Community Spotlight: Academy Square

Before I dive into the spotlight development, a little news: At the end of last year, DST 150, LLC made the final purchase to complete the acquisition of an entire city block bounded by Main St on the west, 13th on the north, Broadway on the east, and 12th to the south. The LLC is registered to a known developer out of Bend, OR that has been active in suburban residential development throughout Clark County for many years. I am not aware of any urban density projects they have undertaken locally.

A few months ago a proposal to build a seven story mixed use building floated through the local media and it seems that the land acquisition is complete. The block consisted of four roughly equal size parcels tethered to each corner of the block. Three existing structures cover all or part of the parcels. County records show a total purchase price of $8.3 million dollars which seems rather high if the structures are going to be demolished to make way for a new building. A former funeral home and crematorium are among the structures that would need to go to develop the block. Although the funeral home is an interesting looking structure with some good architectural pizazz, it isn’t in the best shape, the other two structures are one story 1960s era buildings of little note. I’d love to see that block updated and I will keep you posted on the status. This block lies one block west of todays community spotlight.

Another purchase of interest is the three parcels making up a half block just west of Riverview Tower at 9th and Columbia. This property is owned by NW Baptist Foundation and it appears the land was a donation at the very end of last year. I have no idea what the intention is for this parcel but it is ideally suited for high density development. I have reached out to the foundation but have not yet heard a response. I’ll keep an eye on it.

So Academy Square, what is it? Academy Square was built in the mid 1940s and at some point in that last few decades it was converted into condominiums. There are approximately 40 units and I believe they are all 1 bed 1 bath units with about 517 SF. There are ground floor and second floor units. These vintage brick buildings are well maintained and frankly are rather stately in appearance. The basement area serves as a laundry area. These units represent a value opportunity in Downtown Vancouver to own. Units tend to sell these days in the mid 200’s which is about as reasonable as it gets in Vancouver’s urban core. The entire block is consumed by this development and it is raised a bit above street level and features wrought iron style fencing around the perimeter. Parking is on the street with diagonal deeded spaces on the North and East street front.

Academy Square features lovely classic style garden courtyards in between the zig zagging buildings. Due to its old school design it lacks some of the security features of the more modern mid-rise and high-rise condo towers in the area. It is a short 8-10 minute walk to Esther Short Park and offers easy and quick access to the I-5, SR 14, and SR 500 freeways. The neighborhood features the Historic Academy along with the new Aegis Apartments that will open this summer and the Our Heroes Place apartments at the Felix, Ed, and Dolly towers nearby. These are all market rate neighboring developments. Due to the age of the buildings units will have a varying degree of decor and style. Some may be dated and vintage looking while others I have seen a modern and sleek inside with many of the trendy styles of today.

These units generally do not feature any views in the traditional sense as they are all ground and second floor. Recent development has brought taller mid rise buildings nearby that have left the area with a little bit less light in the winter time. It isn’t too bad though as the latest towers are only 6 floors and the Phase II of Aegis will also be 6 floors. These are casting some shadows over the south side of the block in the darker months of the year.

Pros and Cons to Academy Square:

Some units have views over the courtyardNo units really have a view per se
Deeded street side parkingParking is fully exposed to street and weather
Very walkable neighborhoodLess convenient to activities and attractions than other condos
Easy access to three freewaysArea is a bit noisy with activity, but less than Esther Short Park area
Street parking is free on weekendsParking for guests is limited and expensive on weekdays
Close to retail and restaurantsno-cons
Units are well priced against peersUnits are small most being 1 bed and 517 SF
Significant development in area expectedWill likely be busy with construction projects on nearby blocks

So there you have, Academy Square is a solid starter condo in the heart of Vancouver.

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