these units are a bit nicer, offer a lovely common area interior space, with nice wide corridors between the units. Where Parkview feels a little cramped, this project seemed to favor larger spaces even at the expense perhaps of a few extra units they may have been able to ‘squeeze’ in with a more tight design. Other than the handful of exterior east facing units, these units tend to feel open despite the diminutive height of these buildings. It is a well designed urban development.

Pros and Cons to Heritage Place:

Some units have views of the ParkMost views obstructed by trees & taller buildings
Deeded secure parkingParking partially below grade, can be exposed to extreme temperatures
Perhaps the best Location DowntownCan be busy and noisy at times
Most units have patiosExterior unit patios can be littered with tree leaves and debris
Street parking is free on weekendsParking for guests is limited and expensive on weekdays
Lots of retail and restaurants in the developmentno-cons
Units are well priced against peersUnits can still be expensive despite being a value opportunity
Significant development in area expectedWill likely be busy with construction projects on nearby blocks

So there you have it, Heritage Place remains a popular and desirable location for condos and should remain so for the foreseeable future.

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