Autumn Winds Bring Change

I don’t think the wind had anything to do with this, but I thought the title was catchy 😉 There is some change. Recently I added the Hurley Development Apartment Project to the list of “pipeline” projects. The address I originally saw on Hurley’s website indicated it might share the block with the new Hyatt Place Hotel the city green-lit for permits earlier this year. I was thinking the 6 story apartment building would sit behind the new hotel, not unlike the half block Aria project on West 6th. Plans submitted at Thursday’s CCRA meeting show what appears to be a full block building occupying the space proposed for the Hyatt. The Hurley Apartment proposal is for a sizable building with 5 levels of apartments over the top of parking and retail/commercial and 170 units.

Evergreen still shows the Hyatt Place as an active project with an opening date projected in 2021. Even if they do the project it won’t open in 2021 at this point. I feel like Hoteliers are a bit worried that COVID 19 may have taken a permanent bite out the industry. That might suggest the Hyatt Place projected is being canceled. No official word on that however. Documents submitted to the CCRA show Evergreen Downtown Vancouver, LLC as the developer. I believe that is the same as the Hyatt Place project. Did they scrap the Hotel for the larger apartment deal? Perhaps. I was excited about the hotel as it would push Vancouver’s convention ability in a favorable direction and the rooftop bar seemed really cool.

I’ll continue to follow the development but all indicators are that the hotel project is dead despite being issued approval for building permits by the council.

Meanwhile some new condo inventory has appeared on the market and a few units have gone pending or closed as well. Good activity in the Urban condo market right now.

In general Vancouver’s downtown area, AKA Esther Short Neighborhood, has quite a bit of activity. On housing units there are currently more than 600 residential units including 40 condos in the Kirkland Tower actively under construction. Additionally another 500 are in the active permitting process, with yet another 300 plus proposed. As these units come online the market demographics for the downtown area will be significant improved allowing for what few services remain unfilled to become viable, notably a proper grocery store within walking distance to the park.

Things continue to come together nicely for the burgeoning Vancouver Urban scene.

Smokey End to Summer

Waterfront Construction Cam Block 20

Wildfires burning in the Cascades are dangerously close to the Metro area, that’s obvious by looking outside. Air quality is deep into the hazardous levels. That hasn’t stopped the urban condo market from trudging along. We had a viewpoint unit listed last week that got snatched up in a few days. Those don’t stick around long. The good news on the air quality front is that a system is rolling through with onshore winds to push the smoke back into the mountains and hopefully push the fires back over already burned ground, add a little rainfall and we could be looking much better by the end of the week.

The thick smoke is likely causing some pause in construction activity across the board locally. There seems to have been little advancement on several projects underway in the Downtown and Waterfront areas. Again, that will clear out later in the week and we should see the construction buzz resume.

Meanwhile things are rather quiet on the city front with little in the way of development meetings. The council will likely push a few pending projects through to permitting and activity may become robust again as the COVID pandemic hopefully wanes.

Be sure to get out to your favorite watering hole or restaurant as soon as this air clears out and keep the ‘duckets’ flowing for our beleaguered small business operators.


Happy Labor Day!

Last week was fairly busy on the local urban condo market. A few units were listed, a few went pending, and few closed. Notably a unit in Viewpoint came on the market the first one since unit 1124 sold last fall. There seems to be a fair amount of activity in the higher end units right now.

Is this Portland flight? The Mayor of Portland is purported to have “fled” his Pearl District Condo recently after a wild band of rioters tried to burn it down, well sort of read the Oregonian article here. I don’t think Mayor Ted is moving to the ‘Couv’, that would be a helluva a thing wouldn’t it? But many other Portlanders are, is there some flight from the Pearl?

Are high end condo owners jockeying for position in the new Kirkland Tower project? That should have occupancy in the next 6 months or so. Someone selling a 3 plus million dollar condo at Tidewater, is certainly in the price range I’d expect in Kirkland Tower. It is hard to say, but there are a fair number of units in the $1 million plus market that are listed and changing hands.

View from unit 925 early last year.

Although I can see a Viewpoint resident making the move to Kirkland, they are similar projects in many ways, but Tidewater is a completely different animal. That is where most of the mega-dollar condos are selling right now. Where are those people moving? I suppose it doesn’t matter and I have to wonder if some “Portland flight” is producing buyers for these condos. There is only so much rioting that a community can stand and it is fair to say Portland has moved well beyond the typical tolerance point, even for them. I would imagine that both Vancouver and the relatively quiet South Waterfront are good alternatives to the boisterous Pearl District.

I have published data point comparison between all three neighborhoods here under the “Other Information” menu tab it is last year’s data but other than pricing things are still same.

Locally construction continues on several residential and mixed use projects in the urban core including but certainly not limited to the following:

  • Block 20, “Columbia” which will feature 248 apartment units on the waterfront. They are done with the underground garage and 2 level podium. The five wood frame floors are going up now.
  • The Aria on West 6th near Esther Short park is full topped out and the siding will go on soon. That building has 127 units including several 2 story town house style apartments on the ground level on the south side facing West 6th.
  • Vancouver Center 4 is basically done structurally and exterior, now the interiors are going in, those 118 units will be available very soon.
  • Angelo’s Mill Plain II tower with offices and residential is topped out and siding is going on soon.

Vancouver should effectively double its Downtown population in the next 5 years as hundreds of units are under construction or proposed and working through the permitting process. Take a look at the urban pipeline to see the progress of urban projects in Vancouver. Virus or no virus, Vancouver USA is on the move.

All Quiet on the Waterfront… sort of.

This past weekend was lovely on the ‘weather front’ and lately things have been quiet on the ‘waterfront.’ Well there were plenty of people enjoying the late summer sun, wining and dining their way about the area. But it seems that construction and development may be in a bit of a holding pattern.

Although there is still plenty of construction workers toiling away on several large scale projects in Downtown and the waterfront, a number of projects that are green lit and permits issued are not. It is no surprise to me that two of the seemingly stalled projects with the go issued by the city are hotels. The AC Marriot hotel at Terminal One has been issued permit but they haven’t started anything since completing the ground prep several months ago. The Hyatt Place hotel across the street from the Convention center is also approved to build and that site remains quiet. That one is slated to have a rooftop bar, that’s fun 🙂 It does not surprise me to see hotel projects moving slowly and cautiously. That industry is taking a beating from COVID 19. But both of these projects will take 18 months or more to complete and I’d certainly like to think we will be past the Corona Virus pandemic by then. Even the epic 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 million people was done in less than 2 years.

The Broadstone, Block 17 Waterfront

In the pipeline the Broadstone project for Block 17 is still working its way through the approval process. That will bring another 200 or so apartment units to the waterfront. The design seems to be similar to the Columbia project on Block 20 but my guess is a little less ‘fancy’. That project should go up in 18 months after the light turns green as it has structured parking rather than underground. Meanwhile the Timberhouse project which is one I am most anticipating remains mysteriously silent. Block 3 is already purchased so the developer is sitting on the project for now, either a lack of money and or confidence in the pandemic economy is the likely culprit.

Local news outlets continue to report that a ground breaking at Aegis Phase One is eminent, I have seen no activity on the site since the ‘El Presidente’ restaurant was demolished last year. I am also eager to see this go up as I never thought the poorly maintained surface parking lot was an attractive element to the beautiful and historic Academy building.

Block Ten, Holland Partner Group

There is plenty of buzz though as Vancouver Center 4 is nearly done, Block Ten is under construction, The Columbia on Block 20 is now rising above the podium, Mill Plain 2 is topped out, The Aria has shed its tower crane now focusing on the final stretch, and several other smaller urban projects are moving along nicely.

Things are still looking good in spite of the pandemic economics. Meanwhile inventory remained flat on urban condos locally with some price jockeying, one pending sale, and one new listing.

CCRA and an 80s Madonna Song?

Back in 1983 Madonna was on her way to becoming one of the 1980s biggest music stars. One of the songs that aided in her rocket ship ride to the top was “Lucky Star.” Now the CCRA is thinking about naming the new development area currently dubbed the “Waterfront Gateway” as the “Lucky Star District.” Does Vancouver have a fetish for 80’s dance tunes? Not likely, or well, maybe, but that’s not the point.

The idea is to pay a little homage to Vancouver USAs long history with brewing beer. The area was once home to the Star Brewery one of the first breweries in the Northwest dating back to 1890.

Star  Brewing  would  later become Interstate Brewery, and then finally Lucky Lager. The Lucky Lager brewery complex was very large and with that massive Lucky Ribbon sign up top it was one of the tallest structures downtown in its hey day.

The original  brewery  complex was at 6th and C street an area currently occupied by the I-5 approach to the Interstate Bridge. Later the Lucky Lager complex was occupying 4 or 5 blocks to the east and north of Esther Short Park.

In either case the “Waterfront Gateway” wasn’t really the site of that “beer action” but the sentiment is fair. So “Lucky Star” draws from that history while having a somewhat catchy name. I am on the fence about this. I like the idea of a themed district but Lucky Star? Hmm. In the ‘Couv’ Life blog it was suggested that “Lucky Star” sounds more like the name of a good Chinese take out restaurant. In fact a google restaurant search of the name will bring up a very long list all over the country including Portland, OR.

Madonna led off her hit song with this “You must be my lucky star
‘Cause you shine on me wherever you are…” So the district should be well lit 😉

According to a Columbian article last week, the CCRA indicated they wanted to have an area that was aimed at a more middle class crowd rather than the “$25 cheeseburgers” at the Waterfront. So it will be a nice welcome to the area as that mostly city owned land has been vacant for years.

In condo news, inventory tightened up this week after getting a boost last week. Well priced units are selling quickly where as overpriced properties tend to linger. No surprise there right? Sometimes when the market gets really hot, even overpriced listings move quickly, that is the point where appraisals start coming in under the offer price. We are not quite at that level, but it is a nice healthy pace.

Just remember as nature abhors a vacuum, a strong real estate market will not tolerate a “great deal.” That is to say, if something is priced at a bargain, there is either something wrong with it or you will face multiple offers over asking. Even Vancouver’s niche condo market will not sit on a deal. When you see that ‘Lucky Star’ deal, act fast or the market will take it from you.

Urban Condo Traction Continues

Vancouver’s urban condo market is still gaining traffic with an increase in both inventory and pending sales. This is a good sign as the buyers are flocking to new inventory keeping the market stable. Crazy low interest rates will continue to drive buyers to the market overall and sellers are starting to realize they are for the most part in a good position to sell in this climate.

The activity I am seeing in Tidewater Cove is encouraging because those units are generally priced in seven figures and there is pending and closed sale activity there. That bodes well for Kirkland Tower which is nearing completion on the 12 story 40 unit condo project on the waterfront.

Block Ten Construction, rod sager phone pic

Construction activity in Downtown Vancouver is also proceeding almost as if there wasn’t a global pandemic. I have noticed that local hotel developer Vesta Hospitality seems to be slow walking the AC Marriott hotel project at Terminal One.  The ground stabilization is complete and the project permits are issued, so why haven’t they started formal construction yet? The same can be said for the new Hyatt Place hotel slated to rise up across the street from the convention center at 5th and Columbia. I think there may be concerns about COVID-19 and hotels which have definitely taken a hit especially with convention traffic which has ground to a halt world-wide. Once this pandemic is under control hotels may see a mini-boom as travel and convention is a rather pent up demand.

Vancouver continues to see much needed high density multi-family development underway that should lead to a stabilization in the local rental market which is disproportionately high compared to the local housing prices.

The tower crane was dismantled last week for Cascadia Development Partner’s Aria project near Esther Short Park. Holland is busy on Block Ten and I would suggest a Tower Crane will go up soon there. Holland is also on the final approach to completion on the Vancouver Center Tower 4 at 6th and Washington.

Construction Cam Waterfront, Block 20

On the waterfront, Indigo Hotel is in the final stretch of the building process with the aforementioned Kirkland Tower on its heels. The Columbia, project on Block 20 has completed the steel and concrete portion of that structure with 2 levels of underground parking and the two story podium that will support and additional 5 floors of wood frame apartments in a U shaped arrangement capitalizing on the waterfront location.

Construction cam, Angelo Mill Plain II

In mid-town Angelo’s 6 story mixed use tower is topped out and soon they will begin exterior cladding. I am eagerly awaiting for the Aegis at the Academy project, from Marathon to get started. Local news agencies keep reporting that the ground breaking is imminent, yet nay shovels have turned.

There is a possibility that some of these projects are still fund-raising and in that case the projects could suddenly start construction. Vancouver is still seeing a robust development despite the economic slowdown and that is a good thing.

New Inventory has Arrived!

Vancouver’s urban condo scene has added some much needed resale inventory. Several new listings emerged in the last week and that bodes well for all you buyers. It looks like the inventory gained about 5 or 6 units, not a lot, but better than shrinking.

It seems that construction is also continuing on several major projects in Vancouver’s urban core. The Columbian newspaper reported that a few other large scale projects will break ground soon. I believe they are referring to Aegis at the Academy as well as Broadstone on the Waterfront.

Holland Partner Group is busy prepping the ground for the long awaited project that will finally occupy Block Ten downtown. This is the last of the lucky Lager Brewery Complex blocks. I suppose a tower crane will go up there in the next few months. Holland is wrapping up the construction of the Vancouver Center Tower 4 project bringing another 118 apartment units to the urban core. Those should start leasing soon.

Things are moving along rather nicely considering the state of pandemic running about. We are fortunate here in America’s Vancouver.

Are Trends Favoring the Urban Life?

Urban Construction in Vancouver, early 2020

As the millennial generation moves from the ‘youngsters’ to the ‘prime years’ category, they are having families, they are at or near peak earning years, and in some cases moving to the suburbs. Millennials are now the driving force in American politics and economics as they have both the numbers (roughly 80 million strong), and they are the movers and shakers, inventors, and entrepreneurs of the day.

To some extent it has been these younger people driving the urban lifestyle in places like Portland and Vancouver. They have loved the close in, walk-able and sustainable urban neighborhoods. Are they ready to give it all up? Maybe.

There are a number of factors that could be driving people out of the city center and into the burbs. One of course, is the aforementioned ‘family life’ which was an inevitable outcome, but other factors remain that both encourage and dissuade the ‘downtown’ crowd. The notion of the sustainable and walk-able neighborhood is still desirable among not just the Millennial crowd, but Xers and Boomers as well. What may be the root causes of the Millennial suburban migration is schools and social unrest.

In cities like Portland there are protests that routinely become unruly, in fairness to the groups holding protests, it is usually nasty outsiders causing the problems, but officials in the city of Portland seem to have a ‘let it burn’ mentality rather than a crack down on violence and destruction. This can easily dissuade a young family with small children concerned about safety issues. But the urban style planning is not limited to large urban cities like Portland or Seattle. Even traditional suburbs like Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Gresham are moving towards a sustainable, walk-able urban style albeit a bit less dense than Portland or even Vancouver.

Sometimes there are aggressive homeless in urban cores that also may have a negative effect on families that was less problematic for them before the kids came along. Schools are definitely a concern among parents especially those that cannot afford to send their children to private school. The same safety concerns regarding homeless, riots, etc. could effect children standing at a bus stop to go to school, at least in the eyes of new parents with small children.

Vancouver sits in a prime spot being much larger and more cosmopolitan than any of Oregon’s suburban communities yet smaller and less dense than the Northwest giants of Seattle and Portland. It seems Downtown Vancouver is filling a gap between sleepy suburbia and the raging urban centers. Vancouver recently approved a new urban elementary school campus to serve the rapidly growing Downtown population near the Fort Vancouver Library Admin Offices. This will certainly give parents with elementary school kids another reason to either stay put Downtown or to make the move from places like Portland.

Millennials are not the only demographic that is on board with the urban lifestyle. Older people that no longer want to deal with the suburban yard work and or long drives to various daily and weekly activities are also strong advocates for the urban condo scene. Younger fresh grads including many in the tech field that are the leading edge of the Generation Z, have grown up in a world that emphasizes the importance of smaller space, walk-able neighborhoods and ecologically sound economics of an urban neighborhood. In fact statistics show that Gen Z has the lowest rate of drivers in more than 80 years. People without cars tend to prefer urban areas.

I think the partial exit of Millennials from the urban core will be met head on with increased demand from seniors as well as the younger half of the Millennial Generation and fresh new adults from Gen Z. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be able to take a 5-10 minute walk and be able to visit more than 100 restaurants, pubs, breweries, and wineries? I believe that exodus from Portland may also drive activity here in Vancouver to keep the urban vibe buzzing for the foreseeable future.

Original First Presbyterian Church built in 1912

In other news: The Columbian reported that the Ed Lynch Estate has officially acquired the entire city block that houses the 108 year brick church building most recently occupied by New Heights Church. The beautiful brick building is made from un-reinforced masonry and needs millions of dollars in work to remain viable. This is a striking building and I do hope it will be saved from the wrecking ball. I will be following the fate of this block.

Urban Condo Inventory Tightens

Vancouver’s urban condo market got squeezed for inventory as just one new unit was listed while five went pending and one closed over the last week. Even in this pandemic environment things seem pretty robust for the urban condo market in Vancouver. The range of prices is wide as well with a $210,000 unit in Parkview closing and a $1,295,000 unit at Tidewater going pending.

With this kind of activity I’d imagine Mr. Kirkland is feeling good about his luxury high rise tower with 40 units likely completing in Q1, 2021. I have mentioned before, and I mention it again, I believe that the success of Kirkland Tower will be a bellwether for other condominium projects proposed or planned for the waterfront are. Gramor has plans for block 16 to have a 14 story 80 unit tower. Kaiser + Path in Portland proposed a 16 story CLT tower that would house condos as well. If Kirkland can sell out the Block 4 tower with good success it is likely these other condo projects will quickly follow. Meanwhile on the long vacant city owned Block Ten, Holland Partner Group has begun construction in the form of site prep for the full block multi tower project that will house their corporate HQ and residences.

If 2021 marks the end of COVID 19, which is a possibility, things should really perk up downtown. There is a large number of substantial urban projects in the hopper that I feel are on the back burner for a short while due to the uncertainty about 2021.

Overall activity is great all things considered, you know, 2020.

Local market is heating up!

The local residential real estate market seems oddly immune to the Covid 19 pandemic. This is not just urban condos but the broad local market. Corona virus has had a negative effect on our previously tight commercial market but the residential market as shrugged it off completely it seems.

The urban condo market has remained steady and strong. Well priced units across the pricing spectrum are getting offers and closing. A tidewater unit went pending this week at $1.275 million and a nice little unit in Shorewood went pending at $185k.

Meanwhile the development int he city core continues with multiple projects underneath tower cranes chugging along while new projects continue to work their way through the permitting process.

I’m hoping for some news from Summit Development on the Timberhouse project for Block 3 on the Waterfront and an announcement for a groundbreaking at the first phase of the Aegis at the Academy project.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂