More High Density Infill and Another Viewpoint Op

Recent pre-application proposals have appeared on the City agenda for high-density infill development Downtown. I like this type of project as it maximizes land use in the urban core. The latest two projects are both fairly close to each other but appear to be different developers.

  1. Regan Mixed-Use is a 5 story building proposed for a 4000 SF lot that currently features a house converted to offices for a Bond Agency. This is an ideal use of available land and fits in with our growing urban core. the pre-app suggests 12 residential units over office.
  2. 9th & Daniels Mixed-Use is a 7 story urban infill proposed for either a single 4025 SF lot or two adjacent lots totaling 8247 SF. In either case another example of vertical integration of available space. This is labeled as mixed use and I would bet that residential is part of that mix. Perhaps some retail and or commercial office as well.

I have posted a map of the Esther Short neighborhood that comprises the Downtown and Waterfront areas color coded to show projects in their various phases including potential development spots. The 9th and Daniels project listed above is located on one of those “potential” development lots. These smaller projects will add density to the core that brings jobs and residents to boost the urban economy as well as enhance the city vibe.

Vancouvercenter 3 with Viewpoint on floors 8-11

It has been more than three years since I saw two listings active at the same time in Viewpoint. Downtown’s tallest condo tower offers four floors of condos over seven floors of offices. A stylishly remodeled unit was listed over the summer at $969,900 on the 8th floor but the ‘South Florida’ theme inside may not be exciting the local buyers as that unit remains for sale. Meanwhile last week, a competitor arrived on the 10th floor with a better SW view. This one looks to be well cared for but mostly original. The price is right being listed at just $870,000. Both units have two bedrooms but the more expensive unit has an extra 1/2 bath and 200 more SF. The only high-rise alternative in Vancouver for condos is the newly minted Kirkland Tower on the Waterfront. But units above the 7th floor are larger and much more expensive than these two Viewpoint units. That said, Kirkland Tower is the premier Downtown address and as such will command much larger prices. Viewpoint is a great opportunity to experience high rise living in a building that was once the talk of the town. All of the other condominium buildings in the city center are in shorter mid-rise towers with 4-7 floors.

Positive progress continues to advance Vancouver’s status into a satellite city for the region as opposed to a bedroom suburb of Portland. Vancouver is a strong competitor to Portland for urban residential development, office jobs, and manufacturing. No other city outside of Portland in the entire metro area can deliver a Downtown urban opportunity like Vancouver, USA.

Vancouver Condos: South Facing Makes a Difference

One of the biggest problems in housing across the Pacific Northwest is having abundant levels of natural light. Winters are long and dark around here and condo units, particularly in tall structures face a dilemma of gathering natural light. Many of the more urban designs feature floor to ceiling windows to allow extra light to penetrate the living space. This is a good thing of course, but in an urban setting, north facing units still have the trouble of being a bit dark because the shadows of other tall structures makes the natural light on the Northside, cool and dark, rather than light and bright.

When adding in the issue of a darkly finished unit the north facing can be a real difficult animal to present. All else being equal a south facing unit will likely fetch 5-10% more money in a mid-rise or high-rise development. North facing units should have light tones inside to help maximize the natural light coming in. It will make a difference at sale time. South facing units with abundant natural light offer the owners a more full palette of tones, particularly if the unit has lots of glass.

I recently sold a unit in Columbia Shores that was not quite as nice as some other units in the building but its south facing lovely natural light won it over the competitors on the “dark side.”

Light activity on the resale condo market this past week with inventory levels remaining flat over the last several months and most developments seeing a stronger seller’s market.

The tower crane supporting the AC Marriott Hotel project at Terminal one was removed last week, serving notice that the $50 million project is entering the final stretch of construction. That leaves the Downtown area with only three active tower cranes serving the 7 story, Broadstone Claro on Block 17 at the Waterfront, The 8 story ‘Timberhouse’ on Block 3 on the Waterfront, and the 2 building Aegis Phase One at the Academy.

A new urban infill project will be presented Thursday at a pre-app meeting. This will replace the house that has been serving as office space at 612 West Evergreen Blvd, with a modern 5 story mid-rise mixed use building. I am unsure if the “mix” includes residential units. I’ll have to keep you posted on that.

Downtown Vancouver continues to push ever forward on its way to becoming the region’s best urban experience.

Market Rumor Update and Other News

That new market rumor I heard may turn out to be a different kind of market than I thought. I read an article about a ‘retail market’ called Pop Local planning to open at the waterfront and this may have been the source of the rumors of a grocery market. Pop Local is not a grocer but rather an artisan market. That itself is cool but it is not a traditional ‘market’ as the rumors were suggesting. That declared, it is certainly possible some other grocer is planning a grocery outlet of sorts somewhere on the waterfront or nearby. I think the ideal spot would actually be somewhere in the new Waterfront Gateway District the city is actively working on now. A grocer like Whole Foods or even a Neighborhood Walmart Market with say 15000 to 25,000 square feet at the ground level in one of the new buildings that ultimately gets built in the new district. The thing about the Walmart idea is that a discount or mainstream grocer makes sense in the space New Seasons is building and a high end grocer makes more sense closer to the Park or Waterfront as that is where the most expensive housing is. It’s weird how things play out sometimes. That ultimate build-out at at the Waterfront may be 3-5 years out, but by then the Waterfront should have a bustling population to make the second market more financially viable. I still can’t wrap my head around the notion that Gramor, an experienced shopping center developer, could not get New Seasons or Whole Foods to occupy the ground space at their proposed Block Ten development two years ago. Block Ten is a BETTER location for a high end market than 1600 Washington where New Seasons is building their ‘Downtown’ store. But in the end Gramor couldn’t ink the deal and Holland ended up with their project going in.

In other news…

Block 19 has a suitor willing to build a 180 unit apartment building. It seems that the same developer building the Broadstone Claro next door on Block 17 is already interested in expanding their Waterfront holdings. That is positive news indeed. The pre-app submission shows a minimum type density with 5 floors of apartments over a 1 or 2 story concrete base of parking.

I find it interesting that the four Blocks to the far west, 18,19,20,21 have the highest FAA allowed building heights and were originally intended for taller structures are not getting structures taller than Kirkland Tower. The original concept design for the Waterfront showed taller 14-18 story buildings on Blocks 16,17,18,19,20, and 21. Block 18 is the only block of the western four to get a high-rise project. That’s the Springs which should break ground Q1, 2022. Block 20 is nearly complete with a 7 story apartment tower. Block 17 turned out to be a minimum density project of effectively 7 floors, two levels of parking and 5 floors of apartments. Block 19 based on the pre-app is likely going to be a minimum density project at 6 possibly 7 floors. No word on Block 21 which was briefly labeled as “in contract” but later returned to “available” status.

I do hope Gramor tries to stick with the original plan of taller projects in the western blocks. Other than the will fated CLT ‘Trestle’ project at 16 stories on Block 14, no-one has expressed interest in the Block 11,13,14 clump which can also support taller projects. Those however are in the Phase 3 plan.

Gramor also still has plans to erect a 14 story condo tower on Block 16 which as shown fits beneath the FAA maximum height limit of 148 feet. Still no word on that project and in fact it seems Gramor is tight lipped on any condo development other than Kirkland Tower. It is certainly possible that Gramor wants to give Kirkland some breathing room to get those high end condos sold before announcing a competing project. I don’t think the Block 16 project is going to compete with Kirkland Tower. That is a spectacular building and the only true ‘lifestyle hotel-condo’ project in the entire metro area. As I mentioned in a previous article, Portland’s Ritz Carlton will be a competitor when it completes presumably in 2023.

As I was reading older news reports to support this article I ran across a couple of reports in the Columbian regarding the failed Tesoro-Savage oil project at the Port of Vancouver. There was a bit of a grudge between Gramor and Tesoro-Savage each suggesting the other was a bad proposition. One article wrote about Tesoro Savage’s claim that the Waterfront Project was not viable. I think the two projects could have co-existed, but I find it hilarious just how WRONG Tesoro was about the viability of the Waterfront. I don’t think anyone can say it is anything less than a smashing success.

BTW take a peek at Dean Sorenson’s latest waterfront video from late August. I keep the latest video posted on the Waterfront Page.

Rumors of a Boutique Market

During the tour of Kirkland Tower I heard a rumor from a solid source that another market is headed to the urban core. If this turns out to be true, it will be excellent news for the city center which lacks for little but has no operating super market.

I was a bit surprised when New Seasons announced their intention to build a store in midtown at 15th and Washington. Although this is excellent news, it is surprising that they didn’t bite on an opportunity to build that store on Block Ten when Gramor was planning to build there. But this new potential market location is on the Waterfront. With thousands of units coming online Downtown there is definitely room for a market at the south end of the urban core.

The Waterfront currently has 270 leasable residential units with rather tight vacancy. Under construction now is another 652 apartments and 40 condos of which 298 units will be available for occupancy this year. There is already another 650 units working through the permitting process for the Waterfront alone, those units should arrive to market in 2023 and 2024.

Downtown and Uptown collectively have hundreds of units under construction or planned as well. These units along with the Waterfront and existing homes will provide a nice consumer base for both the New Seasons Market and a rumored boutique market. The build-out target of 3300 residential units on the Waterfront is still realistic and seems to be a reasonable projection right now based on the per block averages for completed, under construction, and proposed projects.

Overall the addition of the New Seasons market and this rumored market at the Waterfront should create Esther Short as a neighborhood walker’s paradise.

Kirkland Hard Hat Tour Yields Impressive Insights

The north facing view from the 12th floor roof top garden

I participated in an agent ‘hard hat’ tour of the Kirkland Tower on Friday. The building is 90% plus complete and it does look very impressive. The tour included a peek inside the adjacent open atrium Indigo Hotel which is pretty sharp as well. I picked up a few nuggets of info along the tour.

Kirkland Tower is listed as a 12 story building with a lobby and some retail on the ground floor and floors 2-11 in condos and 12 as a community penthouse. That is all true but there is a full height mezzanine level between floors 1 and 2. That means it is quite likely any unit on the 8 floor of higher should clear the rooftop height of the new ‘Timberhouse’ tower across the street. The tower crane supporting the Timberhouse project is visible in the foreground of the photo above.

The units will feature individual HVAC systems rather than a building wide system, which is unusual in this type of structure but gives the condo owners more control over the interior climate system. These units are filled with full height glass walls on the exterior and that makes them brighter than any condo unit I have seen in Vancouver High-Rise or otherwise. Even the north facing units are light and bright!

View from 8th floor over the river.

The rooftop penthouse/patio is spacious and features a community kitchen, clubhouse, and fitness center. As promised the glass wall extends up to the patio on the roof providing a wind break from those often contemptuous winds. There is also a community garden area for residents to plant flowers of vegetables on the roof.

The representative for the builder says this will be the first project of its type in the entire metro region. Portland is working on the Ritz Carlton tower that will also feature a similar condo arrangement with a hotel – condo symbiosis like Kirkland. That tower is not likely to be complete until at least 2023.

Check the Kirkland Tower condo page to see they have released 3 listings to the MLS. The tower reports that 40% of the units are in contract so I would think that Kirkland should be most pleased with the success thus far. Keep in mind the units facing the Columbia river are commanding a large premium but the units facing Downtown Vancouver also have excellent views. Some of the Downtown side units even have some Columbia River views as well.

The Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel should be ready for occupancy in Q4 this year. So just a month or two to go. It turns out that the “Sky Lounge” now Called the “Witness Tree Lounge” as an homage to the historical tree that once lived nearby, will be both and 8th floor indoor lounge with outdoor patio AND a rooftop lounge as well. It will have 2 levels according to there from Kirkland.

Condo market looking about the same this week with a few more listings and about as many pending and closed. Inventory remains tight.

Activity Levels Remain High

RMLS listing picture

Downtown and the Waterfront continue to see robust levels of construction activity. As I reported last week, the Indigo Hotel and Kirkland Tower project is very near complete. Occupancy in the 12 story condo tower is expected Q4 this year and the hotel will likely open a bit earlier than that. I will be attending a “hard-hat” tour this week to get a better feel for these amazing units. The first unit in the Kirkland Tower showed up on the MLS recently. It is one of the two 11th floor “penthouse” units. This one 3056 squares with 3 beds and 3.5 baths. The views from that unit should be nothing short of spectacular.

Progress on the Block 10 project downtown seems to be moving a bit faster than some others. Perhaps Holland Partner Group is using their deep experience in building urban projects to overcome the supply chain issues plaguing so many projects here and across the country. It just seems that two tower building is ahead of the pace of other projects with similar start dates. Kudos to them.

The Yard, Milkshake Bar opened on the Waterfront recently to what has to be excellent reception. I got my first taste on Thursday afternoon. It was buzzing in there but I still was able to order and get my prize in about 20 minutes. However on Sunday under gorgeous skies and big crowds the wait after ordering was 60 minutes! That place is cranking out 18 dollar shakes and 14 dollar ice cream treats like ice cream is a ticket to the promised land. The waterfront continues to provide amazing opportunities for small business ventures to succeed. The pedestrian pathway between the Murdock building and Redivia apartment building was packed with patrons enjoying Ice Cream, wine and light meals and amazing coffee. All of these small restaurants and wine tasting venues are taking a little pressure off the marquee restaurants at the Grant Street Pier so getting seated is a little easier in those places. They are still busy, but just not so busy you can’t get a seat. The Waterfront continues to be an overwhelming hit with the community and remains the best urban city neighborhood in the metro area.

The urban condo market saw light activity with pending and closed sales outpacing listings yet again. There are still units available and the pricing seems to be stable for now.

Kirkland Tower: Oh So Close…

Kirkland Tower 8/30/2021 (center) and Indigo Hotel (right)

The Kirkland Tower project is very near complete. They are already selling units and will be doing “hard hat tours” this week for prospective buyers and some lucky agents, myself included. This is the first modern high-rise condo tower in 17 years for Downtown as the last high-rise featuring condos in the mix was Viewpoint at Vancouvercenter. But Kirkland is a dedicated condo tower rather than a mixed use office and residential tower like Viewpoint. This will be the most luxurious and complete living setup of the mid-rise and high-rise condo projects in the urban core. It likely will be the most “posh” residential units in the area including our spectacular waterfront apartments. I have been very excited about this project since they announced it back in 2018. The Covid 19 pandemic has put a serious slowdown on this as it was originally expected to open in Q4-2020 and now we are about to hit Q4-2021. So about a year’s delay. The adjacent Hotel Indigo will also open about the same time.

Between the two towers we will have some very top drawer restaurants opening including Seattle’s famed “13 Coins” and the Northwest legend, “El Gaucho.” Even if you don’t have the seven figure budget to buy one of the 40 spectacular units in Kirkland Tower, you can enjoy the “fringe” benefits of a pair of superb restaurants and even some drinks up at the 8th floor sky lounge and patio also run by El Gaucho.

In other news around Vancouver, a half dozen large projects continue construction. Angelo Tower is complete and leasing residential units, commercial office, and retail space. Aegis at the Academy a two building mid-mis apartment project is finishing up the concrete base and we should see the wood frame portion going up soon. That tends to be a rapid floor by floor build. Those visiting the Downtown branch of Fort Vancouver Library can get a birds-eye view of the Project from the north windows on the 5th floor. The AC Marriott Hotel project at Terminal One has been topped out for a few months and now the exterior cladding is being installed. The Project to remodel the cruise ship landing is far enough along that the American Empress was able to make its customary stop recently unloading hundreds of passengers to flock along the Waterfront and Esther Short Park. The ‘Timberhouse’ project is all dug out and the tower crane is now operating over the project. This one will spend several months below street grade with underground parking and foundation support underway now. The Broadstone Claro meanwhile is wrapping up the parking garage portion of the building and we should see woodframe residential floors going up soon. The largest single building apartment house in Vancouver is nearly complete. The Columbia on block 20 of the Waterfront will have some residents taking occupancy on a few floors in the next 30 days.

Activity in the past week on resale condos was quiet with just one new listing and multiple sales and pending status. So it tightened a bit. Next week I will likely report on the Kirkland Project, stayed tuned for that.

Downtown has Five Cranes Up

It will be brief, but for a few days the city skyline included five active tower cranes. Today will mark the end of that as Holland Partner Group is disassembling the crane supporting the Block Ten Project as I write this. Tower cranes are the mark of large and or tall projects that often have positive economic benefits for the community. I wrote an article about the impact of building booms on Vancouver in ‘The Couv Life’ this morning, check that out, here.

The latest crane is supporting the Timberhouse project on Block 3 of the Waterfront. That project is not a CLT design anymore, so I presume a name change is forth coming. Any way that will be the second largest single building apartment house in the city behind the nearly complete Columbia on Block 20. Columbia has 248 units and Timberhouse will feature 227 units. Timberhouse will be a tad taller with eight floors above ground rather than seven.

I have no further word on Ryan Hurley’s Washington Street Apartments. That project cleared the CCRA a few months ago. The one story building that has housed Boomerang Therapy for a long time is scheduled to be razed to make way for the full block 6 story 177 unit building. I will operate under the presumption that the tenant lease is being honored prior to demolition. Hurley has done a nice job already cleaning up that lower Downtown section that has been a bit blighted and overlooked during both building booms. Columbia Street is now the primary gateway to the Terminal One redevelopment so it makes sense that a renewal in the 4 block approach would be underway as well. Hurley Development seems to be leading the way.

Things continue to improve as more development brings more opportunity for small business and for locals to enjoy the area.

Will Vancouver be able to Maintain the Pace?

Vancouver has seen a burst in urban projects over the last several years with by my count more than a dozen cranes have dotted the skyline over the last 5 years. There are currently four cranes operating in the Downtown and Waterfront area. It seems like the pace is starting to pick up a bit again and hopefully the half dozen urban high-rise and mid-rise projects in the pipeline right now will be able to start in the next 4-6 months.

These are great projects that enhance the living experience in Vancouver as well as the visitor experience as this tends to drag in more restaurants and services to accommodate the busier urban crowd. They also bring with them excellent high paying jobs for a variety of engineers, architects, trades people, and even real estate brokers.

Last week the CCRA went over the details of the Block 18 Waterfront project, The Springs Living. This is a 12 story residential project for seniors. The upscale building will look real sharp and add a nice bookend for the slightly taller Kirkland Tower at the other end of the street. The CCRA reviewed detailed plans including full technical drawings and other important details. I’m still waiting for the video to be released to the public to gauge the response. It is a good looking project so I’d imagine they liked it. The Springs is hoping to break ground first of the year.

Locally our economy seems to be pretty strong even with the anchor that is COVID-19 chained to our feet. Portland which is shedding residents faster than new ones arrive seems to have a robust amount of crane activity which is a sign of strong economic conditions. If these prime conditions for urban development stick around a few more years, Vancouver’s amazing waterfront should be able to hit 75% buildout.

Condos this week were similar with a tightening of inventory but a little less activity.

Condos Ever Tighter Downtown

Lots of new pending sales and some closed units with nary a new listing in site, means even tighter inventory on urban condos in Vancouver. That was the scene this past week with six urban units closed or pending and no fresh listings to replace them. Vancouver’s downtown and waterfront has about 700 condominium units downtown. That may seem like a lot but it really isn’t. One might consider there are literally thousands of apartment units in the Downtown with another thousand or so under construction now. The apartment to condo ratio is heavily underweighted against owner units.

But that should change soon. Kirkland Tower should be a litmus test for future condo development in the Downtown and Waterfront areas. Kirkland’s units are very high end but they are supported by the fact that several modern projects in the Esther Short neighborhood are renting units in the $6000-$11,000 a month price range. Clearly there is demand for high end units in Vancouver. There is also hundreds and hundreds of fresh new apartments in a high end but more modest $2500-$4500 price range that also is a solid indicator that Vancouver will support condo units in almost any price range from $300,000 to multi-million dollar units.

Gramor is sitting on a proposal for a 14 story condo tower on Block 16. Once Kirkland closes on the majority of those units I would imagine finding investors to bite on that project will not be hard. That is an 80 unit proposal. Hopefully those units might include some smaller less expensive plans maybe in the $600,000-$700,000 range. Note that Kirkland’s range was $840k-$3.3 million.

Since I mentioned Gramor, they ought to get cracking on that parking structure on Block 7. They will need blocks 10 and 11 for staging construction on the phase two buildout and probably for the 14 story tower on block 16. I haven’t heard much about that garage since it was mentioned in an article in the Columbian newspaper over a year ago.

Things continue to advance, the CCRA will look at the Springs Living 12 story project slated for Block 18 on the waterfront this week. The 6 story full block apartment project from Hurley Development is moving along through the permitting process, and Block 3 is nearing completion on the undergrowth dugout for the 8 story 230 unit project at the waterfront.

It’s all good friends and things are just getting better and better downtown.