Key Blocks Downtown and Midtown

Waterfront Gateway

This is Downtown Vancouver’s newest development district. The city is hoping to create a vibrant community across these blocks all of which are owned by a variety of city entities. This is intended to be an urban space but will likely be a bit less dense than the waterfront area.

At a CCRA meeting in early 2020, the council spoke about creating a district with a theme borrowing on a legacy in the area from the past, even Lucky Lager. They are on the right track; this transition from the downtown core to the waterfront could be a wonderful spot. There was even discussion of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the BNSF railway to connect with the new Terminal One development also under government review.

Updated 2/5/2022: In the fall of 2021 the City of Vancouver selected LPC West as the master developer for the 6.4 acre Waterfront Gateway District. LPC West is a subsidiary of Lincoln Property Company based in Dallas, Texas. They arrived in the forefront locally with the proposed Terminal One two building high-rise project for Zoom Info on Blocks A and B. They are also behind the latest multi tower high-rise proposal for the Waterfront on blocks 1 and 2 with both office and residential components.

Updated 2/20/2023: Last month the CCRA reviewed revisions to the current proposal for about two thirds of the Waterfront Gateway District. A few modifications were made to open up the common public areas a bit. The CCRA was pleased with the changes and it looks like this large project will move forward. I estimate ground breaking sometime in Q1 2024.

Updated 3/13/2023: Earlier this month I had an article showing models that reflect projects under construction and in the pipeline. Here is a rough model of the proposed projects for ‘Waterfront Gateway’ based on the most recent drawings submitted to the city.

Block Ten

Block ten is the last remaining block from the original Lucky Lager Brewery Complex. The City acquired this entire complex in the early 90s and used these blocks as the catalyst for the entire urban renewal that began in the mid 1990s and continues to this day. The two blocks immediately west of Block Ten as well as the two immediately south were all apart of that huge Lucky Lager facility. The blocks to the west became the Heritage Place Condos with underground parking, ground level retail and 3 levels of plush condominiums on top. Those units still fetch good money today. To the south a much more ambitious project rose up at Vancouvercenter. Facing the park two mid-rise towers of 6 and 7 floors with the shorter tower apartments and the taller one condos, then Vancouvercenter 3 an 11 story high-rise with 7 floors of office under 4 floors of luxury condo units. The final tower of that complex is now topped out at 7 floors featuring apartments and ground floor retail. North of Block ten is the Riverview Tower an 11 story mixed use building that is home to Riverview Bank.

Over the last two decades many suitors have come forward with block ten proposals, but none have been able to get the right mix. Recently Gramor Development proposed a mixed use full block project with a grocery store on the main level, underground parking and 6-7 floors of apartments up top. The city really wants a grocer downtown, it is the only thing missing really. After a year or so, Gramor was unable to procure a grocery tenant and the project died.

Kiara, award winning apartment project by Holland Partner Group in Seattle, photo from Holland Partner Group Website.

Local developer Holland Partner Group stepped in with a bold proposal to build an office/residential complex on the site. Holland is a very successful residential urban developer with award winning high-rise projects in major cities throughout the Western US.

The initial proposal was a full block podium with a mix of 2 floors of above ground parking and ground floor retail on three sides. On top of the podium would be an 9 story office tower and a 6 story apartment building. The 9 story office tower on top of the parking/retail podium would have been 11 floors and roughly the same height as the two high rises on each side of the block.

Recent Block Ten proposal submitted to City of Vancouver
Block Ten Construction as of 8/12/2020

Holland decided that the taller tower option was too expensive and decided to keep the project the same except they reduced the height of the office tower to 4 floors over the podium. I am admittedly a bit disappointed that the structure will be more ubiquitous at 6-and 7 floors tall respectively. Holland is a company that knows how to build something exciting and amazing, but this project is more pedestrian. I would have loved to see them build a full block podium and then place a single offset tower a bit taller than the surrounding buildings maybe go 15-18 floors with something more sleek and combine the residential and office aspects into a single tower. If any local developer could pull it off, they could. But if they go with the most recent design, Block Ten will at least finally be developed with an appropriate urban project even if it is a bit short on stature. Holland is likely to start the project as soon as the Vancouvercenter 4 tower, a block away is complete. Half of Block Ten is serving as a staging site for the construction of Vancouvercenter 4.

Updated June, 2020: Block Ten is now under construction with initial site prep underway.

Updated October, 2020: Tower crane erected to support project

Updated January, 2022: Project exterior nearly complete.

Updated July, 2022: Block Ten project is complete and leasing.

Library Square

This is the site of the former Carr Cadillac – Pontiac dealership. It was the last remaining downtown new car dealer in Vancouver and made it’s exit in the mid-2000s when they relocated closer to the Auto Mall. The site is owned by Evergreen Investors which is listed at the Killian Pacific address in Portland. They own and or manage a lot of property in this area including the massive 220 acre industrial area, Columbia Business Park, former site of Kaiser Shipyards.

This site had some grand plans prior to the economic recession in 2009. A large project with multiple buildings including a high-rise tower were proposed for the property. In recent years the city has been working with the developer on a multi-building project. I haven’t heard much since the city reviewed a sizable presentation in 2018. The Library Square name likely comes from the fact that the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Main Branch is situated on the property. This is one of the coolest libraries you will ever find. From the southwest corner entrance via a revolving door up to the fifth floor which features a full length deck providing a panoramic view of Vancouver’s urban skyline and the Columbia River, Mount Hood, and even Portland’s downtown in the distance. I hope they preserve as much of that view as possible but I also think the site is ideal for taller buildings based on the cities guidelines.

The most recent “massing exercise” showed this potential layout which I like, but the taller structure in the top left corner could go much taller under current height allowances for the lot(s). I’d like to see a 25 story tower in that top left spot as the city says the building can go 150 feet plus a 50% variance allowance after local review from planning officials, FAA, and Pearson Field. Furthermore it could go up to 300 feet so long as the floor plate above 225 feet is 12,000 square feet or less.

This project has been somewhat complicated by the new Aegis at the Academy development that will ultimately eliminate several hundred surface parking spaces that the city wants returned in this project in the form of sizable structured parking. Another fly in the ointment is the fact that a new elementary school was part of this plan, but the local district chose another nearby location that is better suited for a school. I wouldn’t mind seeing a performing arts building as part of this plan. That of course will take a fair bit of community organizing to get done.

Update 2/20/2023: I haven’t heard a peep out of any city officials or developers about this excellent parcel and development opportunity.

Midtown, West 15th and Main

This Block is owned by an entity out of Woodland, WA called JTH Investors. It is currently being used as temporary parking. This block along with the block to the immediate west listed below, would be ideal for a Kaiser Permanente Hospital. Kaiser has had Vancouver on its radar for a Hospital and these two blocks would work well for a tall urban hospital. I have not heard of any specific plans for this site but Cascadia Development Partners had a sign up pitching it at one point.

Updated 4/3/2021 : New Seasons Market has proposed a location with additional retail-restaurant space.

Updated 1/24/2022: No activity on the New Seasons Market yet, I am pretty sure the city green lighted this one, so not sure when the hammering begins 🙂

Updated 8/13/2022: New Seasons market is under construction.

Updated 2/20/23: Building shell is up, store could open this summer.

Downtown, Former Church

Screen Shot 2022-03-21 at 11.55.48 AMThis is the former site of the New Heights Church Downtown and a number of other churches and public entities over the last 110 years. The building was unreinforced masonry and was in serious disrepair. The block is owned by the Lynch Estate and could be ideal for a large scale full block development. At just two blocks north of Esther Short Park this is a great location.

1/30/23: The City is making a move to build their 3rd “Safe Stay” homeless housing center on this block. Although I support the Safe Stay program, this is not a good location for it, mainly because it is zoned for high density. Safe Stay is a low density development. Safe Stay is essentially 20 tiny homes to support homeless transition to traditional housing. These Safe Stay locations are also frankly unattractive developments and this block is in an area near the heart of Downtown. But it looks like the City will forge ahead so for now this block is unavailable for development. 

Midtown, West 15th and Washington

This block was in the news back in 2019 when an investor group called 1500 Block Land Investors acquired all the parcels in the block. The block is immediately west of the block listed above with the grocery store proposal. This includes several businesses operating that are mostly automotive repair related. The investors at the time mentioned they had an intention to erect a 5-6 story mixed use office building. It was reported in the Columbian that the businesses would have to move at some point in the next year or so. Like I mentioned above, this could be part of a two block tandem for a new Kaiser Hospital complex.

Image from The Columbian

Updated 2/5/2022: The owners of this block have prepared a pre-app package for the city featuring a rather nice looking 7 story mixed use project. I think this building is just another sign that the Midtown area is primed for a big boom.

Updated 2/20/2023: Haven’t seen any further action on this project. The businesses operating in the various buildings on the block do not seem to be ‘winding down’ so I do not think a ground breaking is likely this year. Things can change quickly and I do not have information on the leases these businesses have. I’m watching this one closely because I think this is a pivotal block for Midtown Vancouver.