Latest Buzz

Kirkland Tower is getting close to topping out. They are under a bit of a crunch as the FAA height restriction variance for the 250 foot tower crane expires this month. They are working on completing the 11 story super structure, I’d imagine the 12th floor rooftop penthouse and patio won’t need the tower crane. It looks like they have 9 floors built up and as of yesterday were working on the tenth floor. Kirkland Tower will have super premium condos, that take full advantage of the waterfront location and the amenities of the attached 8 story Hotel Indigo that topped out last month.

Last week’s CCRA meeting had updates for the City of Vancouver’s vision for the waterfront gateway area south of city hall and north of the BNSF Railway. I’m awaiting the release of any new information on this new development zone.

Last month the CCRA got a preview of the updated Holland Partner Group proposal for Block Ten which was met with mostly favorable response. That updated plan will be presented at the city pre-application conference this week. Hopefully some additional details will become available. This project is supposed to break ground this year to take advantage of expiring incentives. It will include a 4 story office building on top of ground level retail and two floors of parking. Also a residential tower with five floors of apartments stacked over mixed use ground level and again 2 floors of parking. It will be nice to have that long empty block built up with an enduring project.

I noticed that construction fencing has gone up around Block 20 on the waterfront. Also construction fencing went up around Block 19 but I suspect that Block 19 will serve as a staging lot for the fairly large project on Block 20. On Saturday there was equipment and supplies being unloaded on both lots.

This will be a 7 story apartment building with a similar size and scope of Riverwest on Block 8. Unlike Riverwest, this project is not expected to have a mixed use element and should be all residential. Jackson Square Properties out of San Francisco is the developer and they must be close to getting permits. The City of Vancouver project site still has it “under review” but I think they are probably already approved or very near approval.

I also noticed construction fencing has been in place for quite awhile around the Library Square property owned by Killian Pacific, but no activity appears to happening. This is a really important block and I feel like we need to get moving on it. Killian already got postponed a decade after the ‘Great Recession’ hit in 2008, another economic slowdown could cause more delays in the future. Why not get going now while real estate investment money is flowing like the Columbia River in springtime!

Marathon unveiled their phase two proposal for the Academy despite any actual activity at phase one. I think this also could be indicative of them feeling close to approval for permits on Aegis phase one. I like the Aegis project and would love to see them start on it before the end of the year.

Cascadia Development Partners is fast at work on the Aria. This is a 6 story apartment and townhouse residential building going up on West 6th just west of Esther Short Park almost ‘catty corner’ from City Hall.

Cascadia did the Uptown Apartments on Main Street and West McLoughlin. They did a fantastic job on that project. It opened in 2018 and they managed to get the building quickly leased. They were not as successful on the retail part, but they still got that building sold a year after it opened for a tidy profit. The building cost $45 million to build and opened in January 2018, it sold in May of this year for $57 million. The investors should be happy with their performance on that project. I think the Aria will be even better. The construction costs will be substantially lower (Estimated at $26 million) since it is a more simple approach, with a much easier excavation. The location is amazing. Cascadia should hit a home run with this project.

I’m hoping we will hear more from Cascadia about the full city block bounded by Main Street, West 15th, Washington Street, and West 16th. They have had a large development sign up with a leasing info contact, and some press reports about having something lined up for that block. That is an important block as it is visible to everyone visiting Downtown that uses the Mill Plain off ramp. I hate dead blocks!

Prestige Development is very close to opening the Our Heroes apartment buildings on East 13th at E Street. They have the clock/temp digital sign working on the top of the North Tower (Ed Tower).

The Columbian reported about two new ‘restaurants’ opening Downtown. A ‘Country Bar’ called “Six Shooter” should keep our ‘urban cowboys’ entertained and a Georgian restaurant called “Dediko” add to the expanding diversity of food and drink in our urban core.

The urban condo scene was business as usual with no new inventory but one unit returned to market after being pending for a couple of weeks and a few price changes and closings as well.

Waterfront and Downtown are ‘Off the Vine’

Everyone knows that Portland and Vancouver have a serious craft beer scene. Vancouver has quietly become a top destination for craft breweries and at least on a per capita basis is challenging our big sister to the south.

What has happened even more quietly is our emerging wine experience. Of course Maryhill Winery opened their lovely tasting room/eatery right on the water on Block 12 but over the last few weeks announcements of 5 more tasting rooms / restaurants both on the waterfront and downtown will bring the number of wineries and tasting rooms to ten in the area from Uptown to the Waterfront.

Check this article on the beer and wine scene in The ‘Couv’ Life here. 

In other news the Indigo Hotel building appears to be topped out as the beams and temporary roofing are in place above the 8th floor. Kirkland Tower still has 4 to 5 floors to go before topping out. I am very excited about the Indigo Hotel, this is a bold design and I think those that are skeptical will be amazed when this project is done. This hotel will be a first class structure. Seriously, El Gaucho is going in there, that is a pretty big endorsement. As for Kirkland Tower those units are going to be ultra premium condos in the $1-$5 million price range.

The AC Marriott Hotel project on Terminal One two blocks east of the Indigo has been under way with ground preparations. This week at the CCRA meeting on Thursday at City Hall, locally based Vesta Hospitality will make a presentation of the project as they move forward in final approval process. The project will feature parking on the second and third floors rather than underground parking. Ground level will be a mix of hotel lobby, meeting space and some retail with five floors of hotel rooms over the parking garage. The 7 story building should be relatively short in height as parking garage floors are generally shorter. I imagine there will be no issue with the FAA on this project.

At this same meeting the city will present the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the redevelopment of what the city is calling the Waterfront Gateway. This area is almost entirely owned by the City of Vancouver and includes a large parcel currently used as a surface parking lot. I think this is an important redevelopment area. It is unlikely any tall structures will go here, the City has a roughly 4-6 floor height limit in the area and that is largely due to Pearson Airfield flight paths. But having that area built up as more than a grassy field and surface parking is an important process to making the downtown and the waterfront congruous.

The published agenda for this CCRA meeting shows that there will be an update ont he Block Ten redevelopment project in which Holland Partner group has proposed a multi-tower 11 story office and 7 story residential buildings. Hopefully we will see some actual details. I’m watching this one closely.

The Columbian reported recently that local architecture firm, LSW is organizing an event called “Design Vancouver” aimed at boosting Vancouver’s reputation as a design center. This inaugural event is drawing designers from Portland and around the Metro Area. They also have a keynote speaker, Rob Bredow, who is head of Industrial Light and Magic, yes that ILM of George Lucas / Star Wars fame. That conference is scheduled for October 4-5 next month.

The condo market continues to move nicely. Several units moved to pending or sold status this past week and only a couple of new listings came online which means inventory contracted a bit more. Price ranges from the entry level to the high end all saw mostly positive activity. This market for condos isn’t what I would call “hot” but it is solid with well priced units selling promptly and only the puffed up prices are sitting longer than 60 days.

Urban living in the ‘Couv’ is getting better every day.

AC Marriott Progressing

The AC Marriott hotel slated to rise up as the first project in the Terminal One redevelopment has moved to the final stages of prep. A Columbian article showed an updated rendering of the project that is slightly scaled back from the 9 story 160 room concept to a 7 story 150 room hotel.

Vancouver based Vesta Hospitality is contracted to manage the project. Details released in the article say that the hotel will not have a rooftop restaurant after all. They cited the abundance of restaurants going in next door at Vancouver Waterfront for deleting that from the plans. Hmm, I don’t think you can have too many rooftop restaurants 😉

The ground needs to be shored up to meet earthquake standards so roughly $3 million is set aside to begin ground prep. The project nearly died due to increasing costs associated with the construction and the aforementioned ground work. However, the recent tax changes and Vancouver’s decision to include Terminal One in an opportunity zone led to the numbers penciling out again.

The Hotel should break ground later this year with hotel operations beginning in the first half of 2021. There is a flurry of urban hotel rooms going into both Downtown and the Waterfront, but that new area is already becoming quite the tourist attraction and that is only going to get better as the development continues to expand.

Another High Rise Proposed for the Waterfront

Carbon 12 in Portland, OR

The latest news has centered on a Portland firm planning a new high-rise for the waterfront. The Columbian newspaper reported last week the Kaiser Group has proposed a CLT ((cross laminated timber) apartment tower called, “The Trestle.” Perhaps the railroad parlance is in honor of the nearby rail operations for the Port of Vancouver. Kaiser Group is involved with the development of other CLT projects including the Carbon 12. It’s an 8 story CLT building in Portland, which is currently the tallest CLT wood structure in America. This new cross laminated timber structure is proposed for Block 14 with 16 floors and 185 feet tall. The building as proposed would be a little bit taller than the current FAA height restrictions in the area, but Block 14 is far enough west that I would imagine the FAA would be fine with it especially since the building will likely have a narrow elevation profile and the La Farge cement tower is nearby and exceeds 150 feet itself. A 16 story building with only 110 units will not be very wide. We shall see how this one develops, looking like a really nice project. If built it will be taller than the Timberhouse 12 story building proposed on Block 3 and would become the tallest CLT building in the United States. The Trestle, is in the preliminary stages and would be finished in 2023.

Timberhouse from Summit Development

Now that I’ve mentioned the Timberhouse, I haven’t heard anything lately from Summit Development on the progress towards a ground breaking. Summit Development is a bit hush on this project having not updated their website at all in several months. I like the classic style of this project, but I fear that they may be stalled out on it. No news is not good news in this line of business. The last quote I read from Barry Cain at Gramor, back in January, they were planning on breaking ground for Timberhouse this year. Let’s hope they do, there is a lot on money, both public and private riding on this amazing waterfront, the sooner these projects get started, the sooner more local, regional, and national buzz the site receives. Media buzz in this instance is very good.

There is a website that counts tower cranes and measures the economic success of cities based on the number of active cranes operating in the city. Seattle has spent the last few years at the top of the list in the U.S. Let’s get a few more cranes up here in the ‘Couv’.

Block 4 Construction Progress

In other Waterfront news, The progress on Lot 4 seems to be humming along as we ride into spring. I was at the Grand Opening of Fidelity and Chicago Title at the Murdock on Thursday night. That is a nice building to be sure. From the east side the windows look over the construction site for Lot 4 where the Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel projects are under construction. I took a photo with my phone, out the window of title officer, Joan Grimm’s east facing office. It shows the underground development on Block 4. These are two subterranean levels of parking for the complex. The 12 story Kirkland Tower condos will rise up on the near side of the block while the 8 story open atrium Indigo Hotel will go up on the far side of the block. The two buildings will be connected to form an almost single structure.

Downtown Vancouver and the Waterfront are the happening spot in the metro area right now, and there is no need take our foot of the accelerator pedal.

Terminal One in the News

A recent article in the Columbian discussed the Terminal One project at the Port of Vancouver’s original terminal immediately east of the Vancouver Waterfront Development. This is effectively a companion development that will ultimately have a waterfront public market (similar to Pike’s Place, Seattle). The recent news focuses on both the potential for parking concerns and the call out to potential developer/investors for block’s A and C on the north side of the project. The idea for those two blocks is a mixed use high density development. The FAA will no doubt keep the height down to 6-7 floors as Pearson Field and PDX flight paths are affected.

The western two blocks of the six block project are leased to Gramor Development as part of the $1.5 billion Waterfront Vancouver project. Gramor has plans for a high-rise office on the waterfront block 2, and block 1 is available. An AC Marriot hotel is scheduled to break ground this year on block D. The current Warehouse 23 restaurant and the wharf it sits on top of will be demolished to make way for a brand new wharf and the public market. Also on the same “block” as the new wharf will be an office building officially block B.

It looks like the timeline is AC Marriott on block D first starting this year and completion likely late next year; then the aforementioned “back blocks” A and C with whatever the private sector can arrange with the port authority. The last bit will be the proposed office building and the brand new Wharf and public market.

Parking is fine for now as the Waterfront and Terminal One are only just starting. Several of the vacant lots are already paved and in use as surface parking and staging for some of the larger projects. As both developments start to build out the area available for parking will shrink while the demand will rise. A double whammy of sorts. This will be a concern over the next few years.

I think the leased block 1 of the Gramor Waterfront should be a public parking facility jointly owned by the City of Vancouver, Port of Vancouver, and Gramor or their assign. The city could run the garage and space could be designated for the public as well as private space to serve future office/commercial development in both projects.

When dealing with the combined waterfront effort of the Port of Vancouver and Gramor Development, this is $2 billion in local projects; it would be foolish not to expect some logistical problems along way.

What’s up at Northwynd?

There has been a surge in activity at Northwynd Condos at Columbia Shores. Quite a few units are now listed. There doesn’t seem to be any real negative issue, just a lot of people making a move. Recently the association at Northwynd had a small assessment that led to a $100 increase in HOA dues, but that is really not a big enough deal to produce an exodus.

I spoke to one Realtor® privately that has a few listings in that complex; she thinks people are excited about the new waterfront and some may be capitalizing on the “buzz” surrounding the waterfront. Although there is some merit to the idea that some homeowners could be ‘taking profits’ like investors do in the stock market when values are high, it seems a bit more complicated than that. I’ll be sniffing around to see if there is more to the story over the next few weeks.

El Gaucho coming to Indigo on the Waterfront

Vancouver’s new waterfront development just got some serious restaurant street cred with the announcement that El Gaucho will have a new restaurant located inside the new Indigo Hotel currently under construction on block 4. El Gaucho has four other locations, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Portland. The Columbian reported on the announcment and added that El Gaucho will also run the ‘Sky Lounge’ planned for the eighth floor.

El Gaucho prides itself in table side preparation of dishes, high quality ingredients and a formal attire worn by the wait staff. Entreés are going to be higher than most, if not all other eateries in the Vancouver area.

I have been to the Portland location located in the Benson Hotel a number of times, all were either very special occasions or business events. For most El Gaucho is reserved for special events like a 25th wedding anniversary, or another milestone occasion as those menu prices can be cost prohibitive for middle-income earners. But the idea of being able to stay local rather than making a run down to Portland for El Gaucho, Ruth Criss, City Grill, etc. just adds to the power of the positive transformation happening on the waterfront that transcends the local project to benefit the whole county.

Some will bemoan the high values of property being erected and the higher end nature of the shops and restaurants, but one can’t expect the most premium real estate in the metro area to be used for second-hand shops, fast food, dive diners, and cheap apartments. It doesn’t work that way. There is a strong economic impact created on these types of developments that helps everyone on the economic ladder. Although most of the construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and other middle-income service providers cannot afford to live in the units being built, the billions of dollars being spent on their services may very well allow them to buy a new place of their own, or move up to the better living arrangement. Washington-based contractors should be loving this since travelling to Oregon for jobs is time-consuming and carries a heavy tax burden.

This waterfront will be a positive for the whole region, and will even prop up the whole Downtown area as it builds out. Remember, We are only at less than half built through the first of three phases to be built over the next 8-10 years.

I only hope our city leaders will do their very best to start using this exciting new development to attract some large employers to the area. Jobs are always a good boost for local economic conditions and getting 20-30 thousand of the 60 thousand plus who commute across the bridges to Portland back on ‘our side’ of the river is good for our local tax base and very good for our residents. Not to mention the reduced traffic load on the bridge.

I’ll be writing about Oregon’s aggressive highway tolling plan and the fact some Portland leaders are trying to target Washingtonians that cross the river to work. If Vancouver leaders play it right, we could get Portland employers to move over here. But they must be aggressive as well.

New Proposal for Waterfront Block 20

The Columbian reported yesterday that San Francisco based, Jackson Square Properties has submitted a proposal for lot 20 at the waterfront. Jackson Square is no stranger to Vancouver having developed property in Vancouver already. All of the properties they did locally are more suburban style low-rise apartment complexes, so this represents something a bit more ambitious for them. In fact I couldn’t find any residential building they did anywhere with more than 4 floors.

That mentioned, the proposal is for a 7 story apartment building with 230 plus units and underground parking for 250 spaces. This project is proposed for a phase three area of the waterfront that was planned for later development beginning in 2021. They want to break ground next year. Of course lot 20 is at the far western end of the waterfront development area right up against the park and riverfront. It is a premium lot but the original idea was to reserve those western lots for taller structures since they have a higher height allowance under the FAA imposed height restrictions. At least that seems to be the case when looking at the master plan.

I suppose a shorter building at that location would help keep the value of the two blocks behind it (north) as those could have a taller structure overlooking this proposed building. I also like the idea of getting as much development done while the economy is still hot and developers and investors are excited about new projects.

I would imagine some renderings will emerge in the next few days giving us a peek at what may become of Block 20.

Joe’s and Who Song Could Become Twin Towers

photo from The Columbian, 12-12-2018

The Columbian reported last week that local developer, Dean Kirkland is proposing to replace the aged restaurants, Joe’s Crab Shack and Who, Song, and Larrys with a mixed use retail/residential complex of two buildings of at least nine floors each. Maybe a hotel as well.

In the article, Kirkland indicated he would be interested in retaining the two eateries for the new development. If approved these would be the two tallest buildings in Vancouver by floor count east of I-5. It is unlikely they would be taller in height than the 8 story Firstenburg Tower at Peace Health Hospital.

Although the waterfront and downtown have a flurry of activity including numerous mid-rise and high-rise buildings, this is the first such project proposed east of the Interstate Bridge.

Although neither restaurant is really outstanding they both offer reasonable fare, and excellent happy hour opportunities on the decks overlooking the river. Whether these two restaurants return to the development is not a major concern of mine, but another restaurant or two would be nice to keep the public interest in the waterfront area with both the trail and riverside dining. You hear that Mr. Kirkland?

More urban living opportunity is on the horizon.