Latest Urban Buzz

There is a lot of activity happening in Urban Vancouver these days. I’ll go over some updates to the ‘Urban Pipeline’ as well as urban condo activity. The urban projects list saw quite a bit of revision and additions over the last few weeks and the condo activity remains solid.

The most recent CCRA (City Center Redevelopment Authority) meeting on the 19th featured the Holland Partner Group’s presentation on their revised Block Ten proposal. Originally they indicated they would have an 11 story office tower, a 2-3 level parking garage, and a 7 story residential tower. The garage is now slated to cover most of the block with two levels and retail store fronts along the perimeter. The residential tower remains intact as five floors of apartments over two floors of parking/retail. The office tower has been scaled down to 4 floors of office over two floors of parking/retail. Holland officials cited among other things the construction expenses associated with a high rise structure versus the more affordable options available in mid-rise buildings.

My concern is that if Holland is unable to pencil a large office tower then other potential firms may not find it feasible either. Vancouver needs the housing they are building and deserve kudos for getting some excellent projects from paper to product. Downtown also needs more good paying jobs and office towers are certainly a place where companies employ highly educated and skilled personnel. Holland should have been able to feel confident in building that original tower. City leaders need to put a committee together to drive business to the Downtown. This may mean sending delegations to major urban centers like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston to pitch the ‘Couv’ as an excellent regional HQ locale or even a full company relocation and/or expansion. There are a lot of tower cranes over in Portland, some of those should be here instead of there.

Block ten is an ideal spot for something taller. Riverview Tower and Vancouver Center are just north and south respectively and feature taller structures. I suppose the tenants in the south facing upper floors of Riverview Tower are delighted with the new shorter building proposal as are those in Vancouver Center Tower 3 at 700 Washington Street.  Holland is planning on getting this project started early in 2020 so the smaller building may also help get the project moving faster. There is a time sensitive issue surrounding the opportunity zone requiring certain things be done THIS year. That may be as much a reason to scale back the office tower as actual expenses. Honestly, I hope that it is more about time than financial viability. I do want to see that block developed sooner rather than later. I hate empty downtown lots, they are effectively a blight.

The Academy released information about Marathon’s plans for a second phase at the Academy site. You may remember that they are pushing the project called ‘Aegis’ through the permitting process and should break ground sometime in the next 6 months. Phase two is similar and will occupy the north side of the 7 acre Academy complex. The drawings released show the local landmark Academy Chimney intact. The other two buildings near the chimney are too far gone to preserve. Don’t forget, that place was erected 150 years ago! I know that the Academy is an important feature in Vancouver’s downtown area and for our local history. I feel like Marathon has done a great job of incorporating elements in their modern design proposals to tie into the character of the historic Academy building. This is a good looking project. I do hope they can save the Chimney, and based on the renderings, that is clearly the intention. Some are opposed to any development on the site, these are often people who believe in the tooth fairy, and that magic money is available for preservation of historic properties. There is no tooth fairy. The Academy grounds are ragged and ugly, the main building looks great, and more money is needed to keep that structure viable in the 21st century. This project will enhance the whole block and allow the continued maintenance and upgrades to the beautiful Academy building and grounds.

On the urban condo scene no new units appeared on the market this past week. One pending unit in Columbia Shores however is back on market. There were a couple of price reductions on units that have lingered in the market for a bit. But the inventory tightened up by -2 this week.

Things are looking good in urban Vancouver.

Lower Rents, Bad Sign? Read Further!

Here is the headline from a recent Columbian article regarding the Rediviva Apartment Building at the waterfront: “Waterfront Vancouver’s Rediviva lowers rent, hires new management team.” At first glance this headline might conjure up some negative connotations. Is the Waterfront losing steam? Is there trouble in paradise? But as has been the case for quite some years in the click bait modern media, one must read the entire article to get the “real story.”

The article goes on to state that Rediviva is 88% rented, and with the new competitor next store, Riverwest they want to get the building fully leased by the end of the year. Rediviva has 63 units and Riverwest has 207. Rediviva opened late last year and Riverwest just opened late spring this year. Riverwest has leased to 56% in just a few short months according to direct sources cited in the article.

My two cents is simply this, Rediviva was first to the playground so they rode the carousel first. They had the ONLY riverfront apartments for more than 6 months and they leased them at top dollar, especially those fronting the river. Now they have just a handful of units left, clearly the least desirable of the building and they are discounting to get to full occupancy. In fact they have 55 of 63 units rented they need only rent 4 more units to be at 95% which is considered to be a great occupancy rate. There is no fire, no need to head for exits.

The fact that Riverwest was able to get to more than half full in just 90 days is a spectacular endorsement to the success of the Waterfront. My friends, these are not affordable units, these are luxury units. I have toured multiple apartments in both buildings and they are very nice units that command top of the market pricing. The staff at both Rediviva and Riverwest were friendly, informative, and cheerful. Both of these apartment projects are a tremendous success, if anyone expected better results they are being unreasonable. When Riverwest reaches 75-80% occupancy, I would not be surprised to see a similar move as well to rent the remaining units that are for various reasons less desirable. Urban apartments and condos are in buildings that will have certain units in an unfavorable position, looking into another building’s windows or an obstructed view, etc. This is typical, and experienced urban developers plan for it, it should not be problematic.

Vancouver’s rental market was among the tightest in the nation and they have nowhere to go but down. The fact that 160 high end units were rented in less than a year bodes well for the project as a whole. The more development that gets going the better. I have been preaching to get these projects started while the economy is hot, and the money is flowing.

The waterfront still has most of the blocks empty and that will only be acceptable for a short period, Jackson Square Properties and Summit Development Group ought to get crackin’ on the Block 20 project and the Timberhouse on Block 3 respectively. As the neighborhood develops, it will only garner more demand as long as the economy continues to produce high paying jobs and investment money. Right now it is an incomplete project and some people will hold out until all the services are in place. A downtown grocer would also help, the city has been all over that, I imagine, they will put together a package of incentives to help land a grocer.

The Waterfront is a smashing success and it is imperative to keep the project moving forward with fresh construction underway at all times until it is built out. stagnation is the only thing that will derail the waterfront.

In closing, don’t be a headline chaser, read the article in full to get the ‘real story’.

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.

What if Library Square Went Tall, I Mean Really Tall?

I have been gathering data on projects and various properties for potential projects; I find myself really stuck on Library Square. Library Square is the Library on Evergreen and C Street and the big empty lot next to it that was once a Pontiac – Cadillac auto dealership. The city and committees occasionally go over the proposals for developing this parcel the latest of which includes an assortment of buildings arranged ever so, two mid-rises and a high-rise along with a substantial underground parking garage.

The latest drawings were addressed by the City Center Redevelopment Authority in 2018 and a few updates have been mentioned in meetings since.

I have a couple of issues with the use of this parcel for this project. It all boils down to the concept of highest and best use. This particular parcel is allowed for the highest density possible in Vancouver’s downtown. Vancouver has a series of zones all over the downtown area with building height restrictions and guidelines for development. This parcel is sitting on the urban mother lode. According to the most recent building height map and guidelines, this parcel can have a building 150-300 feet tall. If you look at the photo above you will see 805 Broadway (the red building) it is 165 feet tall. Obviously nothing in the little white models is remotely close to the height of 805 Broadway. Why put little buildings on one of the few lots in the city actually approved for taller buildings? Any of those model buildings could be erected on almost any other available lot downtown without need for any height variance.

Vancouver is pretty specific on that height range. Any building must meet the standard array of requirements for which a proposal is submitted for review. The 150 feet requirement means on that lot just about any building up to that height can be erected on that site providing all other parameters and approvals are met among other things such as FAA clearance. From 150 to 225 feet the city has some leeway to approve the structure providing the city feels the building is bringing other value to the table. Beyond that the building can rise on that lot all the way to 300 feet tall so long as the floor plate above 225 feet is less than 12000 square feet per floor. So the building would effectively get skinnier as it got taller.

So here’s an idea; why not build it tall? There has got to be a major insurance company or bank looking for a regional HQ in the Northwest. Seriously friends, banks and insurance companies have major egos. They love tall buildings. And what company doesn’t want a piece of the Pacific Northwest? We are the hottest place in America right now. Take a look at the Regions Bank building in Schreveport, LA. Schreveport is about the size of Vancouver accept it is in a much smaller metro area. Anyhow, Regions loves being the tallest in town. That building isn’t super pretty, but it isn’t ugly either. It is a tad taller than the local max height and it would need to be a bit skinnier at the upper floors to meet Vancouver’s height guidelines.

Closer to home, Tacoma has a 338 foot tall building formerly Wells Fargo Plaza. That building is kind of ugly though, so I’ll skip the photo 😉 Vancouver is doing a great job bringing urban development to the core and our skyline is beginning to take on a newer and I think better dynamic. We need one or two taller buildings. Nothing ridiculous of course, but a 20-25 story building in the 250-300 foot height range and another maybe 18-20 stories at 225-250 feet would give us an identifiable skyline. The second tower could go on the mostly vacant block directly west of Riverview Tower.

Maybe Safeco or Pemco would come down to Vancouver so their $60-$80k salary middle mangers and claims staff could actually live close to work without selling their soul to the landlord for rent like they do in Seattle. A nice regional claims office in a Class A office tower would go nicely in our amazing downtown. These larger projects could also be used to pull Portland based business over to our side of the river. This takes cars off the bridges and brings happiness those people who would now get to live AND work in Clark County!

There is a lot of money in the economy right now for business expansion, economies are fickle and this surplus of money will not stick around forever. Vancouver and her leaders need to get busy bringing that ‘bacon’ home to the ‘Couv’.

Latest Urban Buzz!

The Al Angelo Company has started knocking down the old buildings at Mill Plain and C street, obviously in anticipation of final approval and the issuing of permits to proceed on his 6 story class A office building. Wait a minute, there’s been a bit of a change. The latest drawings and presentation earlier in May show a mixed use building. The original plan of 3 over 3 is intact with the first three floors a parking garage for some 184 vehicles. Now there are also 44 apartment units in the mix with the class A office. This looks like a nice project, the building has a nice stepped setback and will include a public space at Mill Plain and D Street. Angelo is also building a 3 story office building across the street.

Earlier this year we reported that Jackson Square Properties out of San Francisco had submitted a pre-application package for a project on Block 20 of the waterfront.

This is a pretty big development. It’s only 7 stories tall but it will have 200 plus units. It should be about the size of the Riverwest Apartments on Block 8. I mentioned in an earlier post that the shorter height will allow the taller buildings going in on Blocks 21 and 19 to see over the top of this project.

I feel like the next City Center Redevelopment Meeting will be packed with stuff. Holland Partner Group is supposed to start construction this year on the Block Ten but there hasn’t been a presentation to the CCDA yet. We are rapidly running out of 2019. Several other projects have been proposed this year but haven’t yet been presented formally to the CCDA.

One thing that the city is doing right now is working on a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) regarding a master plan proposal for what they are calling the “Waterfront Gateway”. This is the area south of 6th Street and west of Columbia to the BNSF Railway. The City owns most of the parcels in the area. I have been waiting for them to address this under developed area. I doubt they will build anything tall in this area as the city has it height restricted to 75 feet. That is likely due at least in part to the flight path for Pearson Field. Hurley had a bit of trouble getting FAA approved for his 6 story building just a tad east of this area.

Things continue to move along nicely and the Downtown and Waterfront areas are still packed with local and regional visitors. Today would be a great day to hang out Downtown or on the Waterfront.

 

 

Positive Activity For Urban Condo Market

Despite an ever increasing apartment count in the Downtown area, condos had a good week. We are minus three on inventory as one new unit was listed, one pending unit returned to market, but five units went pending and three units closed.

The new Vancouver waterfront apartments are fetching high rent, higher rent than the cost of ownership in projects like Heritage Place and Parkview. In all fairness the waterfront apartments of Rediviva and Riverwest are brand new, and quite nice; nicer than most of the units in Parkview or Heritage.

Apartments are not the bane of Condos, but in fact can be a harbinger of sales to come. People that rent a luxury unit overlooking the waterfront may decide they want a more “permanent” and “profitable” opportunity in the area. They may be willing to give up the waterfront living and be perfectly content owning a unit near Esther Short Park. A person paying $3000 a month in rent can find a place in and around the park with a lower cost of ownership than they pay in rent.

There will always be a need for rental units across a variety of price ranges and those renters often become the buyers for condo units nearby. Vancouver’s Downtown appeal is growing, not shrinking. More and more people are looking closely at the lifestyle and living opportunities in Downtown Vancouver and the Waterfront. There is a positive trend in attitudes when contrasting competing areas in Portland such as, the Pearl and the South Waterfront areas.

Vancouver doesn’t have to win every time, in fact we don’t have to win the majority of times. Most people looking at the Pearl or South Waterfront are looking there because it suits them. Maybe they work in Downtown Portland and want to option to walk of bike to work. Maybe they like the access to MAX. But some may want the walk-able neighborhood, the urban vibe, the bars and restaurants, but not the hyper traffic, noise, crime, etc. associated with Portland’s bigger and more dense Downtown.

I really believe that Downtown Vancouver could enjoy a Victoria, BC style urban scene that would draw people in droves away from Portland. Our Vancouver may never have the tourist draw of Victoria. Even though the city is pushing the tourism angle, but we don’t need that many tourists, we could do quite nicely with 75% of their tourism. Too many tourists can spoil the area for permanent residents. Interesting fact is data shows that Clark County already draws more than half in tourist spending than Greater Victoria. In all fairness, we have a larger population, but Victoria’s tourism has some 4 million visitors spending in the range of 1.4 billion CD which is about $1 billion. Clark County generates close to $600 million already. I was unable to find a definitive estimate on annual visitor count so I left that alone. Frankly our super close proximity to Portland means we are likely to be lumped in with the regional numbers.

Tourism should not be overlooked, even if the bulk of our tourists are day trips from other areas around the metro, that bodes well for the local economy. Vancouver should continue its quest to create a top notch tourist destination, a livable, walk-able, and clean urban area, and a strong effort to relocate mid-sized and large employers to the region. They are hitting the first two very well, I’m a tad underwhelmed on the third.

Last but not least, when the time comes to design a new I-5 bridge, we need to stand our ground and make sure that the bridge is not an ugly monolithic structure like the reprehensible effort last time. An ugly bridge will not help boost our combined $2 billion development at the waterfront and terminal one. Portland may not give a crap about the Columbia River, but WE DO!

Vancouver USA vs. Other Mid-Sized Cities

Vancouver has a bit of an identity crisis that has long plagued the city. I wrote about this in “The ‘Couv’ Life” some years ago, the article is here. If it is not our name confusion with that other Vancouver, or confusion with Oregon due to our close proximity, or Washington State’s confusion with DC, then it is our interesting position juxtaposed from Portland, nay a suburb nor twin city.

When comparing Vancouver to other mid-sized cities in the USA we may find some interesting contrasts as well as similarities. Right here in Washington State there are three other cities similar to Vancouver in size. Slightly larger; Tacoma and Spokane, then the smaller, Bellevue. Tacoma and Spokane are ‘officially’ larger than Vancouver by as many as 30,000 residents but Vancouver is officially supposed to annex the entire Orchards area of some 70,000 people which makes Vancouver the defacto second largest city in the state. That said Tacoma and Spokane are in many ways “bigger.”

Tacoma looks much bigger than its population. But a large part of that is the fact that it is surrounded by water on three sides and has become land locked by other adjacent incorporated cities. Tacoma has run out of room to grow so it must go up since it can’t go out. Tacoma is also the seat of government for Washington’s second largest county. Pierce County has more people than Multnomah County where Portland OR is. Tacoma’s port is much bigger than ours and the city has a more dense downtown. But Tacoma is some 34 miles from Seattle where as Vancouver is immediately adjacent to Portland. Vancouver can tap into Portland’s network with minimal travel. Tacoma has no such luxury. It has horrific traffic compared to Vancouver. Tacoma has a city proper population of about 212,000 and a “zip code” population of nearly 400,000. Zip code population refers to census data reports for people living inside the zip codes designated for the city and includes those residents in unincorporated neighborhoods. In Tacoma’s case it also includes some 80,000 military personnel at Joint Base Lewis McChord. That compares to Vancouver at 186,000 and 325,000 respectively. Vancouver compares favorably to Tacoma with a much lower crime rate, superior traffic conditions, and a very close proximity to a major city (Portland, OR)

Spokane is the heart of Washington’s Inland Empire. It is the largest city in any direction for hundreds of miles. That makes it the center point of urban development and services for an enormous area. It also means that Spokane is more significant as a local “big city” than Vancouver which sits in the shadow of its larger southern neighbor, Portland. Spokane is served by its own International Airport and punches above its weight due to its remote location and massive service area. Comparatively Spokane’s population in the “city proper” is 216,000 and in the “zip codes” about 342,000. But Spokane is all alone out there in the middle of nowhere. It a suffers against Vancouver with higher crime rate and seriously brutal winter weather. Traffic in Spokane is generally similar to Vancouver.

Bellevue is one of those anomalous cities with a skyline that makes it look 5 times bigger than it is. That my friends is all that crazy tech money in East King County! Bellevue is for all intents a wealthy enclave for the tech giants operating in the shadow of the mighty Microsoft. Aside from the impressive downtown high rises, it is really a very upscale suburb. No real industry, port, rail connections or other “big city” stuff. Just a bunch expensive single family homes and a pretty impressive array of high rises and even a few skyscrapers clumped in the middle. Bellevue has a city population of around 140,000 and the “zip code” population is almost the same. Bellevue is more or less a tech hub and expensive suburb serving Seattle. Outside of the tech industry there is little opportunity in the region. Bellevue is saddled with crushing traffic jams and some of America’s most expensive housing with a median home price more than double that of Vancouver.

What about outside of Washington State? Oregon, California, Idaho? Well California has a lot of cities with a population of 150,000 to 250,000, seriously ALOT of them. Many of them are large suburbs in the Bay Area or LA area. The only cities in California that might compare to Vancouver are the inland mid-sized cities of Modesto, Bakersfield, and Stockton, and well that is no comparison, nobody really “wants” to live there. Santa Rosa, CA is similar in city size with about 185,000 but the zip code size is only 213,000. Santa Rosa has little in the way of heavy industry, no port, and freight rail is nominal. Fremont, California is nestled halfway between Oakland and San Jose and compares to Vancouver with industry, tech, and size. Fremont has 237,000 city and about the same in its zip codes. Fremont draws from an enormous metro area lying inside Alameda County population 1.5 million and adjacent to Santa Clara County population 2 million. Fremont has a solid rail hub but no serious port facilities. Fremont traffic is insidious, home values are expensive.

In Oregon, Eugene and Salem are somewhat comparable. Eugene is driven largely by the University of Oregon and is a bit of a “one trick pony” and Salem is the Capital of Oregon and largely driven by the Government Sector. Eugene has a city pop of 168,000 and zip code pop of 199,000. Eugene is a bit too far from the Portland metro to have a real relationship. Salem comes in at 170,000 and 250,000. Salem has little in the way of industry and no significant rail or port facilities. It is aproximately 40 miles from Portland and has some business symbiosis. Neither is really close to the ‘Couv’ in population, industry or potential business opportunity.

Idaho has its capital city of Boise that is similar in many ways to Vancouver but also has a bit of the Spokane thing going on. Boise is the biggest city for hundreds of miles. It punches above its weight as well. The city population stands at 227,000 with a zip code pop of 265,000. Boise is primarily a truck and rail city with significantly less heavy industry but a nice combination of government sector, university, and tech. Homes are reasonably priced, weather is bit hot in the summer and can be nasty in the winter although not as brutal as Spokane. Crime is low, and traffic is pretty good.

In the Portland Metro Area Vancouver stands out as not only the largest of Portland’s satellites but the largest by an enormous margin. Gresham the next closest is not even a mid sized city per se with just 110,000 peeps. Its zip code population is actually smaller than that! That is because parts of the city of Gresham spill over into zip codes of Portland. Likewise Vancouver has a few thousand residents living in the Camas zip code. The next two cities down are Beaverton and Hillsboro each just shy of 100,000 population. These two cities are anchored by massive single employers, Nike in Beaverton and Intel in Hillsboro.

So where does all this leave America’s Vancouver? Well it is emerging as a bit of a rival to Portland. Almost a Minneapolis and St. Paul kind of thing. Now before I get carried away, St Paul Minnesota is a bit bigger than Vancouver WA but it likely suffers a bit of the same issue being in the shadow of the larger and better known Minneapolis. St. Paul however is about 75% the size of Minneapolis and Vancouver is a bit less than half the size of Portland.

Vancouver is immediately adjacent to Portland and the two cities have some symbiosis sharing the Columbia River and two interstate bridge crossings. Vancouver is also the only other city in the metro area with a large port, significant heavy industry, and a true city style, urban downtown core. It is also the only other city in the metro area on the verge of becoming a proper large city rather than a mid-sized city. Portland, OR has a city population of about 650,000 and a zip code population just shy of 700,000. Vancouver as mentioned before has a zip code population of 320,000 and that is a bit of a counter weight to Portland. For years Vancouver has been punching under our weight. Now is the time for us to start ‘hitting’ like a large city. There’s business to be had, and it should be here!

It’s Good to be Back!

Union Street, Aberdeen, Scotland July 2019

I am delighted to return from my trip to the UK where I spent time with family as well as doing all that classic touristy stuff. I spent a fair bit of time looking through the lens of a realtor® while there and was able to confirm one thing for sure regarding Vancouver’s urban development both Downtown and the Waterfront. We are moving in a positive direction. They have a bustling “old school” setup with modestly dense development in neighborhoods supported by a fair bit of retail, services, and restaurants that creates a buzz to the vibe. We seem to be moving towards that and as long as we keep our development similar in density we should catch that perfect balance of busy but not crowded. London is CROWDED, uncomfortably so in fact. Aberdeen, Scotland however is a city similar in size to our Vancouver and was busy in a positive way, not too crowded but definitely a buzz about it.

While I was away things seemed to be quiet on the urban condo market. There were four new listings and two pending sales that failed and went active again for a total of +6 and that was offset by 5 new pending sales and 9 closed sales. There was a net inventory loss and that bodes well for sellers that have been reducing prices this summer.

Indigo Hotel, Block 4 August, 2019

The waterfront continues to build and close deals for new tenants in the retail/restaurant space. Gramor announced additionally another three wineries will be taking space to compliment Maryhill Winery which opened earlier this year. Stack 571 opened and Barlow Public House is set to open this month. Work on the Indigo Hotel is reportedly ahead of or on schedule according to an article in the Vancouver Business Journal. That hotel should be open late in 2020 and the adjacent Kirkland Condo tower will start selling units next year. They reportedly hired a Beverly Hills based real estate firm to represent the condos. You know those units are going to be pricey 😉

Hurley Tower, August 2019

In other news, Hurley Tower at the corner of Columbia Street and 3rd is rapidly rising up. Yes way down south on 3rd street right up against the BNSF rail crossing. This is an interesting building on a few fronts. One is its triangular design with an offset “flat iron” style that I like aesthetically. Another is that this is an office condo project that Hurley has manged to sell all but one floor. Businesses that want to own their space rather than lease have little options in the traditional office towers and this clearly fills a niche. This is a nice local success story. It does not stop there however as Hurley Development is also pushing a hotel project two blocks north of the Tower and effectively is transforming a somewhat run down and underdeveloped area into a fantastic connection between lower downtown and the new waterfront projects. Bravo, Mr. Hurley! Keep up the good work.

Back on the waterfront, Gramor announced in a Columbian article that Block 18 has been secured by a senior housing company with multiple locations in the metro area. They intend to erect a 12 story senior living tower with the full range of senior services from independent living to assisted care and memory care. This will be the last of the southern blocks fronting the river. The project appears to be rather upscale as one might expect for a waterfront location.

I’m still waiting on more details about the 14 story condo tower planned for block 16 and the Timberhouse 12 story CLT apartment building on Block 3. Stay tuned.

Vancouver’s Urban Image Continues to Improve

Vancouver Downtown and Waterfront from Hayden Island 7-19-19

It is always a good thing to keep a city’s image as positive as possible. This is a lesson that Portland may have to learn, the ‘hard way’ as Vancouver begins picking off employers and development projects from their pipeline.

Vancouver is much more than just the new waterfront. The city is working on a massive project at the east entrance to the city at SE 192nd Avenue and SR-14. And Downtown continues to grow and evolve into a very nice urban center with just the right amount of “urban.”

Larger cities like Seattle and Portland have much more dense development and honestly it is part of the whole “big city” thing those two cities have to contend with. Meanwhile on the ‘North Shore’ of the mighty Columbia we have built a tidy urban center with room to grow. There is plenty of land Downtown that is well below its highest and best use.

Vancouver however can build tallish structures that add to the urban flavor of Downtown but remain short enough to allow the golden rays of sunshine to land at our feet on the streets below. Well at least on the handful of days each year we have sun, right 😉

Victoria, BC in Canada, 2017

Because Vancouver is a satellite in the Metro region we have no “obligation” to erect 40 to 50 story skyscrapers and in all honesty, we likely never will.

Vancouver USA should follow the model of Victoria, BC and go dense but not too tall and that is exactly what they seem to be doing at City Hall. The tallest structures on the new waterfront are planned to remain at or below 20 stories. The photo of Victoria shows a dense but modest skyline and that is always a joy when you are wandering about the city. The sunshine whether or not diffused by cloud cover, makes it down to the streets and it is light and bright. The tallest building in Victoria is 21 floors and 217 feet tall. That is in line with what is planned on the final phase of the waterfront here in Vancouver USA.

Pipeline of Urban Projects at 50 Plus

I am away on vacation for a few weeks. It’s a long overdue visit to my wife’s relatives in her home country of Scotland. I may not be able to update the urban condo MLS activity this week or next, but will get all caught up in the second week of August.

I want to mention that the project pipeline in Vancouver I am tracking for urban style developments with more than 5 floors now exceeds 50 projects, either proposed, approved, under construction, topped out, or recently completed. Vancouver USA is continuing to blossom into a nice tidy urban center with most of the urban amenities and sans the bulk of the urban woes. Truly the best of all world’s in the Original Vancouver.

Progress on Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel, Block 4 Waterfront, Friday 7/19/19

I am still hoping to hear some news on a few exciting projects that seemed to have stalled out. There is no word either way on these but no news is probably bad news. The projects are Cascadia Development Partners, The Aria just west of the old City Hall Annex building. The only news I have on this dated in 2019 is a name change from The Esther to The Aria. Oh, and they erected a sign on the site. The Summit Development Company in Lake Oswego has exciting plans for a CLT high rise on Block 3 at the Waterfront. I haven’t heard a peep about this save for a brief comment quoted in the local news from Gramor President, Barry Cain, indicating the project was coming along. That was back in January as I recall. There is also chatter occasionally regarding the planned 14 story 83 unit condo tower for Block 16 immediately west of the Mary Hill Winery on block 12. I have not seen nor heard of anything more than a mention of the project.

Things are cruising along nicely here in Vancouver USA.