Upcoming Primary in August has Urban Living Significance

Local politics in many cases is far more important to your daily life experience than state or national politics. Too many voters focus on the big elections for President, US Senator, House Rep and even Governors and state legislators. Voters should not ignore or take lightly the importance of the politicians that have the most direct impact on our daily lives. These local politicians are also the most approachable. Don’t get me wrong, obviously voting for all the various seats is important, but pay close attention to county council and city council seats as well as Mayor.

In Vancouver the city council and Mayor are non-partisan seats. Certainly various candidates have views that align with one party or another, but the election is not about party it is about local issues and the important dynamics of the city and county governance. national politics really has little in common with local politics, the issues are much different.

Next month Clark County has a primary election in which we choose the people that will either occupy an office or run off in November’s General Election. There are three candidates vying for the top seat in Vancouver including our sitting Mayor, Anne McEnemy-Ogle. The Columbian newspaper endorsed Mayor Anne this past weekend. I am still on the fence about Mayor Anne, however I tend to agree in part with the Columbian that one of the challengers does not seem qualified at all and the other is a little vague on important policy issues. Mayor Anne is probably our best choice. Read over your ballot carefully and choose wisely. On the City Council we have four candidates vying for the ‘Position 1’ including incumbent John Blom. Postion 2 has three candidates including the incumbent Erik Paulsen.

I cannot express enough that partisan politics should not invade local government. This is our last vestige of community spirit in politics. Whether one is a Democrat or Republican or independent should not carry weight at the local level and Vancouver council and Mayor seats are thus non-partisan.

Some candidates/council members are attacking the MTFE (Multi-Family Tax Exemption) program which I believe has a proven track record of creating MORE tax revenue and positive investment in Vancouver for over 20 years now. I wrote an article on that here. The biggest complaint is centered around using a regional income rather than immediate local income for the rental portion of the agreement. This program was NEVER intended to be a subsidy for low income residents. It is designed to help elevate incomes and investment in the community to MATCH the regional success. To bring underdeveloped areas up to the standards of the region. This means building nicer projects that attract business, jobs, and people in middle and upper income brackets with rents that are sub-market and attractive. This program also allows the developer to charge full market rate in exchange for a valuable community benefit such as a building a public space, or other meaningful infrastructure that benefits the community at large.

Any candidate or sitting council member that doesn’t see the benefit of the MFTE program ought not to be serving on the council or as Mayor in my opinion. The positive effects of this program have been transformative beyond the imaginations of those who started implementing it back in the 1990s. Those tax exemptions have proven to return to the city in multitudes with increased property valuations and growth in jobs that more than pay for the “breaks” the developer received. It has been demonstrably effective. It should be noted that Former Mayor Pollard and Former Mayor Leavitt had strong political differences and were likely in opposite political parties, yet both clearly saw the value and utility of the MFTE program in Vancouver.

Vancouver already has excellent stewardship over subsidized housing and income limited development with numerous entities involved including the historically famous Vancouver Housing Authority which dates to WWII. The council members and candidates against the MFTE program are likely ignorant ideologues that would rather see Vancouver regress back to the awful 1990s when Downtown was the butt of every joke in the entire metro area than a private developer getting a single penny in tax breaks. That kind of partisan ideological decision making is what ruined Portland. Vancouver doesn’t need any of that, nor will citizens on the north shore of the Columbia River let you stay in office when you take that approach.

Lastly Vancouver should not emulate Portland with regards to the homeless problem. Portland has failed miserably and to the point that the city may start to lose population. People are leaving Portland at such a rapid pace that nearby cities including Vancouver are seeing tremendous demand for housing coming from Portland. Homelessness is a sensitive issue but it should not be allowed to fester like it has in Portland. Homeless camps are an environmental disaster that would never be tolerated if committed by local homeowners, renters, or private business. The litter, human waste and even dangerous chemicals used in homeless camps ultimately end up in our streams, the Columbia River, and eventually the ocean. This is an affront to all the years of efforts by conservation groups at helping bring the salmon runs back, cleaning up super fund sites, and monitoring private industry. Portland has turned a blind eye, we cannot.

Many homeless people represent a real danger to themselves, other homeless people, and other members of the general community. That is not to say that compassionate efforts to help people transition back into society are not warranted, they absolutely are, but some people refuse to accept the help. These that refuse to take the helping hand from our generous governments, churches, and non-profits, cannot be allowed to destroy our environment and commit violence or vandalism that makes the city unsafe. City Council and Mayor, we are watching you, very closely.

Trouble in the Village

The Village at Columbia Shores, Condo Tower

Recently it has been brought to light that Polybutylene plumbing was used extensively in the Condo Tower in the Village at Columbia Shores. Every active listing has since been withdrawn or canceled as a result, It is quite possible a suit and or large assessment is going to happen. This is a wonderful project with a great location and the units are generally reasonably priced for the size and neighborhood. I would imagine this will all sort itself out and units will become available again with some sort of caveat dealing with any assessment for the replacement of the ill-fated pipes.

Polybutylene was widely used during the 1990s in Clark County despite the fact that the primary company distributing it Qest, was literally sued out of existence. There was even a pile of cash from a class action available for replacement back 20 years ago. Alas, many didn’t take care of it and now it is failing all over the place. This issue should be resolvable and homeowners in the property should careful about lawsuits. There is a time and place for a suit by HOA against the builder, but it comes at a hefty cost to property values. My wife and I had a rental condo years ago and the HOA sued the builder over bad siding. It took an entire decade for that to be resolved and in the meantime you couldn’t give those units away. Patience is the word of the day and it should be exercised with prudence during this period. A large assessment however is likely coming, The market is favorable to sellers at the moment, so if ever there was a time to have an assessment, now is probably as good as possible. But that doesn’t take the sting out of the fact, does it?

The sudden removal of several active listings in Columbia Shores has skewed the inventory a bit towards tight. There are some units softening in price in Parkview however as homeowners are finding that overpricing is often a bad idea.

Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel, spring 2021

Kirkland Tower is getting real close to releasing detailed info about the 40 units opening in the tallest building on the waterfront. Tallest for now anyway šŸ˜‰ These are going to be some of the nicest condo units in the area, the location is certainly top tier.

It seems The Columbian newspaper was right about a November opening for the Columbia on block twenty, the interior buildout will take some time. That could be at least in part to the size of this building. 248 units is pretty big. Still not sure why they mentioned July leasing, but perhaps the owner is doing a large and early pre-leasing event. So far units are being snatched up at a fast pace in these types of projects; the Aria which opened in April is roughly 80% full already. It seems people just can’t get enough of Downtown Vancouver and the Waterfront. This should help boost the new restaurants opening this summer.

It is hard to argue against Downtown Vancouver as being the premo spot in the metro area right now.

The Heat Is On!

These last two days are the hottest days on record in Vancouver. Who would have ever thought 115Āŗ could be a thing in the ‘Couv’. Well it is a thing and it managed to shorten he work day for every construction project in the area. Most of the time during these heat waves, the workers just come in at sun-up and work until it is just too hot. Today it was “too hot” around 10 am when the mercury was already tickling the century mark.

The condo market saw a typical amount of activity this week with a handful of closings, pending and new listings. If you are looking for an opportunity to buy something with a some choice in market, Northwynd could be an ideal spot to look. The location at Columbia Shores is close to Downtown and has easy access to the waterfront Renaissance Trail. Northwynd consists of 2 and 3 story townhouse style condominiums ranging in price from $275k to around $400k. These offer a fair amount of space for the money but the layouts are a little tight due to the multi-floor approach. Footage runs between 900-1400 SF typically.

Aegis now has their tower crane fully operations and that project should rise up quickly as there is no underground parking to support the two buildings. Over on Block 3 at the Waterfront the former “Timberhouse” project is underway with a giant hole being dug out to support their subterranean parking structure. The AC Marriott is fully topped out, that crane may be down in a few weeks. I feel like they have made good progress on that project.

All in all the building boom continues in America’s Vancouver.

Hello Summer It’s Hot Out There!

The temperature is not the only thing rising out there… Vancouver’s urban renaissance continues full steam ahead with multiple large projects underway and working through the permitting process. In theory it is conceivable that there could be as many as eight tower cranes at least briefly working together in the Esther Short Neighborhood. It will be a timing thing, one or more existing cranes may come down before some of the pipeline projects are erecting theirs. Vancouver’s Downtown/Midtown area has had at least one operating tower crane continuously for over six years now! That might be a record.

Block Ten Project, June 21st, 2021

I mentioned last time that ground was broken on Block 3 and now the CCRA just ran their eval on the very large Terminal One project that frankly looks real nice and offers a very nice community benefit of masses of public parking and a gorgeous public courtyard, grand staircase, and future bridge link to the new gateway district currently in city planning stages. Holland seems to be moving at light speed topping out both towers on Block Ten already!

Here are a list of of active large construction projects underway Downtown:

  • Mill Plain II, Angelo Tower: 6 story mixed use. Estimated completion Q2 – 2021
  • Kirkland Tower: 12 story condo tower. Estimated completion Q3 – 2021
  • Indigo Hotel: 8 story hotel. Estimated completion Q3 – 2021
  • Columbia at the Waterfront: 7 story apartment tower. Estimated completion Q4 -2021
  • WXV Apartments: 4 story apartment building. Estimated completion Q2 – 2022
  • Jefferson Street Apartments: 4 story apartment building. Estimated completion Q2 – 2022
  • Residences at Arnada: 3 & 4 story apartment buildings. Estimated completion Q2 – 2022
  • AC Marriot at Terminal One: 7 story hotel. Estimated completion Q2 – 2022
  • Holland HQ: 6 story office tower. Estimated completion Q3-2022
  • Holland Apartments: 7 story apartment tower. Estimated completion Q3 – 2022
  • VITA Elementary School: 4 story school. Estimated completion Q3 – 2022
  • Broadstone Claro: 7 story apartment tower. Estimated completion Q1 – 2023
  • Aegis Phase I: 5 & 6 story apartment towers. Estimated completion Q1 – 2023
  • Block 3 Flats (Timberhouse): 8 story apartment tower. Estimated completion Q2 – 2023

Breaking ground soon:

  • Navalia Apartments: 3 story apartments over existing commercial. Estimated start Q3 – 2021
  • Terminal One Blocks A & C: 7 story office & 7 story apartment tower. Estimated start Q4 – 2021
  • The Springs Living: 12 story senior living tower. Estimated start Q1 – 2022
  • Washington Street Apartments: 6 story apartment tower. Estimated start Q1 – 2022
  • Waterfront Parking Garage: 7 story, 765 space parking tower. Estimated start Q2 – 2022
  • Aegis Phase II: 3 – 6 story towers 2 apartments, 1 parking. Estimated start Q3 – 2022
  • Block 2 Tower: 10 story office tower. Estimated start Q4 – 2022
  • Block 16 Condo Tower: 14 story condo tower. Estimated start Q1 – 2023

This summer should be hot from the sun and hot in the construction scene.

In urban condo news things were quiet last week but a couple units came on the market and immediately went pending. So the inventory has remained steady.

Vancouver in Position for Post Pandemic Boom

An article in yesterday’s Columbian showed Vancouver and Clark County in good shape relative to the metro area on office space. Vancouver is still a bit overstocked on leasable office space, but compared to Portland we are in great shape. The article dove into the stats with the overall metro office vacancy rate at over 25% and Vancouver sitting at 16%. Interviews with prominent commercial brokers and developers all had a positive look at Vancouver. Although the article indicated that many businesses were “eyeing” Vancouver for relocation from out of the area as well as Portland.

The article failed to mention anything of the general exodus out of Portland due in my opinion and the opinion of several local business people I spoke to, largely to the local government’s complete loss of control in the city center. Rampaging thugs vandalizing businesses on a regular basis and thousands of homeless camping out on the streets tends to chase away traditional office tenants. Portland can blame the pandemic for now, but when those companies decide not to return and move elsewhere, the Mayor and city council will have some challenging questions from the local business community and many of their residents I reckon as well.

To make matters worse, reports state that statistics show the homicide rate in Portland is up 750% this year over last year. Portland has never been a violent city. Sure it has had a robust counter-culture of protesting and such, but murders? No way! Portland in fact, for a city of its size has had up until recently one of the lowest murder rates in the nation. Now it starting to look more like Oakland, CA. Portland is falling apart and Vancouver can capitalize on their failures by attracting and relocating businesses to the urban core here. There is no other city in the metro area with a proper urban downtown. It’s Portland or Vancouver. Some of the business leaving Portland may end up in the burbs’ perhaps Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, or even Vancouver’s Eastside, but many will seek out Vancouver Downtown, with its robust upward trend in modern mid-rise and high-rise development, as well as a favorable tax and business climate.

Our Mayor and city council should take notice of what is happening in Portland. There is a lesson to be learned: Vancouver should not follow Portland in any way shape or form. Positive development, new business and residents leads to strong revenue growth for the city which in turn provides much needed infrastructure and social service funds that benefit us all including the least fortunate among us. Vancouver has been reaping rewards of improved real estate in the city core for the last 20 years and the Waterfront and new urban infill will continue that trend. As a benefit of this increased local revenue many affordable income restricted projects have been developed in the city center that provide housing at a significant reduction in rent. These projects include the excellent Esther Short Commons run by Vancouver Housing Authority, 13 West and 15 West, in Midtown which are clean and nice Section 42 income restricted units based on 60% of the County Median Income. There are many more of these types of projects in Vancouver and they are funded through various entities from the Feds, to the State, and even locally with revenues generated by boosted property taxes and new business revenue from converting an under improved block into a highest and best use block. It’s been a win-win for Vancouver these last two decades and all the current administration has to do is not screw it up. No trick plays, no fancy passes, it’s Marshawn Lynch up the middle for the win.

So long as Vancouver continues to be the ‘Anti-Portland’ it will continue to thrive and succeed. The bulk of voters in Vancouver like our city the way it is, clean, good traffic, safe streets, and on the rise. These are the things drawing people here. We are holding an excellent hand in America’s Vancouver. No need to take a card, just play the hand we have.

Ground is broken and preliminary construction prep is underway on Block 3 at the Waterfront. This is another big project similar in scope to the Block 20 project due to complete this fall. This is the Timberhouse originally planned as a 12 story cross laminated timber building, now a more traditional 10 story concrete and steel affair. Two underground parking levels and 8 above ground floors with the retail/commercial space and 227 apartments. Although the Summit Development website still shows a delivery date of October 2022, that is not going to happen, probably more like 2023. It’s all good, these things take time to construct. Yet another tower crane will rise up to support this development.

The CCRA meets Thursday to go over the usual business. One item is the new Terminal One development for Block A and C a very nice proposal that includes a fabulous public benefit of both utility and recreation. The utility is in a 505 space garage hidden in the rear of the project facing the BNSF berm. Two 7 story towers, one residential, the other office will rise up with a spectacular staircase between to the buildings and a future pedestrian bridge over the BNSF berm to connect to the new Waterfront Gateway district under initial planning now. This project is expected to stat construction near the end of the year or early 2022. I like it. Parking is something that will be very important as the Terminal One project builds out and the Waterfront area as well. More info on this project here.

OK condos: activity was similar this week to last with an over all net zero gain to inventory. A few new listings, a couple pending and closed. I did see two failed sales one in Parkview the other in Shorewood. Hopefully lenders aren’t getting weird on us. We don’t need any of that now, do we?

There is a Viewpoint condo listed and that is a rare bird. This is a west facing 8th floor unit listed at $969,900. I’ve been in a half dozen homes in Viewpoint but never in a west facing unit. With the emerging development on the waterfront, that view is increasingly more urbanesque. I’ll have to check that one out. I may have someone interested in Viewpoint.

I had the chance to have dinner at the new DosAlas restaurant above Wildfin in the Jean Building at the Grant Street Pier. They have done a nice job creating a sort of South Florida vibe with a nice mix of dishes in a latin theme. They have some serious connoisseur level cocktails and adult beverages on the menu. It is a refreshing new style for Vancouver that may not suit everyone, but provides yet another reason not to go to Portland for fine dining. With the arrival of several new upscale restaurants to Downtown and the Waterfront, including the locally famous El Gaucho, Vancouver may shed its reputation as a fine dining desert.

Urban living in the ‘Couv’ continues to get better and better.

Downtown market still TIGHT

The condo market in the urban core is getting even more tight. Take a look at the availability in the various projects in the urban area.

Downtown:

  • Academy Square (50 units) : 0 active, 1 pending, 0 recent sales
  • Heritage Place (138 units) : 2 active, 3 pending, 7 recent sales
  • Frontier Block (22 units) : 0 active, 0 pending, 0 recent sales
  • Parkview (125 units) : 6 active, 3 pending, 8 recent sales
  • Viewpoint (33 units) : 1 active, 0 pending, 0 recent sales

Columbia Shores:

  • Meriwether (19 units) : 2 active, 0 pending, 1 recent sale
  • Northwynd (202 units) : 3 active, 1 pending, 12 recent sales
  • The Village Tower (96 units) : 3 active, 2 pending, 3 recent sales
  • The Village Townhomes (39 units) : 0 active, 0 pending, 0 recent sales

Heights / Tidewater :

  • Riverside (52 units) : 0 active, 0 pending, 0 recent sales
  • Shorewood (187 units) : 0 active, 4 pending, 7 recent sales
  • Tidewater (152 units) : 1 active, 1 pending, 7 recent sales

So the total market gross units I’m tracking in the Vancouver urban core is 1,115 units with 18 active. That is pretty tight with about 1.6% of total inventory available. That is more much more generous than the single family housing market locally but for the urban condo sub-segment that is tight! That bodes well for the upcoming release of the 40 brand new units in Kirkland Tower. Those will be expensive units likely fetching seven figures each and that million dollar plus segment is now even tighter than before.

You may notice however despite the market being light on inventory a new listing did appear in Viewpoint at Vancouver Center, Vancouver’s tallest condo project (until Kirkland Tower opens this summer) The 8th floor unit faces west peeking out over the top of Parkview at Vancouver Center. I actually prefer the east facing units but this unit does have a pretty good view across the densely built east side of Esther Short Park over the waterfront and the Columbia River. The unit has been completely remodeled so it does not have the dated look of some units in the tower that harken back to 2004. It is listed at $969k features 2 beds and 2 baths with nearly 1600 sf of space.

DosAlas opened up last week atop the Jean building on the Grant Street Pier. That is a nice restaurant with a very Miami South Florida vibe and a latin menu influenced by Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They have many cool cocktails including a unique take on the “Old Fashioned” served in traditional lowball inside a smokey glass container. They also serve up some very expensive cocktails and shots using the most exclusive liquor brands in the world. DosAlas is now one of Vancouver’s more upscale restaurants. This spot plus the arrival of El Gaucho later this summer will add a some serious ‘street cred’ to Vancouver’s Waterfront food scene.

Around the city center Vancouver continues to see progress on more than dozen projects. The AC Marriot Hotel, and both Towers at Holland on Block 10 are now nearly topped out. The Columbia will have 248 units ready for occupancy this fall on Block 20 at the Waterfront. The Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel on Block 4 at the Waterfront are nearly completion and should be open sometime in the summer, probably late in the season. The first phase of the Aegis project at the Academy is also well under way the tower crane base is installed and the crane should be operating in a matter of days.

contact Rod today to tour any of Vancouver’s available urban condos

Busy Week in the ‘Couv’

Today of course is Memorial Day where we as a nation honor those that lost their lives on the battlefields defending America. We should all take a pause and think about how this world may have looked had Hilter won in 1945 or the Soviets had come out on top in the 1990s. Many people have died to protect our world and they deserve remembrance. And so I do remember them.

Last week saw a fair bit of activity from major projects to individual condo transactions. Things are buzzing along nicely as we approach the warm summer months. Dosalas restaurant opened this weekend taking the entire floor of the Jean building above Wildfire right on the Grant Street Pier. The restaurant has a south Florida vibe that permeates the space and then menu is a broad latin cuisine with influences from Argentina, Spain, Mexico, and the Caribbean. This is a must try spot and its location is one of the very best on the waterfront.

A fair bit of condo activity as a few units came to market and were immediately snapped up as well as a few pending and closed sales. The urban condo inventory tightened for the third straight month. In the broad real estate market countywide, I am seeing signs of much needed inventory relief. Homes are popping up but not quite fast enough to satiate the hordes of buyers, so prices may still remain firm as the busy summer months arrive.

The Broadstone now named “Broadstone Claro” has fully erected the tower crane on Block 17 that will support the seven story project over the next 18 months or so of primary structural build. New architectural renders were shown in a Columbian article last week. The construction should see rapid change now that the crane is operational.

This building will likely have very limited views from the day it opens as the 12 story Springs Tower directly south on Block 18, will begin construction around the new year. The vibe I am getting from this project is that it will be very nice, but perhaps not quite as ‘plush’ as the Columbia nearing completion kitty corner on Block 20.

Phase one of the new Aegis project just west of the historic Academy building took a big step in their construction erecting the tower crane base that will become the 4th active tower crane in the Downtown area. I have been very excited about this project since its original proposal a few years back. Many locals were concerned, and rightfully so, about the impact on the historic Academy building that was erected in 1873. I feel that the developer, Marathon out of Wilsonville, OR has done a great job tying the project aesthetically into the campus and in the end it eliminates the ugly parking lot that it replaces. Marathon is also pushing through the second phase of the project that will be ever slightly larger and will include significant structured parking.

The Holland twin tower project on Block Ten Downtown is nearly topped out as is the AC Marriot Hotel on Block D at Terminal One. Those cranes likely have about six to eight months before they come down. There is a chance that Downtown Vancouver may have eight cranes operating simultaneously by the first of the year as the Springs, Hurley’s Washington Street Apartments, and the two Terminal one towers on Blocks A and C are likely to be underway as well. I do not think Vancouver has EVER had eight tower cranes at once.

I have been receiving inquiries about the Kirkland Tower and at this time I am still waiting for pricing and availability on those units. The 12 story tower should be open sometime this summer, possibly towards the end of August. I would expect details very soon.

So goes another busy week in America’s Vancouver things are still rather robust and with the Governor reducing restrictions to the best levels since the pandemic began let’s hope Summer 2021 is as awesome as I think it will be.

The Springs Inches Closer to Reality

The Vancouver Business Journal reported news that confirms Barry Cain’s comments last month that the Springs Living will start construction on the 12 story senior living tower in early 2022 with an estimated completion in 2024. The updated architectural drawings show a beautiful building that steps up from 6 stories at the street to 9 stories midway and 12 stories on the waterfront side. This project is planned for block 18 direct east of the nearly complete Columbia apartment building that should wrap up in the late summer or early fall.

The 500 Broadway building that houses the Frontier Block Condominiums on floors 5 and 6 suffered damage in the lobby, first floor and basement after a pipe burst. Some homeowners may have had minor damage to goods stored in the basement lockers. Frontier Block is a lovely condo project with spacious units offering solid views of either the urban Vancouver skyline, Columbia River, or high Cascades. There are currently no units listed in the building but I have it on good authority that a unit or two will be listed in the next few weeks.

The urban condos in Vancouver saw similar activity over the last week as we have seen all year. Things are still tight as far as inventory but buyers remain cautious on pricing. Overpriced units will sit while well priced units are quickly snatched up. This runs in contrast to the overall market where overpriced units still see strong activity. That may change as the spring rush of listings intensifies.

In other news Washington State is scheduled to be fully open by June 1 according to the latest from the Governor’s office. That is good news so lets hope we can put this COVID-19 nightmare behind us and move forward continuing to make Vancouver USA the best compact urban city in America.

Summer 2021 Should be Better

The Oregonian recently published a lengthy article about the state of Downtown which included a poll of 600 residents in the area that was most unfavorable. Portland leaders need to look in the mirror to find the fault because local leadership or lack thereof is entirely the problem. Although The Oregonian seemed to suggest some blame on external politics like Donald Trump and the George Floyd situation, they also seemed to recognize that Portland needs to clean up its act if Downtown is ever to recover from the nightmare that was 2020. I do not think Portland has what it takes to do so, and the confidence levels from both the citizens and private sector business remain scary low.

Meanwhile on the sunny side of the Columbia, Vancouver city officials should be vary careful about how they choose to deal with the issues as they arise here on the north shore. There is a troubling number of new homeless encampments along Interstate 5 on our side of the river. Although compassion for those struggling should always be apart of our value system, leaders often confuse compassion with enablement. Creating an environment conducive to public camping is not a good idea. Providing an opportunity for homeless people to recover from a negative financial situation and gain placement in the workforce and permanent shelter is good for the homeless and good for the local economy which needs people desperately. But studies continue to show the disturbing trend among homeless that many do not wish to return to the workforce, permanent housing, or society at all. I think the city will find that the overwhelming majority of citizens in Vancouver are opposed to grotesque camps along our streets, highways, and in our parks with litter blowing in the breeze. I’m surprised all the environmentalists are eerily silent on this important issue as plastic debris continues to make its way down stream into the Pacific Ocean. Homelessness in Portland and now even a bit in Vancouver is an environmental catastrophe. It also works strongly against all the city efforts to create a great space for the public Downtown and on the Waterfront.

City leaders are wise to continue funding the broad base of homeless services for those that want to improve their circumstances. Likewise the city needs to clear the illegal camps from along the highway, our public streets, and parks as these create environmental problems, safety issues, and reduce the nearby property values. These can lead to less development and loss of jobs as employers leave and choose a better environment for their company and employees. Portland is experiencing this right now and it is going to lead to severe shortfalls in the city budget over the coming years after federal COVID funds dry up.

Vancouver needs to continue to be the better alternative to Portland. Right now we are better, but I fear some on the council have the same mindset as Portland, that is not good for Vancouver. The city has a lot of our money invested in the urban core, and they need to be good stewards of our investment as well as the private investment pouring from all over the country.

COVID-19 is on the wane and hopefully this summer will be closer to ‘normal.’ Having a buzz of activity at Esther Short Park and the Waterfront is good for all the businesses in the area and certainly adds that lively atmosphere that most Downtown residents enjoy.

Meanwhile progress continues on numerous projects in and around the city center. Pressure on the price of building materials may lead to some slowdowns and or delays. The country seems to be headed into an inflationary cycle. Hopefully the projects underway will not be stalled out as a result of supply shortages, but that could already be playing a role in the delay of three very large projects on the waterfront, Indigo Hotel, Kirkland Tower, and Columbia all seem to be a bit behind schedule. Meanwhile the tower crane base was installed at Block 17 over a week ago, but the crane remains unassembled. That could also be a supply delay, hard to say. Holland is well underway with the large Block Ten project, the office tower is about two thirds of its final height and there are two more floors on the residential tower yet to rise up. After a couple of weeks since Pence Construction set the fencing up around the site of Aegis at the Academy, trees are being removed and significant groundwork is underway. There should be a crane going up on that site soon.

The urban condo market saw modest activity last week. Very few new listings and a few more pending and closed sales so things are a tad tighter now. A unit at the Academy Square was listed and sold just a couple days later. Those units do not stick around long.

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High End Units are going FAST!

Another Tidewater condo went pending in just matter of 2 days, this one a smallish 2352 SF listed at $1.4 million. These Tidewater units over the last few months are selling faster than much more affordable units in places like Parkview and Heritage Place. We all know by now this market is pretty hot, but high end property typically moves at a slower pace than middle priced property all else being equal. Something is driving this seemingly disproportionate activity in the luxury condo market here in Vancouver.

One thought is that Portland exodus is a real thing and perhaps many Rose City condo owners are moving out and pressuring the local market here. COVID-19 has altered the work flow and many former office workers are now content to work from home, some employers seem to like it as well. Others have suggested that a return to a more traditional office environment is desired. So what is the driving factor? Frankly it is a bit of both and Vancouver has become the darling of the metro area over the last couple years.

For those in Portland living in an urban neighborhood such as the Pearl District, South Waterfront, or Lloyd District, will not find many non-Portland locations that offer all the urban amenities and walkability they are accustomed to. Vancouver however is a notable alternative to Portland with the only “real” city living outside Rip-City in the entire metro area. This could be a major factor in the high end condo sales outpacing marketing times of much more affordable units. Portland’s Pearl and South Waterfront have had extremely expensive condos for quite a while with pricing much higher than Vancouver. Vancouver feels like a value when moving from those two neighborhoods.

For buyers seeking a home in that challenging $300-$400k price range, an urban condo in and around Esther Short Park could be a great alternative to a suburban single family home. These condos are not under as much buyer pressure as suburban properties so buyers may not face the crazy bidding wars that beat down buyers in suburbia. I wrote last week about urban living not being a match for everyone, but how many buyers have actually considered it enough to make that determination. Buyers in the mid market should at look at urban condos and think about the prospect of living the ‘city life’ before deciding on a suburban single family home. Buyers looking at a $400,000 SFH will have to give up space in an urban condo with units at that price range likely have a third less floor space and no yard. But the walkability and social life opportunity is vastly improved Downtown versus the ‘Burbs’.

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