The Ritz-Carlton is nearly complete

Drone shot provided by The Ritz-Carlton

The Rose City is about to get a much needed boost to its sagging reputation of late. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences is nearing completion. The beleaguered city could use all the help it can get. It is most interesting that The Ritz-Carlton chose Portland over the larger, sexier, and richer Seattle for the only location in Pacific Northwest. The next nearest Ritz-Carlton is in San Francisco. The hotel is expected to open in mid July this summer. The residences should begin closing shortly thereafter with phased closings continuing through the end of next year according to the representative for the project.

I attended the broker event for this project last week, and found the property to be quite special. The closest competitor for it is actually here in Vancouver at Kirkland Tower. The similarities are striking. Both properties are private condominiums attached to a hotel. These towers are NOT condotels, that is a different business model altogether. These are private luxury homes that have the benefit of the amenities in the hotel, along with exclusive amenities not available to hotel guests. The private residences have a separate entrance, private elevators used exclusively by residents and completely detached from the Hotel, just like Kirkland Tower in Vancouver. The Ritz-Carlton Residences however are on a larger scale than Kirkland. They have 132 condominiums of which the developer claims more than 30 are sold. This compares to just 40 residences at Kirkland with 11 remaining. The representative also stated that the building itself is the fourth tallest in Downtown Portland, Kirkland Tower just happens to be the fourth tallest in Downtown Vancouver. The Ritz-Carlton is much taller than Kirkland standing 35 stories tall and 460 feet in height. Kirkland is diminutive in comparison with just 13 floors and 146 feet in height. But it is all relative, as Kirkland stands taller than all but three buildings as does The Ritz-Carlton in their respective Downtown areas. So the views from the top floor of either building relative to their surroundings are similar. Kirkland soars above the nearby structures as does The Ritz-Carlton.

So why is a website called “urban living in the couv” talking about a project in Portland? Like Kirkland Tower this is a very special project that will have lasting effects on the community. This new project in Portland will have effects to a lesser extent even here in Vancouver. This property is a proper competitor to Kirkland and I feel that both have much to offer. The Ritz-Carlton has a few advantages over Kirkland Tower. The first is that the residences are in the same building and are at the top of the structure. So even the lower floor units tower over the nearby buildings which are all between 8-15 floors. The residences are on floors 21-35. Below that floor are the hotel rooms and the amenities for both guests and owners, as well as some office space. The owners have their own private lounge and some other amenities exclusive to owners. The building does feature several restaurants including space on 9th street for seven award winning Portland Food Truck operators. That was a nod to the food truck operators that used to be located on that very block. Kirkland is attached to a separate hotel building which is an advantage and a disadvantage. The latter being that some of Kirkland’s condo units are on lower floors. Those on floors 8 and below that are not facing the river will not have great views. It seems that all the units in the Ritz-Carlton have sweeping views of the city. Of course we can’t fail to remind everyone that Kirkland is a waterfront property where as The Ritz-Carlton is in fact on a standard city block surrounded on all four sides by other buildings. It is not a convenient walk to the Willamette River waterfront for the future residents of The Ritz-Carlton.

Interior render provided by The Ritz-Carlton

I saw fully built models of the kitchen, bathrooms and some living area. The materials are on par with what I have seen at Kirkland. I have a complete package with hundreds of pages and photos for The Ritz-Carlton outlining just about everything you need to know about the project. Prices are a little higher than Kirkland on a per-foot basis and the HOA is a bit steeper as well. But the amenities in the project are a touch better than Kirkland. There is a 1 bedroom unit listed at $1.265 million that has more than 1100 SF on the 26th floor but I believe that one may be pending by the time this publishes. The next unit listed is a similar unit with a more premium view at $1.55 million.

The entry point for this project is similar to Kirkland Tower as most of Kirkland’s view units exceeded $1.3 million and all of the units in The Ritz-Carlton are view units. It should be noted that when view is removed Kirkland has a much lower cost entry with small lower floor units under $1 million. There is however a higher ceiling in this new project with top floor units priced in the $9 million range. The most expensive unit at Kirkland is expected to fetch about $5 million. Interested parties for either development can contact Rod Sager at for more information.

This project does impact Vancouver in the sense that it represents a genuine competitor for the Kirkland Tower which was the first development of this kind in the entire region. Since Kirkland still has units to sell, this could have an impact as now buyers in the ultra-luxury market have a choice between two somewhat similar opportunities. I believe that Kirkland is a better choice for a primary residence, unless the buyer needs to be close to Downtown Portland for business, or other reasons. The Vancouver Waterfront is a vastly superior neighborhood when compared to Washington and SW 9th in Portland. However there are people that prefer the more dense and busy nature of Portland versus the somewhat more quiet nature of Downtown Vancouver. Kirkland is a bit of a bet on the future where as The Ritz-Carlton is a known quantity so-to-speak.

When the Waterfront is built out, and at this point all indicators are that we are five years out on that, it will be one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the entire region. The original plan was to have 10,000 residents in the 32 acre development. That would represent a population density of 200,000 per square mile or 312 per acre. For awhile the Waterfront was behind pace for units with 3300 the target, but recent proposals for taller and more dense projects are nudging the neighborhood closer to the target range. I would estimate that the finished total at buildout will support closer to 8000 residents, but the population density will still exceed that of the current density in Portland’s Pearl District. For the sake of context, the Pearl District does have a much larger land area of roughly 200 acres against the tighter and more compact 32 acres at the Waterfront.

There will always be people that want to be in the center of the metro area, and Portland is going to win that contest. But with all the troubles in the Rose City, most of which have been self inflicted by a poorly run local government and an awful administrative system, many Portlanders are fleeing the city center. The glaring black-eye is Portland’s population growth has slowed to a snail’s pace and office vacancy sits above 27% which is simply unhealthy.

Downtown Vancouver enjoys a tight office vacancy rate of just 5.8% which is why we are seeing significant new development in office space while other cities are scaling back. Downtown Vancouver has thousands of housing units under construction or in the immediate development pipeline. There is no denying that the local energy for urban development is north of the Columbia. A shocking report from the RLB Crane index for Portland came in the Q3 2022 report of just 15 cranes in Portland. Is it possible that Vancouver could have more tower cranes up than Portland in the near future? We currently sit at 6 active cranes with a 7th on the way soon and possibly 2 more before any of the current cranes come down. That would give us 9 and Portland has been losing crane count consistently since Q3 2019. I await the Q1, 2023 report likely out in April. FYI: RLB issues this report twice a year, Q1 and Q3.

Urban condos in Vancouver saw a tightening in inventory as no new listings appeared and several units went pending or closed. There remains some pressure on buyers but conditions for buyers are not as hectic as they were 18 months ago. We are seeing multiple offers but the tendency has been close to asking some a tad less a few a tad more.

It looks like Aegis Phase one will be leasing units at the end of April. There also appears to be a name change for Phase one to Aeon at least that is what shows.

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