Progress Continues on Future of Downtown

In the face of the pandemic, lockdowns, and a slower flow of investor cash, the city trudges along with plans for Downtown including several projects in the pipeline on the waterfront. The city has dived deep into the process for the new “Waterfront Gateway” district just south of City Hall and the Convention Center. This area will likely be ready for development proposals within the next few years. By the time it is ready, the 21 blocks of the Waterfront should be 60-70% committed or completed.

The city intends for Gateway to be a more “affordable” area for middle class people rather than the more upscale waterfront properties. This is a good thing and will ultimately lead to a robust and busy Downtown filled with a variety of Vancouver’s residents enjoying the amenities of an increasingly ‘chic’ area.

In addition to the master planned districts on the Waterfront and Gateway, there are a number of quality urban infill projects taking underdeveloped properties and bringing them up to modern urban standards. The following is a partial list of urban infill projects underway or in the pipline:

  • Residences at Arnada – VHA
  • Hudson West – Cascadia Development Partners
  • Bennett Apartments – Hurley Development
  • WXV Apartments – Ginn Development
  • Tinkerton Lofts – VHA

If we can sustain the economic growth we had prior to the outbreak Vancouver’s Greater Downtown area should really blossom into the best urban neighborhood in the entire metro area. Let’s hope the upcoming vaccines for COVID 19 are effective and we can move past this Corona Virus debacle.

Meanwhile activity was pretty typical for urban condos this past week. Inventory remained flat and prices are steady.

New Lockdown Will Test Economic Resiliency

Governor Inslee has dropped the hammer on Washington again as COVID cases surge across the country. These new rules take effect today and they are nearly as draconian as those we had in the spring.

Restaurants and retailers will take one on the chin, again. It appears that construction will continue under the current guidelines so that bodes well for all of our projects underway now all over the city. But these lockdowns will make investors nervous about funding projects. This is potentially dangerous for Vancouver’s ambitious efforts to remake the waterfront and continue years of success on revitalize the Downtown area.

The Governor has indicated a four week period of this heavy lockdown, so hopefully we will see a reduction in caseload an an easing on restrictions as we head into the typically busy holiday season.

There is also a recent report showing mass exodus from many large US cities. Cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and others are fleeing in larger numbers than at anytime since the post WW-II suburban boom. Back in the 1950s the exodus was to the “new” suburban developments offering the quiet streets, white picket fences, and lovely Sunday strolls down tree lined lanes. But today the exodus is a mixed bag. Yes some are in fact following in their grandparents footsteps and heading to the ‘burbs. This is particularly true in New York City where a recent NY Times article lays out the “insane demand” for suburban property in the greater NYC area. But a recent moving company report shows that many of these big city dwellers are not heading to the suburbs, but rather to other large cities that are not quite AS large. Cities like Denver, CO; Austin, TX; Raleigh, NC; and even Spokane, WA are among the top destinations in the country right now. People are a bit tired of the cities that have become nearly unlivable with lousy quality of life, are overpriced and overtaxed.

In our immediate market, there is a bit of an exodus of locals out of Portland and many are headed to Vancouver. Both the suburbs and the city is seeing pressure on real estate and the only reason Portland isn’t mentioned as a city shedding population is due to the fact Portland is gaining new out of state residents as fast as they are losing natives.

The local urban housing market remains tight with well priced units moving swiftly. Vancouver is a great alternative for Portlanders looking to retain some of the city style without Portland’s “other” issues. Vancouver also offers a satisfying selection of the suburbs from the classic 1950s right on through every decade since.

Sell Off? Perhaps.

This past week saw a sharp rise in new listings that on the surface may look like a sell off. But is it really? Dig a little deeper and one might come to a different conclusion. There were half a dozen condos that showed up as new listings this week which is about double any other week thus far in 2020. But closer inspection reveals that half of those were actually new listings for the same property that was previously listed by another firm. So in reality it seems that we had about a normal week as far as inventory goes with a +2 to net inventory.

Kirkland has set up what appears to be a sales office in the nearby Murdock office tower. I’ll be checking that out this week to see if formal pricing is available yet on the eagerly awaited Luxury condo tower on Block 4.

In other Downtown news, Ryan Hurley’s plans for a second office condo tower are likely cancelled as a recent transaction shows the associated property was sold to the State of Washington. That makes sense as a future bridge project would have been hampered by an office tower at that location. I’m not sure if Hurley is planning the project on another site or whether the project will simply die. I’ll have to keep you posted on that one. Hurley has a number of large projects in development and/or under construction all over the city.

Leasing is now underway at the long awaiting Vancouver Center, Tower 4. Holland Partner Group is calling the apartment building the “Coen” and units should be available for occupancy before the end of this month. That project features 118 apartments in five floors over a 1.5 story podium. The podium is basically one level on the northside and 2 levels on the south side to account for slope in the block.

The Columbia project on Block 20 of the Waterfront is rising up rather quickly now as the crews are installing the wood frame portion of the building. That building may reach its maximum height this month or at least be topped out in December. The 7 story 248 unit building will likely become the largest single structure apartment building in Vancouver by unit count.

Cascadia Development Partners is in the final stretch of their Aria Project on West 6th near the park. The 7 story apartment building is likely to be ready for tenants in Q1, 2021. The building has a rather typical 5 over 2 setup with parking on 2 levels  in the rear and two story townhouse style apartments on the ground level facing W. 6th. Five levels of traditional apartment flats are up top.

Several other large scale projects remain in the process of permitting and more information should flow out soon. COVID-19 has slowed that process down a bit.

Time To Vote Vancouver

It’s election time and 2020 has been one ‘helluva’ a year, hasn’t it? Be sure to vote if you haven’t already. It’s not just about the President, down ballot is equally important. We have county charter positions open as well as all the state legislators that have an impact on us locally more than the President does.

Here in Vancouver the county and city often have to work together and sometimes are at odds, so choosing the best candidate to move us forward is important. We live in a local community and the local issues impact us every day versus national issues that are important but if we are honest about it, they tend to be less invasive on a daily basis than state and local regulations and laws.

Our city and county write the regulations, and planning that will impact us every day. Transportation, development, parks, mass transit, homelessness, drugs, crime, and so much more are determined by the path chosen at the local level. So sure, cast your vote for President, Either Joe Biden or Donald Trump, or a third party candidate like Jo Jorgenson; cast your vote for Governor either Jay Inslee or Loren Culp, but pay close attention to the details in those measures, tax proposals, and local offices, they are every bit as important and in my opinion MORE important than the national office.

A fair bit of activity this past week as a several new urban condo listings went active and a few pending and closed as well. About +2 to inventory. Things are still solid locally let’s just hope the after effects of the election outcome are calm and quiet.

New Urban Condo Inventory

Several new listings for urban condos appeared on the MLS this week. There were enough to offset the pending and closed transactions adding about +4 to inventory. Vancouver USA however remains tight on urban condos and very tight on units in the Downtown area. Pricing seems to be flat across the board and activity is robust in the lower ranges of price, solid in the mid ranges and a little slower at the higher end priced in 7 figures.

Real estate remains one of the bright spots in an economy that has been severely slowed under the conditions mandated by COVID 19 response efforts. Urban condos and suburban homes are flying off the proverbial shelves in absolute defiance of the economic downturn created by the invisible enemy, Corona Virus. This is a strong tale of a stalwart population determined to not only survive the pandemic but to thrive in its wake.

Locally in the Vancouver market there is an amazing level of activity in construction as well as resale real estate sales. The urban core in Vancouver is seeing construction of large projects on a scale not seen at least in the last 20 years perhaps dating all the way to WWII when the ‘Couv’ quadrupled in size in THREE years!

Things are booming in the local real estate market and hopefully in 2021 we can get past the virus and continue this epic quest of completing the waterfront transformation and filling in the urban area in Downtown.

Timberhouse Project Replaced

Timberhouse is no more. A new project, “The Third” is going in instead. Summit Development showed up at last Thursday’s City Center Redevelopment Authority meeting with a very different project for Block 3 on the Waterfront. Timberhouse was to be a 12 story multi-wing CLT building. CLT projects have been having some trouble lately and it seems Timberhouse was no exception. I am not sure what the deal is, the meeting recording has not been released by the city yet. CLT is faster and less expensive than traditional towers that rely on the concrete and steel style design. There have been some issues in the CLT industry recently and complications may have arisen as a result. We shall keep an eye out for more information about the fate of Timberhouse and the rise of ‘The Third’.

This new project appears to be a more traditional mid-rise design, likely to be constructed with a 3-4 floor concrete and steel pedestal with 1-2 floors underground and then 5 more wood frame floors up top for a total of 8 above ground. Although the building is shorter it will have just about as many units as were planned in the Timberhouse project. Of course the name Timberhouse loses its luster when the building isn’t actually a cross laminated timber structure, right? Yes, so now it’s dubbed “The Third.” We’ll see if that name sticks 🙂 But it should have little trouble sailing through the process since the Waterfront is a master-planned site and this structure is above the minimum density and should be well below the FAA height restrictions coming in at only 116 feet tall at the roofline.

This new building is shorter by 4 floors than the previous design, but the number of units is actually higher. The structure will have larger floor plates. I really liked the Timberhouse design and am sad that it isn’t getting built. That said, this new project is going to bring 277 (correction 10/21/2020, city website had some dyslexia, 227 units in this proposal) new units to the downtown / waterfront area. One notable thing is that they described the units as apartments, the original Timberhouse was suggested to be a mix of apartments and condos. The Third will be an apartment building.

The Aegis at the Academy project submitted some minor changes to the design that adds 7 additional units at the expense of some of the retail space. There were also a few minor aesthetic revisions. This project should be under construction soon. 

Urban condos in Vancouver saw similar activity over the last week that has been seen most of this year. There were several new listings that bumped inventory positive a bit, yet several units came online and immediately went pending. We are slightly up on urban condo inventory this week.

Vancouver Rides Into Q4 with New Cranes

Holland Partner Group has the base for the tower crane set in concrete at the bottom of a deep hole in Block Ten. That tower crane should be up and operating this week. The City has to be relieved to see that finally after nearly 30 years the last of the Brewery Blocks is under construction. The City of Vancouver purchased four full city blocks in 1993 that were owned by General Brewing Co and occupied by the Lucky Lager Brewery. These were the blocks that gave birth to the beginning of our amazing downtown revitalization with two excellent projects, Heritage Place Condos and the Vancouver Center. Although I remain a bit salty about Holland’s decision to scale back the height of this full block project, I’d imagine some condo owners in Viewpoint are quite happy about it.

I am also quite pleased to see that activity is buzzing again at the Terminal One AC Marriott hotel site. As I suspected they had a some extra issues getting it going according to a recent article in the Columbian, with COVID 19 and with lenders a bit nervous about the industry in a potential “post COVID” world. I think hotels are going to bounce back hard after the crisis ends. I drove by a couple days ago and saw the frame work for a tower crane base going in.

Meanwhile around the area, Angelo is finishing up the exterior of Mill Plain II as is Cascadia on the Aria project. I mentioned last time that Holland is leasing units now for occupancy next month in the “Coen” at Vancouver Center Tower 4.

I’ve noticed that there are some sky high rents in some of the larger and more “luxurious” units that have gone in at the Waterfront and some other downtown apartment buildings. Some rents are advertised into five figures at times. Yes I have seen advertised rates for premium units in River West and Our Heroes place in the 5k to 11k a month range. If these units are supporting that kind of rent there is no reason Gramor can’t make a tidy sum building the 80 unit 14 story condo tower on Block 16 of the Waterfront. Just sayin’, build it.

Vancouver’s local urban condo inventory tightened again this past week making the prospect of Block 16 even stronger. But as I have said over and over, I think Gramor and or the investors, want to see what happens with the 40 units in the the 12 story Kirkland Tower before plunking down 50-60 million to build that tower. Kirkland should have those units ready for occupancy sometime in Q2, 2021.

The Largest and Tallest Hotel

Well how about that title? Where do you think this 14 story hotel is going? Waterfront? Downtown? Vancouver? Nay to the trey. According to a story in The Columbian, this sleek new hotel is slated to rise up over the Ilani Casino in Ridgefield. Any of you that have traveled north on I-5 towards Woodland may have seen the tower crane presiding over the construction of a giant seven story, 2700 space parking structure. I’m pretty sure that is the largest structured parking garage in the county. The casino had always planned on erecting a hotel as the third phase of the project, but I didn’t expect something this tall. The Cowlitz tribe did team up with the Mohegan tribe in New England that has a fair bit of experience with casinos and resorts. I’m not complaining, mind you, that casino is a large facility and I believe the Cowlitz Indians are trying make it a destination resort rather than a local daytrip spot. I’d also imagine that many locals will not be happy about a genuine high rise busting up over the local farms and pastures of the north county. Ahh don’t worry about it, it’s all good.

So what about Vancouver? Well it has been business as usual this past week but inventory on urban condos bumped up a few units so that may help buyers a tad. This bucks the local trends for 2020.

Construction continues on several mid-rise projects underway on the waterfront and downtown. The “Coen” as Holland Partner Group has named Vancouver Center tower 4 is expected to open to renters next month. Cascadia Development Partners, Aria apartment project just NW of City Hall is now finishing up exterior siding and trim, that seven story project should be open for occupancy late in Q1 2021. The Columbia, on block 20 at the Waterfront is wrapping up the fourth floor, the second of the five wood frame levels being built over the multi-level base. This should become the largest single structure residential building in Vancouver at least by unit count with 248 units planned for the nine story structure including seven floors over two underground parking levels.

On Block Ten Downtown, Holland has dug a big hole and started erecting the tower crane that will preside over the construction of a multi-level full block podium and two towers up top. Although this project was scaled back from a pair of towers totaling 11 and 7 stories to 6 and 7 it is still a full block project that will fill the last of the Lucky Lager blocks and finally have the long vacant block on the NE corner of Esther Short Park developed.

Feel free to post your comments below about these projects.

Activity is BUZZING!

Loads of pending sales and closed deals in the urban condo market this past week. A few new listings came online but the inventory tightened a bit with robust activity across the broad spectrum of pricing from Parkview to Tidewater Cove.

Vancouver’s downtown is now a major hotspot as some Portlanders have had enough of the chaos in the streets of the Pearl. This should bode well for sellers of mid-rise and high-rise units locally. It also should help Kirkland sell those 40 units in his Waterfront Block 4 tower pretty fast.

The Vancouver City Center Redevelopment Authority had a series of meetings recently that resulted in some positive energy. They moved the Evergreen/Hurley full block apartment project forward to the City Council. It seems this will replace the Hyatt Place Hotel that was fully green lit by the city earlier this year. My guess is that COVID 19 scared off the money for a hotel project. Lodging and accommodations as well as conventions are definitely taking one for the team in this pandemic. Hurley was quick to replace the project and the new 170 unit building will fit nicely into that slot. Not gonna lie, I really liked the idea of the 6th floor rooftop bar on the Hyatt project 😉

The CCRA spent a fair amount of time with a number of professional designers, architects and such discussing the development area known as Waterfront Gateway. The city is thinking about a ‘themed’ district for the area. Although the CCRA was not one hundred percent onboard with the flow plan proposed by some of the guests, they definitely were on board with the broad brush plan. The notion to have gateway be the center of a three section flow from Esther Short Park through the gateway district under or over the BNSF railway berm and into the Waterfront.

This is going to really complete the whole lower downtown experience. Portland won’t know what hit them. Check out the CCRA information at this link here.

Autumn Winds Bring Change

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

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

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

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

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

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