Urban Living Keeps Improving in the ‘Couv’

Once again the urban condo market locally improved with sales and pendings outstripping new listings. For buyers thinking about a condo, now could be the ideal time.

The best prices on urban condos are usually those in awkward locations within a building. The prime example is the east facing units in Parkview at Vancouver Center. Parkview is named primarily for the west facing units that overlook Esther Short Park. The east facing units have always had the disadvantage of looking directly into the windows of the much taller Vancouver Center 3 tower literally right next door.

View from 6th floor looking southeast

Up until just recently, there was a clear opening to the southeast and the north east between the buildings.  The southeast lot now contains a topped out tower nearly equal in height to Parkview, which blocks some light and most of the river views as well. Later this year, two new mid-rise towers will go up on the Block Ten taking the light and peek-a-boo urban views away from the northeast as well. This activity is applying some downward pressure on pricing on the east facing units.

Looking northeast from 6th floor, 2 new towers will go up on the lot across the street in 2020

For would be sellers this is a bit of a conundrum, but one that was well known in advance as all of these projects have been on the books for years and years. For buyers this is an opportunity to own an urban condo in a mid-rise tower at a really affordable price. Parvkiew offers a fully secure access and optional gated under ground parking. There is of course, immediate access to Esther Short Park and all the amenities of the ever improving downtown area. I am seeing units with 2 beds and 2 baths on the east side of Parkview for under $250k and smaller one bed units are in the high 100’s to low 200’s. Two studio units closed in December under $160k. The blocked views and or perceived privacy issues are easily remedied with blinds.

I also published a new article in the ‘Couv’ Life; “Main Street Brews and Bars” about the brew and bar scene in the greater downtown area. There is no doubt, a great many opportunities to sample the fine craft brews locally and around the Northwest. One can also choose from a variety of fun spots to hang out across the broad spectrum of tastes.

Here is a map showing the locations of popular watering holes from Uptown Village all they way down to the new Waterfront.

2020 Looking Good!

The year is off to a robust start with urban condo pending sales and closings out pacing new listings by a 3:1 margin. Prices however are holding mostly steady which is what the broader market is doing. This is a nice healthy and sustainable marketplace in Downtown Vancouver.

The forecast for greater Downtown is excellent. I am referring to Columbia Shores, the Waterfront, Downtown, and Uptown. There are some reports in local media suggesting that the waterfront has drawn some business away from established restaurants in the Downtown and Uptown areas. This was predictable since the restaurants and other retail services went in first before the apartment and condos were completed. But the shear volume of construction happening right now and the slate of new projects set to break ground this year will bring quite literally THOUSANDS of new residents to greater Downtown. Restaurateurs concerned about declining volume should try their best to ride it out, because the swarming masses are coming.

Here is a list of new residential units in the pipeline for greater Downtown:

Under construction now:

  • Our Heroes Place, Downtown, 49 units now leasing
  • Vancouver Center 4, Downtown, 124 apartment units mid 2020
  • Numerous projects in Uptown, 180 plus units 2020-21
  • The Aria, Downtown, 128 units, late 2020
  • Kirkland Tower, 40 luxury condo units, late 2020
  • The Columbia, Waterfront, 248 units, mid 2021
  • Mill Plain II, Midtown, mixed use 44 units, 2021

Breaking ground soon:

  • Aegis Phase I, Downtown, 134 units, start Q1, 2020
  • Jefferson Street Apartments, Downtown, 89 units, start mid 2020
  • Block Ten, Downtown, 110 units, start Q2, 2020
  • Smaller projects Downtown/Uptown 70-80 units start 2020
  • Timberhouse, Waterfront 251 units, start mid 2020
  • The Springs Living, Waterfront, 215 units, start mid 2020

Proposals likely to start in 2021:

  • Terminal 1 Blocks A and C, mixed use, @300 units
  • Block 17, Waterfront, apartments, @200 units
  • Block 16, Waterfront, condos, 80 units
  • Waterfront East, Columbia Way, 100 units
  • Aegis Phase II, Downtown, @150 units

Patience is the word of the day. There are more than 800 units under construction right now, and double that in the immediate pipeline. Downtown and Uptown are already benefiting from the effects of the Waterfront. One only look at this list above to see where much of the $3 billion in local construction is targeted and underway. Yes, Downtown and Uptown. These new residents are choosing these areas because they want to have that live-walk lifestyle and that will translate into revenue for local businesses. The Waterfront is only a temporary drain on established restaurants Downtown and Uptown.

2020 is looking good.

The Latest Urban Buzz

Today is chilly with the threat of snow looming, but the urban condo market is seeing more tightening of inventory with 3 pendings and one closing against just one fresh new listing. Now this is not that unusual during the winter as typically listing activity is quiet this time of year. The real test will be the spring time when the normal listing bump happens. Will the buyers soak up the new inventory? I think they will.

The Columbian had an article last week about a pre-app submittal by a Seattle architecture firm on behalf of Alliance Residential in McMinneville, OR. The proposal would include 172 apartment units in a large 6 story building on Block 17 of the Waterfront. 6 stories is the minimum number allowable in the Waterfront. MINIMUM, not maximum. I was figuring that the back side (North) blocks at the west end of the development would house taller structures that could see over the shorter buildings along the water. These west side blocks are the only blocks that are far enough west to clear FAA height restrictions and allow the city height restrictions to take precedent. Vancouver will allow buildings up to 200 feet tall in that area which works out to a 15-20 story residential tower. Of course apartments in a taller tower that offers views over the nearby shorter buildings would come at a premium rent.

I am fully aware that buildings taller than 6-7 floors become increasingly expensive to build. This is a motivating factor the article discusses. However if cost is the reason for building a larger floor plate mid-rise versus a smaller floor plate high-rise I would expect the city to ensure the units are priced more affordable than what has been put in thus far. I’m not suggesting they build low-income housing on a block that costs as much as these blocks sell for, but something a little more in reach of a middle income earner would be nice. Perhaps the owner could pass on the construction savings to future renters. Buildings like these are likely to remain for many decades maybe as long as 100 years. What ever goes in is going to be there essentially forever.

This proposed 6 story tower will not be able to see over the top of any of the buildings in front it. Block 8 is Riverwest at 7 stories, Block 11 is currently surface parking but once the proposed parking garage is built on block 7, block 11 is expected to have a high rise. Block 16 is planned for a 14 story condo tower, Block 18 has a proposal in the permitting process for a 12 story residential tower, and block 20 has a 7 story apartment building under construction.

I am delighted that another block in the Waterfront is getting some interest, I hope that the company proposing this project will give us a middle class apartment option since they are foregoing the “luxury tower” option.

There can be no doubt the Waterfront is a smashing success. Phase 1 is already completely built out or topped out and several projects for Phase 2 are in the planning stages and Block 20 is already under construction. Block 20 and Block 17 are actually part of Phase 3!

I would love to see some followup from Gramor on the projects that have been proposed but seem to be stalled. Timberhouse on Block 3 and the Trestle on Block 14. These two are taller projects with some real gravitas, both being CLT projects from sustainable timber. Timberhouse looks fantastic in the drawings with a modern cross laminated timber build and classic architectural elements featuring three wings of varying heights.

2020 is looking good for urban dwellers in the ‘Couv’.

Happy New Year! There are Deals to Be Had

Before I dive into that click bait headline, here is a bit of a local urban living news update. We had a couple of new pending sales, a couple of closings and a couple of new listings. Things on the urban condo market were relatively flat this past week.

The Columbian newspaper reported that the city is pushing ahead with the Aegis project at the Academy despite some concerns by the Historic Preservation Commission. In general I do support the HPC but on this issue I disagree with their analysis. I think the Aegis project is well suited to the site and the harm the HPC notes which is legit, is more than offset by the good the project brings and the infusion of cash for the actual preservation and viability of the Academy building over the decades to come.

Aegis, Phase I

The Aegis project is a two phase urban mixed use apartment complex. Phase one should break ground in the next 60-90 days and includes two buildings along C Street between Evergreen Blvd. and East 12th Street. The south tower is five stories with a rooftop patio/garden and the north tower is six stories. This first phase will bring 134 apartment units to market. The phase two will feature two six story apartment buildings and a 5-6 story parking garage.

I have a new page dedicated to the benefits of Vancouver’s downtown gentrification and some of the short term pain associated with it. In the end all of this new development will be beneficial to nearly all of our residents including those that may not be able to afford living in some of these new units. Click: The “G” Word

OK how about that click bait phrase “There are Deals to Be Had?” I’m happy to report there are in fact some great deals in the urban condo market right now! I have noticed that my prediction about the east facing Parkview units has materialized into reality. Two small units recently sold for less than $160k! Parkview is a secure mid-rise tower right next to the core of downtown, Esther Short Park! Down the elevator out the door and into the park! These east facing units are becoming darker and more boxed in by development underway and I believe there are some owners that are selling because of it.

The interesting thing is that those east facing units have always looked into the office tower across the courtyard. The new fourth tower really doesn’t change that nor will the two new towers going up later this year on Block Ten. What these new towers are doing is cutting the amount of daylight that reaches these units from little to very little. If you don’t mind being in a state of permanent shade, and having your windows looking straight into a office building, these units offer all of the same location based benefits for 35-50% off the price of similar west facing units overlooking the park.

Parkview units are modestly equipped and that makes them a bit more affordable already, and coupled with the daylight disadvantage of the east side, these units are a genuine bargain.

I have also noticed that some of the older units in Shorewood are being listed for very low prices as well. Shorewood offers some units with great views of the Columbia River for reasonable prices. Shorewood buildings are much older dating from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s and they are a touch dated. But I have seen two bedroom units in there closing in the low 200s!

Be sure to look at the pages I have on this site for both Parkview and Shorewood to see all the units listed for sale, pending sale, and recently closed.

Parkview at Vancouvercenter

The value here is unmistakable. Renting an apartment in the apartment building next door to Parkview could be MORE expensive than owning an east facing Parkview condo. If one were to buy the recently sold studio unit in Parkview that closed for $156,700 using a conventional mortgage 97% LTV at $4.25% the PI payment is $748 the taxes and insurance would bump the payment to just shy of a $1000. The HOA in Parkview is expensive, but it includes heating and cooling, water and garbage. The only utility required is internet/TV and electricity for appliances and lights. You can own one of these for $1500 a month with nearly all utilities included! Frankly, similar units in the building next door, rent for that much! I recently reported on a 2 bedroom 2 bath unit in Parkview that closed for $242,000! That’s less than $2000 a month to own a unit that would rent for nearly that much anyway. These units are right in the heart of Downtown, right next to Esther Short Park!

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause; yes Vancouver, there are deals to be had in this New Year!

So Long 2019, Hello 2020!

2019 has been a very robust year in America’s Vancouver and now 2020 is upon us. Looking ahead to the new year Vancouver’s urban scene shows no sign of letting off the gas. Kirkland Tower is fully topped out and those shiny new luxury units will become available in about a year. Numerous projects are underway, several underneath a tower crane. 2020 should be a solid year.

This past week saw a fair bit of inventory disappear. Five units went pending and nothing new was listed. The holiday period is usually quiet but as I have said time and again, buyers and sellers tend to be rather serious during the holidays.

Projects to keep an eye on in the coming year include existing developments, projects under construction, and a few proposed projects as well.

I’m keeping a sharp eye on these proposed projects that include condominiums:

Timberhouse is a project originally proposed nearly two years ago. This will be a cross laminated timber building, which at the time would have been the tallest CLT building in the nation. Not any more, but still an ambitious effort and noteworthy for us. I have been unable to get a comment from Summit Development Group in Lake Oswego, OR nor have I seen any recent comments issued in local news media outlets such as The Columbian or The Vancouver Business Journal. It may be they haven’t found investor cash for the project yet, or they are trying to overcome some engineering hurdle. I like this project and if they get it started in 2020, which Barry Cain of Gramor seems to think will happen, this will add both apartments and condos to the mix. My guess is that the condo units in the 12 story Timberhouse will be much more reasonably priced than those going into Kirkland Tower.

The Trestle is a project that was proposed by the development duo Kaiser + PATH. This is another CLT project planned to be even taller than Timberhouse. At 16 floors it would be the tallest CLT building in the USA. It should be noted that Kaiser + PATH has plans for a 36 story CLT building in Portland that would be the tallest CLT building in the WORLD. This was also planned as a mixed apartment / condo building but little details have been released and I have seen no further comment from the company since the original story broke in The Columbian back in March.

Waterfront East is a project proposed by Kirkland for the lot(s) currently occupied by local waterfront restaurants, Who Song and Larrys and Joes Crab Shack. There was quite a bit of press on this as Kirkland originally proposed razing the two restaurants and erecting two high rise buildings on the site. That later was dialed back to a single high rise and two small river front mixed use buildings that would allow the two existing restaurants to continue operating while the project was erected and then offering them leases in the new structures. This was to have condos as part of the mix. I haven’t heard much else on this project but I imagine Kirkland will get back to it after the Block 4 property is closer to completion. The Indigo Hotel is expected to be ready in mid-2020 and the Kirkland Tower condos possibly at the end of 2020 or perhaps Q1 2021. Maybe this project will move to the “front burner” by mid 2020.

I am also looking forward to the completion of Kirkland Tower likely in 2020. This is a 12 story condo tower with luxury waterfront units that should be priced deep into the 7 figure world. There are only 40 units here but the 12th floor is a rooftop community penthouse and patio which should be rather spectacular.

Existing condo projects to keep a keen eye on for 2020 include the following:

Parkview at Vancouver Center. The final tower is now topped out, more or less. Existing units in Parkview that face the interior of that four building project are now feeling the full impact of the new building. It is quite bit darker for those east facing units and that is no doubt affecting pricing. Units in Parkview facing the Park are unaffected. Buyers looking for  a deal on a downtown condo need not look any further than this opportunity. The east facing units have always had a view looking directly into the windows of the much taller Vancouver Center 3 office tower. There was at least some light and peek-a-boo views to the north east and or south east. Now the south east is blocked by an equally tall tower. Seventh floor units will be notably brighter than lower floors. Further impacting this Parkview building is the Holland Partner Group project on Block Ten making its way through the permitting process. the block is currently serving as a staging area for the aforementioned fourth tower at Vancouver Center. Now that the fourth building is topped out, Holland will soon begin on Block Ten which is a project tall enough to impact the remaining peek-a-boo views on east facing units in Parkview. These east units could become the best deal Downtown.

Viewpoint at Vancouver Center. The final tower is short enough that the views in the much taller Viewpoint are almost immune. 8th and 9th floor south facing windows may have a slight obstruction when looking downward through windows and higher units on the 10th and 11th floors should be unaffected. The real focus in this project is the impact of the 40 units in Kirkland Tower. In particular the Kirkland units on floors 7 through 11. Viewpoint has been the highest condo tower in the city since it opened in 2004. Units in Viewpoint are very nice but they are starting to show their age a bit. Kirkland units will be brand new and modern. They will also be just as tall and right on the shiny new Vancouver Waterfront. It’s hard to say if units in Viewpoint will feel any ill-effects from the Kirkland Tower since Kirkland units are expected to be much more expensive and there are only 40 units in that new building. I’d like to think that Kirkland may actually bring people indirectly to Viewpoint. Some may find the 7 figure pricing to be an obstacle and may ‘discover’ Viewpoint.

I’m looking forward to a bright new year for Vancouver’s Urban Living.

Latest Urban Buzz: What’s Happening at Parkview?

As expected the activity this past week was light with a net gain of no-change.  one unit pending unit did close however. I spent some time updating more data on the Vancouver urban condo scene including a page with some maps showing the relative locations of many of the projects tracked on this site. Check it out here.

West side of Parkview tower

I wanted to take a moment to discuss the Parkview Condos at Vancouver Center. Some of you may have noticed that there are certain units in that project with prices that seem to be falling precipitously. You may also notice that some have remained steady. maybe you are wondering, “what gives?” Well the sky is not falling over Vancouver Center, but rather the fourth tower is rising up. The new tower is taller than both park facing towers and all of the units facing east in Parkview are now a little darker and nearly devoid of any view. East facing units are now dropping in price and since the new tower has no effect on west facing units those are sitting pretty. If a buyer is looking for a value condo, east facing Parkview units are an absolute steal right now!

Vancouver Center 4 is topped out and moving along nicely. Those 118 units will be available sometime in the second half of 2020. The apartment units coming into downtown will allow more business to expand downtown in the restaurant, breweries and shops arena as more people create more opportunity for retail/restaurant business models.

The Aria is also scheduled to open in late 2020, that building is not as far along as Vancouver Center 4 but none-the-less ought to be able to add yet another 128 units to the Esther Short Park area.

Closer to Midtown, Our Heroes place is nearly complete. The Ed Tower is done and the Dolly Tower is finishing out the interior space. That will add much needed units and even some fully furnished units. Also in Midtown, Angelo is busy building the Mill Plain II tower at Mill Plain and C Street. That tower will compliment the tower on the opposite lot at the Mill Plain entrance to Downtown.

2020 should be a barn burner for Vancouver as numerous projects finish up and even more get underway. Sit back and enjoy the ride as Vancouver USA rises up. Happy Holidays to all and a prosperous New Year!

Ho, Ho, Ho, Things are on the Go

Yes the holidays can slow things down but things are still humming along in Urban Vancouver. Block 20 on the Waterfront is finishing up the ground prep before the big dig. Block D at Terminal One is already deep enough to hide full sized construction excavators. Vancouver Center tower 4 is topped out. Cascadia Development is well underway on the Aria, and Angelo’s mixed use tower is starting to rise off the ground at Mill Plain and C street. Construction is rather robust at the moment and several large projects are likely to start in 2020. I’d imagine we could have close to a half dozen tower cranes up by mid year.

Meanwhile the Urban Condo Market saw some more inventory tightening as several units closed and no new ones were listed this past week. Pricing is steady however as both demand and inventory are more or less in check.

For those looking for a downtown urban living opportunity to own at an affordable price both Academy Square and Parkview have units priced well under $250k. The Academy Square project is an older pre-war building that has been converted to condos. The full block is nicely cared for and what it lacks in modern design and efficiency it more than makes up for in value. Parkview has the modern design and efficiency as well as excellent security and underground parking. Some may be turned off by the seemingly high HOA dues, but those dues do include both heating and cooling along with water and garbage so that makes it less than it seems. The Parkside units are a bit more expensive, but if you are willing to take one of the interior courtyard units which suffer from less daylight and views blocked by other nearby high rises, these are an excellent value. Right next door in Vancouver Center Apartments rents for a 1 bedroom run $1500-$1800 and the Parkview interior units would cost about that with 5% down. You can own an urban condo in Vancouver for about the same as it costs to rent. You can not do that in Portland.

Things are definitely on the go as we approach the new year.

There is Investor Money Waiting to Be Spent

The local urban condo market was again light on activity with an inventory net gain/loss of zero units. One unit sold and closed and a single unit was listed in its place. It seems inventory and activity are in holiday mode.

Meanwhile on the national front, you may have noticed that the stock market rallied to some all time highs and then pulled back a bit. The market cap value of the US Stock Market is somewhere in the $45 trillion range and yes that is trillion with a “T”. This latest “profit taking” session reduced the value of the market by a few percentage points and that adds up to a few hundred billion dollars in investment cash that has to go somewhere. Investors are not interested it sitting on idle cash. That cash often finds its way into major real estate projects like what we have going on here in America’s Vancouver.

Although the developers that have proposed projects in the pipeline are quite unlikely to admit they don’t have enough investment cash to get started, my gut says that is exactly the case for a few of these projects that are on the proverbial “back burner.”

All of that on the table, there has been a sizable amount of investment cash introduced to the investment capital firms and a great deal of this will find its way into the Portland-Vancouver metro market. We are one of the hottest commercial and multifamily real estate markets in the nation. I suspect that a few of these projects that are planned will get an inflow of investor support and break ground in the first half of 2020. I’d like to see Gramor get that 14 story 80 unit condo tower going and it would be nice if the units were priced under $1 million. 80 units times say an average price of $800k adds up to $64,000,000. The total cost to build both the condo tower and the Indigo Hotel has been estimated at $100 million. So I’d imagine at least half of that project cost is the Kirkland Tower. If I extrapolate that to the 14 story block 16 project planned by Gramor $800k per unit should pencil as respectably profitable. For the record, Gramor has not pushed this project very hard yet and it could be a smaller or larger project depending on how it all comes together. I’d like to see more condo opportunities and perhaps Barry Cain does too.

I would hope that local elected officials would participate in the efforts to get Vancouver USA exposed to the larger national markets rather than relying almost exclusively on Pacific Northwest investors. Let’s go Madam Mayor, there is work to do!

Quiet Week in the Resale Urban Condo Market

Last week was about as quiet as it gets. Not one new urban condo listing, nor a pending, nor a price change, and just one closing. Wow must of been a holiday week 😉

Urban housing construction downtown and on the waterfront is mostly apartments these days and that is certainly been due to a heavy demand for rental units. The condo market however is also doing quite well and many buyers want to own a piece of Vancouver’s urban scene. The only condo project currently under construction is the 12 story Kirkland Tower. This project is now fully topped out and looks to be on schedule for a late 2020 or early 2021 completion. These are 40 units that are definitely aimed at the top of the market. Units are expected to fetch between one and five million dollars.

The Columbia, Block 20

There are several other residential projects underway in the downtown and waterfront areas. The Columbia project from San Francisco based Jackson Square is slated for some 250 apartment units on Block 20 at the Waterfront. This project is seeing ground work in the form of a garage dig out happening now. Local firm and current manager of the Parkview Apartments at Vancouver Center in tower 1, Holland Partner Group is nearly topped out on the Vancouver Center tower 4. This project  will add another 115 or so units downtown. Another local developer, Cascadia Development Partners has a tower crane operating at the site of their Aria project bringing another 128 units a half block west of Esther Short Park on West 6th street. That structure is rising up now. Our Heroes Place opened the furnished apartments in the ‘Ed Tower’ recently and is nearly complete on the ‘Dolly Tower’ with a total of about 50 units. Al Angelo’s Mill Plain II project was revised to include some residential units but details are sketchy on that, a tower crane is in operation on the site as the base ground work and concrete construction is underway. There are several other smaller projects including some income restricted affordable housing rising up in and around Downtown and Uptown.

Aegis, Phase 1 left, Phase 2 top

There are a few projects proposed that appear to be very near approval. I am genuinely excited about a few of them including Marathon’s Aegis at the Academy. This project will enhance the area around one of our oldest surviving structures and a beautiful example of classic brick architecture. The area where this project is going just north of the Library is currently underutilized parking and in bad shape. This will add some retail and 134 apartment units. The land sale to enable this project is going into the preservation funds for the Academy building. Since Marathon has already submitted a proposal for the second phase, I feel the first phase is nearly ready to break ground.

I would like to see more condo projects proposed. I really feel like condo developers are waiting to see what happens with Kirkland Tower. The problem is that Kirkland is only 40 units and I feel like that project is small enough to succeed regardless and may not be an accurate barometer. What is a more significant measure of Downtown market strength is the success of renting the expensive waterfront apartments in the $3500-$5000 a month range. Residents able to afford that much rent can qualify to buy a condo in the $500-700k range.

Gramor Development, the Waterfront Master Developer, has plans for a 14 story 80 unit condo tower on Block 16. No formal proposal has been submitted yet and I feel that there is a “wait and see” happening. Those 80 units need not be as plush and expensive as the Kirkland units.

Vancouver does not have any many high end units in high-rise projects downtown, I feel that Kirkland will have little trouble selling those 40 units. The short marketing time for units in the high-rise Viewpoint project and the activity at Tidewater Cove east of downtown in a suburban setting is robust with expensive units selling reasonably fast. We have the market we just need a few more developers to jump in.

It would also be nice to see some townhouse style units go in around mid-town or Uptown to bring some middle income earners to the area. Things are going well and the construction activity is booming in the urban core of Vancouver USA.

Latest Urban Update

A new page tracking construction cranes in Vancouver’s Downtown is live here.

On the urban condo front, 1 new listing, 0 pending, 4 closed. Quiet week for inventory but that is to be expected this time of season.

The CCRA had its meeting on Thursday. The bulk of the time was spent going over a fairly comprehensive review of the so called, “Waterfront Gateway” and how that 6.5 acres may be developed. The meeting went over the public input as well as local government vision for the area.

One of the CCRA board members was concerned about drawing families to the area. This is an idea with which I agree, but I also have serious reservations about the city having the will to do what needs to be done to bring families to the Downtown

Families are typically interested in a more suburban style of living with less crowds,  less traffic, less crime, and an overall perception of a good environment for their children. Those families seeking a more walk-able urban setting might be inclined to seek out Arnada or Hough as they are close in but still more like a residential neighborhood.

This area south of City Hall is not that. It will not be that in the future. Bringing families to an urban neighborhood means that the families have already given up the notion of a quiet culdesac for the kiddies to ride their bikes. The biggest hurdle that remains is the problem with transients camping on the street out front. Parents are unlikely to want to have their children subjected to the potential or perceived dangers associated with this issue. Political entities tend to shy away from discussing it but it is the elephant in the room should the city be serious about attracting families to the downtown core.

Many citizens are concerned with affordable housing and that is a legitimate concern. But this gateway area is not the location for that type of housing. The reason is that the land value is too high. Vancouver Housing Authority has done a fabulous job of providing income restricted housing all over the city and any affordable housing in this new development zone will need to be “relatively affordable” rather than actually affordable otherwise the projects simply won’t pencil.

It never fails however that people will see the rental prices in the area and freak out because they don’t see it as affordable. But if it is substantially below the market rate then it is relatively affordable and that is really the best that can be done with this high density, valuable land.

One of the citizen comments during the meeting referred to the waterfront with this: ‘ordinary people can visit the waterfront, but they can’t afford to eat there or live there’. He was partially right as the rents on the waterfront are definitely well above the reach of a typical earner. But I am not sure what the gentlemen considers “ordinary” people. Several of the venues on the waterfront are reasonably priced and definitely are within reach of people earning less than the median wage in Vancouver.

Downtown properties are going to be a little bit more expensive than properties in Minnehaha, Hazel Dell, Orchards, etc. They just are. There are many areas in Vancouver including some very nice middle class neighborhoods that have land values suitable for truly affordable housing. The Waterfront and lower Downtown are simply not affordable.

25 years ago Downtown Vancouver was an absolute crap-hole. Now it is a nice bustling urban center with lots to do and see. It is clean and safe and evolving into the envy of the region. Why on Earth would anyone want to go back to the way it was in the early 1990s? If the city doesn’t get a handle on the local homeless crisis it will absolutely return to the dark and grimy days of the early 1990s. There is a lot of public and private money on the line here and Vancouver need only look south of the river to see what can happen when city governments do not get their house in order. Portland was once a beautiful city with clean and safe streets; it is now a wretched mess so out of control that it may never recover.

Vancouver city officials are well advised to look at the Rose City as an example to avoid rather than one to emulate.