Urban Projects Update

In the urban pipeline there are numerous projects in various stages of development and it has been a few since I updated these proposals and under construction projects. But first, on the local urban condo scene a quick update; sales, new listings, and pendings were pretty typical again this week. Inventory remains about the same.

COVID-19 of course has had an impact on projects. The City Center Redevelopment Authority held its first meeting since February last week. It is quite reasonable to suggest that the pipeline of proposals working through the system has been slowed due to a bureaucratic delay imposed by Corona Virus regulations and cancellations. The City of Vancouver is also notoriously slow when updating the online projects status on the city website. I’ve seen a building topped out before the city has changed the status from under review to approved. This is why I go to the meetings or listen to the recorded sessions to try and stay on top of activity.

Active urban projects under construction:

  1. Kirkland Tower, 12 floor condominium project on the Waterfront was topped out in 2019. This project was delayed a bit during the phase one reopening period as construction briefly was halted and then continued at a slower pace to remain compliant with the Governor’s rules. Phase two seems to have opened things up a bit and the glass front cladding is nearly complete. The tower crane was removed back in February by the authority of the FAA so this has likely slowed that process a bit. I have not seen any official completion adjustments, but I doubt they can make the Q4 2020 date, I’m figuring Q1 2021. The adjacent 8 story hotel will likely complete first.
  2. Several urban apartment projects are hammering away, The Aria is topped out, the Vancouver Center tower 4 is fully clad and now seeing final exterior trim and interior finishing. Our Heroes Place a two tower complex on Mill Plain is complete and leasing. Both of the 4 story apartment buildings in the VW-10 project in Midtown are topped out.
  3. The Columbia on Block 20 at the Waterfront is nearing completion on the underground garage and base podium. This 248 unit apartment building will rise rather quickly after the steel and concrete work is complete on the base. I believe the top 5 floors will be wood frame construction although I have not confirmed that yet. The suggested target opening of  “July 2021” suggests wood frame for the top five floors.
  4. Al Angelo’s Mill Plain II tower is topped out. The steel and concrete structure will be a mixed use building with some apartments included in the mix. It serves as the companion to the previously built Mill Plain I tower.

Proposed projects getting close:

  1. The AC Marriott Hotel at Terminal One has completed the ground prep but no activity yet on actual construction. The city has approved the plans but perhaps some permitting issues remain.
  2. The City green lighted the Hyatt Place Hotel on West 4th and Washington. This is a small hotel with 5 floors and a rooftop bar and patio. This seems like a nice little project. Evergreen and Ryan Hurley are involved in the development. I’d expect to see a ground breaking very soon.
  3. Aegis Phase One received the City blessing early this year, but has yet to get final approval to pull permits as near as I can tell. All indications were for a Q2 start, but COVID-19 may have led to delays. Since Q2 ends tomorrow I suppose Q3 is more likely for a start. I’m rather excited about this project as it will clean up the area around the beautiful Academy Building.

Proposed projects (selected):

  1. Timberhouse on Block 3 at the Waterfront remains in the pre-app phase. I have been unable to get a comment from the developer on the status of this project that is one of my favorites. This 12 story CLT (cross laminated timber) building seems to be stalled, but no one has said one way or another. The block was sold to the project developer, so it remains reasonable to assume they will start this project at some point in the not too distant future.
  2. The Springs Living proposed a 12 story senior community for Block 18 on the Waterfront last year. I would imagine they have their hands full dealing with COVID-19 in their other facilities around the Northwest. Not much has been released aside from the initial drawings in the pre-app submission. Based on my observations this will be a flagship location for them.
  3. The Trestle on Block 14 was a proposal last spring (2019) for a 16 story CLT tower that received media attention but has not publicly progressed any further. The Kaiser + Path website in Portland shows a number of cross laminated timber projects including the “world’s tallest” CLT building, but no mention of this project. The Block remains in the ownership of Waterfront.
  4. Vancouver Downtown, Block 10 is slated to get underway as soon as the Vancouver Center Tower 4 project is not needing the staging space on the block. This is a full block mixed use project by Holland Partner Group. A two story podium mixed with retail and structured parking will have two towers over the top one with five floors of residential, the other 4 floors of office. Block ten has sat idle for decades following the closure and subsequent demolition of the Lucky Lager Brewery complex.
  5. Gramor’s 14 story 80 unit condo tower on Block 16 at the Waterfront, has been proposed since the early development stages. The waterfront is advertising the project proposal on their website. I would imagine the success at Kirkland Tower will be monitored and have an effect on how this tower ultimately is built and marketed.

Urban Living in the ‘Couv’ is still tracking roughly 50 urban projects as they make their way from proposal to completion. Keep checking back every week for updates and information. Also remember you can track real time progress and activity of listed urban condos anytime by visiting this page.


How will new apartments effect condos?

There are a great many dynamic forces at work on the local housing economy and a striking contrast between the two cities straddling the Columbia River. Vancouver currently has a significantly higher median rent than neighboring Portland, OR. According to a recent article in The Columbian, median rent in Vancouver for a two bedroom unit is $1678 compared to Portland at $1320. Vancouver is nearly on par with Seattle in fact which has a median two bedroom rent of $1690! This flies in the face of reason since Portland’s median home price is quite a bit higher than Vancouver. Seattle’s median home price is more than DOUBLE Vancouver’s.

Portland had skyrocketing rents a few years ago and the city decided to do something about it. Rip City added some 15000 new rental units over a period of a couple of years. Many people protested the high cost of the new units as being ineffective at lowering local rents, but they were unaware of market dynamics. The new fancy units stole renters from overpriced lesser units which forced those landlords to lower rents and thus down the line. The results are irrefutable as Portland now is a bargain for rent versus much more expensive Vancouver.

Vancouver is on a similar track building quite literally thousands of new apartment units every year. There is no reason the same result experienced in Portland will not happen here as well. Many people show up at city council meetings bemoaning the fact the new apartments are so expensive. New stuff is always more expensive and will almost always fetch higher rents. But that will put downward pressure on older, less modern, overpriced existing units in the local area. It just happened in Portland for heaven’s sake it will happen here.

But what of the local condo market? Will all these expensive apartments act as a drag on local condo sales? Not likely; I believe that all these mid level to high end apartments are bringing new residents to Vancouver that will see the relative value in local condos. This is particularly likely to be the case downtown and on the waterfront where rental units outnumber condominium units by at least 10 to 1.

The median rent in Vancouver is $1678 city wide, but on the waterfront and downtown that figure is much closer to $2500-$3000. People that qualify for rents in that bracket qualify to buy condos priced in the $500k-$600k range. Those that decide they want to stay downtown, become qualified buyers for our rather limited inventory of condominium units Downtown.

Right now on the fantastic new waterfront there is already 275 apartment units built and ZERO condo units built. There are another 248 units under construction on the waterfront against just 40 condo units underway. That will leave a 13:1 ratio of rental units versus condo units on the waterfront. Additionally there is at least another 500 rental units on the waterfront working their way through the permitting process and only another 80-100 condos doing the same. Downtown has no new condos proposed but more than a 1000 new apartments units under construction or working through the permitting process, in addition to the aforementioned 500 on the waterfront.

In this truncated market with the Corona Virus, Vancouver’s higher rents will attract money away from Portland as our units can yield a higher income to build cost. Translation: higher profits for investors. This will take the squeezed investment money pool and pour more into our local economy quite possibly at the expense of Portland.

I think the local urban condo market should be a great shape so long as we can keep the COVID-19 from train wrecking the greater economy.

Activity Picking Up.

The local urban condo market saw a bit of a gain in listings adding to the inventory at plus one unit. Four new listings against three new pending sales and a closed sale. This is good activity across the broad spectrum of pricing from the entry level at $210,000 up to the higher end in seven figures. Units are selling and new units are arriving to replace them.

Northwynd at Columbia Shores has the most units listed and the activity in that complex seems to favor buyers. Just about everywhere else in the Vancouver urban condo market, sellers hold a slight advantage.

Kirkland Tower (left) and Indigo Hotel (right)

Kirkland continues its work on the two building complex at Block 4 on the waterfront. It appears that the emphasis is on the completion of the 8 story Indigo Hotel project rather than the 12 story condo tower. This would make sense because the Kirkland Tower condos are going to rely on the hotel for some of the HOA amenities. The Indigo Hotel is nearly done with the glass siding and they are only needing to finish up exterior trim facades before the interior gets finished out. Even with the COVID-19 delays it does appear this project will complete close to the scheduled time of late Q4 perhaps pushing into mid Q1, 2021. The condo tower may be delayed completing late Q1, or early Q2, 2021. These timelines are based on observations and not any official report from Kirkland Development. These will be the first brand new condominium units in Downtown Vancouver in many years.

Block 16 proposal, Gramor Development

The success at Kirkland Tower is very important to the rest of the Vancouver waterfront project. There are multiple condo projects in the pipeline including Gramor Development’s 14 story 80 unit proposal for Block 16. Kaiser+Path in Portland has proposed a 16 story CLT condo tower on Block 14 as well. I would imagine those two groups are waiting to see how Kirkland does with its smaller but likely more luxurious 40 unit 12 story tower.

Kirkland is also pursuing an shorter 8 story project east of the Interstate Bridge near the current Who, Song, and Larry’s restaurant. This project may include condos as well.

The Springs Living, proposal, Block 18

The Springs Living proposed a 12 story senior living tower for Block 18, offering a wide variety of amenities geared towards the needs of elderly citizens. The city seemed rather pleased with the project proposal on the pre-app submission based on comments published in VBJ and the Columbian. Senior facilities do have their hands full with COVID-19 issues so I am not sure if the timelines for this proposal will be negatively impacted.

The global slowdown due to COVID-19 could translate to some of the waterfront projects being pushed back on start dates. Although that does not seem to be the case right now it could be at least part of why Summit Development Group has not broken ground yet on the Timberhouse project for Block 2.

Hopefully we can get through this economic turbulence and return to positive growth in the second half of 2020 leading into 2021.


Phase II Reopening Underway

Phase II is underway in Clark County and that means a little less restrictions for businesses. The economy seems to be weathering the COVID-19 better than expected as Wall Street has seen a strong rebound pushing stocks within reach of pre-pandemic levels. We are not out of the woods yet, but the economy really wants some good news and governors will play a large role in whether that news is good or bad.

Condo activity remained steady this week with a couple new listings, a couple of pendings, and recorded close. Even though the economic conditions heading forward have clouds in the forecast, it seems condo buyers and real estate investors are still willing to make a move. It seems from my perspective real estate buyers are bullish on the economy. This is what we need if we are to break out of what could be the shortest recession in history. However, things are now by any stretch set in stone.

Progress is moving along at a healthy clip on the current urban projects under construction. Indigo Hotel is almost entirely clad in its glass work and detail exterior finishes should start soon. Next door, Kirkland Tower seems to be stalled but that could be that crews are focusing on the hotel project to close timing gaps for opening. Hard to say really. Cascadia’s Aria apartment building near City Hall is nearly topped out as is Angelo’s mixed use building on Mill Plain.

The sizable project at the Academy building, Aegis was scheduled to break ground in the “spring 2020” we are quickly running out of spring. Not sure if the hurdles are purely COVID-19 related or if other funding is not in place yet. The AC Marriott building site on Terminal One completed the ground prep process and now is waiting to break ground and start construction on that project.

There is still a lot of activity in the urban core of Vancouver and that bodes well for a recovery from COVID-19.

New Inventory, Welcome Sight

This past week saw a bit of a bump in inventory for urban condos in Vancouver. We had one unit go bump-able buyer and three new listings. There were two price reductions on upper end multi-million dollar listings at Tidewater but that is to be expected in the rarefied space of mega condos.

Photo from RMLS

A very clean unit came online at Parkview that looks sharp. This one is an east facing unit so it doesn’t have the “Park View.” Another nice unit in Frontier Block with a corner view to die for was listed this past week as well. Look at all that glass! It wraps right around the corner of the building!

Check the pages right here for those two projects as well as the other projects in the area for the latest updates on listing status. Or contact your favorite Realtor® to arrange a showing. If you don’t have an agent, contact Rod here.

Kirkland Tower now has a sale website up for the units in their 12 story waterfront tower. That building is progressing towards a late Q4-2020 or early Q1-2021 opening. I believe that the success of that project is paramount for the start of a few other projects on the board such as Gramor’s block 16 14 story 80 unit tower and the Block 14 proposal for a 16 story CLT condo building. It is not at all uncommon for developers to take a wait and see approach. Gramor took the lead by developing the restaurants buildings and the Rediviva and Murdock projects, both of which have been very successful. Rediviva is more than 90% occupied and the Murdock is as well. Dean Kirkland stepped up to launch his ambitious Hotel and Condo Tower that should wrap up in the next 6-8 months and the large Riverwest apartment building is nearly full. Although condos are a different animal than apartments, the 270 plus apartment units operational now are well above the local median rent with some units fetching rents that translate into an equivalent rent to a $1,000,000 mortgage payment.

From what I have read Kirkland’s units are not going to be excessively large. The largest units should come in at around 2,500 SF, those will be up high and likely very expensive. Other units however look to have more modest floor plans suggesting the potential for pricing within reach of incomes of some of the renters at both Riverwest and Rediviva.

The ability for our economy to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic is going to play a large role in determining whether these projects can go up sooner rather than later. Kirkland only has 40 units to sell which is still a significant target, but once those are closed and presuming the building sells out in less than a year, the other developers will likely warm up to the notion of building more. Success tends to breed, more success. Vancouver saw that materialize back in the late 1990s when the urban renewal and restoration of Esther Short Park lead to 100’s of millions of dollars in development. Many of the Urban Condos I track on this site didn’t exist prior to 1998. Success on the Waterfront will lead to more success and more investment in the region and that leads to more economic vitality for all of Vancouver and Clark County.

Urban Condos in the ‘Couv’ Unfazed by Virus

On this Memorial Day, let’s take a moment and consider the men and women of our armed forces that have fallen in defense of the nation over these 244 years.

COVID-19 has taken buyers out of the market but it has taken sellers out as well so the whole supply-demand metric remains about the same. This past week saw more tightening in inventory and a steady stream of qualified buyers. Only one new unit was listed and it sold in three days. This week saw a net of -4 to inventory. Even a Tidewater penthouse unit went pending at $3.1 million after a mere 13 days of marketing.

Yesterday I was out at the waterfront around sunset and the area was crawling with joggers, walkers, and families enjoying a nice day on the water. We have not yet opened our restaurants up so all the store fronts were closed, yet the crowds flocked to the area anyway. People are tired of being copped up inside and it shows. Sure many if not most of the peeps out and about were donning masks and groups appeared to keep their distance from other groups, so that was pretty nice to see. But warmer days and late sun will bring the people out.

Clark County was eligible to start Phase II early until a COVID-19 outbreak occurred in a local food processing plant that gave the governor pause. What is it with food processing plants and COVID? Anyway we went two steps forward and three steps back it seems.

Work seems to be progressing well on several larger projects around town including the Vancouvercenter 4 apartment tower, Al Angelo’s mixed use office/apartment building on Mill Plain, Kirkland Tower condos, Indigo Hotel, and The Columbia on block 20.

On another note: The Columbian reported that Vancouver is leading the state on census participation and that is a good thing. Be sure to fill out the census form it is easy and fast especially the new online version. This information is used to help fund a variety of important projects in the area and also helps determine the level of representation we receive in Washington DC.

Cleaning House at Urban Living

This pandemic has us all in a bit of a slow-motion with things moving a bit less frantically. That has given me some time to get things organized and on this site I have managed to start cleaning up some pages online. Some of the listings in the various buildings sold a while back and were cluttering up the active listings so I spiffed that up a bit. I eliminated the bullet point listings and switched to a more manageable chart that is easy for you to read and easier for me to keep organized. Take a look at some of the changes by opening up the pages for individual condo projects.

Some new listings were added this week against a couple of pending sales to once again keep things more or less the same from a supply and demand perspective. Well price units move fast and overpriced listings linger. Just like normal 🙂

Restaurants will be able to open in limited fashion starting next month according to a plan release by the Governor’s office. That is a promising start to reopening this economy and getting people back to work and feeling confident.

Did you know that today is the 40th anniversary of the most violent volcanic eruption in recorded history? Yes that lovely snow capped peak that lurks in the background of many Vancouver skyline views got rather angry on May 18th, 1980 with an eruption that destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres in a matter of seconds and trimmed the height of the mountain from 9700 feet to about 8400. Mount Saint Helens is an active volcano and it is likely we see some more action in the coming years. the last significant eruption was a little over ten years ago.


Activity is up and it’s Mostly Good

The urban condo market saw substantial activity this past week with several pending and closed transactions dipping into the inventory levels. One new listing lasted just two days on the market. There were a couple of failed sales that canceled out some of the pending and closed units, leaving us relatively neutral on inventory for the week. With COVID-19 eroding the buyer base a bit, failed sales are likely to be a bit of a thorn in the side of Realtors® for awhile yet.

This again leaves us with the question about the government restrictions, when is enough, enough? In the news lately is the indications coming from Tesla that they will move their operations out of California to Texas. The final straw was a heavy handed beat down of Tesla from a local government, not the State, mind you, the COUNTY. Tesla is the largest manufacturing employer in California and one of if not these largest employers in Alameda County, CA. Now it seems that 20,000 well paid workers will lose their jobs or move to Texas. All over COVID-19. Let’s be clear here, Tesla was following the Governor’s policy and was cleared to open under those state mandates. Alameda County decided otherwise. California deserves everything it gets and so do we when we choose to follow the lunatics over the precipice.

Unfortunately for all of us both governors in Oregon and Washington tend to follow California rather than lead our states. If they don’t snap out of it, employers like Intel, SEH, Daimler, and others make seek greener pastures in other states. It’s not like Tesla is making a dirty product, they make electric cars for heaven’s sake. Yet California is chasing them away. We the people should always be very cautious when the government starts to trample our rights in the name of public health. When governors become defacto dictators willing to destroy the lives of millions in the name of saving a few thousand, one has to wonder if they have our best interests at heart. Don’t read me wrong, many of the COVID-19 restrictions both Governor Kate Brown in Oregon, and our own Governor, Jay Inslee have implemented are good for all of us, but some have been reckless and short sited. It is akin to amputating the arm of a patient with a small patch of skin cancer on one finger. I only seek to have our elected officials be prudent and measured in their response. Sometimes it has been thoughtful and others it has meandered away from common sense.

I tweeted out to Tesla that a great site for a Tesla factory is right here in America’s Vancouver. The site of the old Alcoa plant at Terminal 5 is ideal for a car factory with Terminal 4 already set up as an auto import site, the reverse for export is just too easy. The Port of Vancouver USA also recently made excellent improvements to the rail yard serving Terminal’s 4 and 5. Terminal 5 is practically tailor made for Tesla.

These trying times can be opportunities for local and state governments to do a great service to the people. They just need to stop following California off the cliff of despair and actually LEAD.

A little of that “buzz” is back

Things are still more or less shut down because the governor has decided to extend the stay home order until the end of this month. But the governor also made a few revisions and or clarifications that have allowed construction to resume on several downtown projects that were previously idled.

Condos were neutral with two new urban condo listings and two that went pending. People are still buying and selling condos downtown and in other urban neighborhoods in Vancouver.

Back to the governor’s decision on the stay home order. I personally am a bit disappointed that the governor feels he needs to extend the order another full month. I think there is ample evidence that this virus is not the “super killer” we were all worried about early on when it first swept into the state. The governor was in a tough spot because that thing ravaged a convalescent home killing some 50 people in a matter of days. That was some scary stuff. So the governor’s hard reaction is understandable. But a great deal of medical evidence and new facts about what COVID-19 is and is not have led us to a point where the governor could have softened things up a bit. There is a point where the person at the top of the political food chain has to make those tough choices which often include dangerous trade-offs. It is not easy being governor during a pandemic or other humanitarian crisis.

Where I feel the governor acted prudently with the first stay home order, now the economic crisis could outweigh the disease. The cure may kill the patient faster than the disease so to speak. Unfortunately our political climate is so dark and divided that often politicians do things that are harmful to the constituents just to spite the other side of politics. I do hope our governor hasn’t allowed that sort of lunacy to corrupt his thinking.

Anyhow real estate is alive and well in Vancouver and there are some great opportunities to live in the center of it all with an urban condo. Our shops and restaurants will reopen and things will return to normal at some point. Don’t buy into all this doom and gloom that world will never be the same again. Yes it will, this COVID-19 is as much a product of our media as it is a dangerous virus. It IS dangerous, so keep the social distancing up, but we will be back soon enough. This is not a world ending apocalypse, but if our state and national politicians keep over-reacting we may have an economic apocalypse instead. It is up to us to communicate with or elected officials in the state legislature to  let them know how we feel. Take the time to write a letter and mail it or email it to your state representatives. The governor is operating within his rights under the states emergency powers provisions so don’t believe the BS memes floating about social media. The legislature however can step in if the governor gets out of hand, so be sure your local rep knows how YOU feel whether you approve or disapprove of this extension. Put your two cents worth in, it matters more than you may realize.

Some Good News from the Governor

It has been reported recently that Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee is going to relax some of the construction restrictions implemented last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To be clear the governor is not opening up construction without restrictions. Contractors large and small will have to adopt some guidelines and safety procedures to ensure that COVID-19 is not easily spread on worksites. However, work will continue on the projects that have been siting idle since the end of March.

Kirkland Tower and the Indigo Hotel should be able to finish up as well as the continuance of other significant developments around Vancouver such as the Aria, The Columbia, Vancouver Center 4, and Mill Plain II. Hopefully projects that were expected to break ground in April but did not may be able to get going in May. This could include Phase I of Aegis at the Academy, and perhaps even the Timberhouse on the waterfront.

Three urban condos went pending this past week with no new listings so the urban condo inventory in Vancouver is a bit tighter this week. It is encouraging to see continued positive movement in the urban market. However the listing side is a still soft and that could be a side effect of Corona Virus fear.