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.

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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.

Careful, Urban Views can be Fleeting

Buyers of urban style high-rise condos should be very aware of local plans and proposed new projects as they can often have a temporary or permanent effect on the quality of life for existing residents in existing developments.

Urban living is not just about an 11th floor condo overlooking the city, river, mountains, etc. It is also very much about the lifestyle. Living in the thick of things with easy walking access to a large list of venues for food, entertainment, and events.

For many a view is important and having that view last more than just a few months or years could be an important issue for many potential homeowners. New high-rise projects almost always cause some disruption to nearby residents and businesses as the tower cranes and work crews sometime cause detours and street closures along with a little dust and noise. This is temporary and many times the new project is a great improvement over the last use for the land either a vacant lot or under developed run down structure.

Google maps with unofficial representations of proposed and approved projects near Vancouver Center.

But there are times when the new building is tall enough to block the view of other nearby developments. Sometimes people sell their units in these “doomed” view buildings and they may not necessarily point out that the new structure proposed and approved by the city for construction will have a negative effect. This of course is a permanent problem as opposed to the temporary inconvenience of construction.

Right here in Vancouver USA we have a rather robust flurry of building activity in both the Downtown and Waterfront areas. Two projects are in place to cause some permanent view obstructions to a series of units in Vancouver Center, Heritage Place, and Smith Tower.

Parkview Tower in Vancouver Center is a bold example of this ‘price of progress’ problem. Parkview is aptly named considering half the units in the building actually face Esther Short Park. Esther Short Park is recorded on the National Register of Historic Places and thus will not be leveled to make way for any large high-rise projects in the future. Units facing the park will always enjoy the views over the park. But the units on the opposite side of the building currently have a more “urban” view looking across a small courtyard into the windows of the Vancouver Center 3 Office/Condo Tower which is much taller than Parkview. Some of those units that are close to the ends have views either to the northeast or southeast looking over vacant lots.

This view is ‘doomed’ When Block Ten rises up 11 floors in 2020-21

Those looking to the southeast will lose these views by the end of this year as the long-awaited Vancouver Center Tower 4 is slated to break ground next month. That tower will be as tall or taller than Parkview Tower, thus eliminating the current view of the South Main District and peek-a-boo Columbia River views.

Later on next year the superstructure of the new 11 story tower on the ‘Block Ten’ lot will eliminate the northeast views for Parkview. Many people, even Realtors® can’t seem to wrap their heads around why the units facing west over the park are priced so much higher. It’s the view! And the view is forever versus the views in east facing units that are in effect doomed.

Interior unit view, unaffected, already obstructed

Buyers need to be aware of projects that are in the pipeline and how they might affect the view of a home they are considering. Even if a view is unimportant to the buyer, the future obstruction could have a negative impact on property values.

At Parkview the interior east facing units are not likely to be affected by these projects because they already look out into the side of a building. These views are already obstructed and have been for many years. These units also are priced lower as a result. It’s the east facing corner units that have a view now but will soon have a view similar to the interior units. Realtors® list these units and show the “views” but often fail to mention that these views are not likely to persist. They may not be aware that these new projects are even in play.

Buyers, be careful and do not be afraid to ask direct questions to your real estate agent about the likely hood of the views being obstructed. No one knows for sure what may or may not happen in the future, but in this case we have a building going up this year that will affect views and another that is very likely to go up shortly after that affecting other views.

This Week in Urban Vancouver

It seems like there has been a bit of an inventory bump at Northwynd Condos in the Columbia Shores area. Several Northwynd units have been listed this past week while one went pending. Meanwhile other units in the Columbia Shores neighborhood have remained steady, the waterfront unit at the Village closed they got 99.5% of full price. Also in Columbia Shores, a Meriwether unit that was withdrawn is now back on the market this two-story condo has a waterfront patio and spectacular views. 3105 SF listed at $2.45 million.

Downtown high-rise developments saw no new inventory this week and no new pending units. The recent snowy weather has no doubt softened the number of showings on these and other housing units in the area. Buyers willing the brave the elements can have an advantage sometimes as the perception for sellers is different when fewer showings are happening, even when the cause is likely only temporary.

Parkview at Vancouver Center continues to offer a relative value in Downtown Vancouver. These units in general are a little less “plush” than the luxury units in Viewpoint, but the west-facing units feature a nice view of Esther Short Park. They suffer a little from higher HOA fees than nearby Viewpoint, but the units themselves tend to be 30-50% less expensive making Parkview an attractive proposition for Downtown urban condos.

Meanwhile on the new waterfront; Kirkland has erected the first crane to help build the Hotel Indigo and the Kirkland Tower Condos. The Kirkland Tower is a 12 story building that just scrapes the bottom of the FAA height limit due to its close proximity to the Pearson Airfield. The Tower crane will need to be raised an additional 50-70 feet to 250 feet, in the summer with a special permit from the FAA. Kirkland will need to remove the crane by autumn to remain in compliance with regulations.

At this point there is no indication of an expected delay in the scheduled 2020 opening of both facilities. These units have no ‘official’ pricing, but the local rumor mill is producing figures in the $1 million to $4 million range depending on size and view.

Rediviva is actively filling up their beautiful new mid-rise apartment building on the waterfront and the much larger Riverwest building should start leasing this spring. So long as demand for both rental and sale units remains solid, the waterfront and downtown construction boom should boost activity for resale condos in the area.

What’s New in Urban Vancouver?

This week on Vancouver’s urban living scene there has been some activity in real estate that’s worth noting. Some additional units have sold, no new units have come online for sale so in effect inventory has tightened.

Despite that a few units have had price reductions, a couple are too small to really matter but one notable reduction of $50,000 on a 10th floor unit in Viewpoint at Vancouver Center now priced at $950,000.

There is a coming soon listing in Parkview at Vancouver Center that will be active on the local MLS in a week or two. This unit will feature a view of Esther Short Park with one of the coveted larger covered patios. It is expected to be listed at $355,000 which appears to be in line with similar units facing the park, recently listed and sold or pending in the building.

Vancouver USA’s urban living scene is only getting better as construction of new and exciting projects on the waterfront continue to draw regional attention to the greater downtown area.

New Units For Sale at Parkview!

A couple of additional units were listed this month at Parkview and these are reasonably priced. There is a large difference in price between units that face the park and those that face the interior of the Vancouver Center complex. But aside from the wide open park view that the west-facing units offer, the rest of the amenities of living at Parkview are equal. You are still right downtown, right in the thick of Vancouver USA’s urban renewal. Check out the new listings here.

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.

Vancouver Center 4 Modified, Again

Vancouver Center 4 is back in the news with the Columbian reporting in October, that construction should start in March.

Last year, Vancouver based, Holland Partner Group proposed a ten story light gauge steel structure for the site which would have housed 194 apartment units. The light gauge steel design has not been fully vetted for a west coast seismic zone so it seems that the alternative 6 story option will play out with 116 units and roughly 2000 feet of retail underneath.

Timing is important on this building for two reasons, first the city granted an extension on the special taxation / zoning of the building under the plan originally setup for the project in the early 2000’s. The structure must be done within a set time frame, which is closing in. Waiting on the seismic reporting was no longer an option. Furthermore, the building construction will be staged on Block Ten and Gramor is planning to erect their 11 story project on that block as soon as this project is complete, so again on the timing.

What I find odd is that Holland planned on a ten story structure but now according to the Columbian article is using a steel and concrete two-story base with four wood framed floors over the top. That doesn’t make sense when code allows for five floors up wood frame. The drawing from that same article shows a five wood frame up looking design over a single story concrete base. I imagine that is the plan since a seven story building was never discussed.

Steel and concrete building is time-consuming and expensive, so it is cost-effective to utilize wood framing whenever possible, especially for apartment units. If it is to be a two-story concrete base, it stands to reason the building ought to have seven floors.

Whatever the case may be, the beleaguered Vancouver Center 4 is finally going up and that is good news for downtown.