Well there will be no shortage of places to engage in revelry this week in Vancouver’s urban core. Of course establishments with a name like Shanahan’s certainly has a leg up on March 17th. But the ‘luck of the Irish’ is in enough abundance this week that all of Vancouver’s adult beverage providers can take a wee sample of the profits.
Condo’s in the urban core this week saw a +2 inventory gain, the first gain in months. It is not much of a gain, but it may alleviate a bit of pressure. I did see a new listing at the Academy Square come in at $275k for a 517 SF 1 bedroom unit. That is one I am watching closely. These units are very old built in the 1940s and typically sell down in the lower $200k range. The unit is typical for the development and is not particularly outstanding relative to the other units sold there recently. So is upper $200’s the new normal for Academy Square. We will just have to see what the market has to say.
I noticed that other than the drilling company that was out a few weeks ago and the survey stakes erected ay Block 18, no other activity is happening not he future site of the Springs Living. That project will be a great addition to the waterfront. If they want to be ready by the 2024 target they have, breaking ground in the next month or two is vital.
The Block 3 tower formally ‘Timberhouse’ is now nearing completion of the concrete base podium portion of constrution. Once they switch to wood framing the tower will quickly rise to its 8 story maximum.
I can’t help but notice that a small tent community has appeared right at the entrance to the Waterfront on Esther Street in plain view of City Hall. This is not a good thing for the area and with the city providing campgrounds specifically set up to accommodate the homeless at our taxpayer expense, the Mayor needs to crack down on illegal camping. All of the energy and public benefit of the urban renewal in Vancouver can easy be thwarted should the city become overrun with homeless. We have witnessed the potential in real time right before our very eyes over in Portland, yet out city leaders seem to be following the Portland model rather than finding a more effective solution. Portland is losing tax base at a dangerous pace. If the hemorrhaging doesn’t stop soon, Rip-City could become the Detroit of the Northwest. Why on Earth would we emulate that mess?
Last week saw a fair bit of activity with several units going pending a few more closed but nary a single unit in the urban core was listed. That is a noose tightening around the localized Downtown and Waterfront condo market.
Vancouver is getting a decent amount of traction from Portlanders looking to escape our souther neighbors crime and infrastructure woes. We are also seeing Seattelittes coming down to tap what they feel is a bargain market. All of this adds to the market pressure making urban condos in vancouver a hot commodity.
If you have been to the Waterfront in the last few weeks you may have noticed a significant amount of work along the south side of the BNSF railway berm and over crossing. It appears the city is aligning Cascade Street along the berm to connect with Columbia Street. The current streets do not line up. Cascade Street will follow a relatively straight path, tight up against the berm from Grant Street to Columbia Street. The old meandering bit from Columbia into the Red Lion overflow parking will likely be scrapped as part of the development of the new Zoom Info project set to break ground this year.
2022-2025 is shaping up to be a very active building period with several large scale projects including two multi-block high-rise developments. Terminal One, Blocks A and C will have two high-rise towers for Zoom Info and Blocks 1 and 2 are going to be an office and residential high rise project. Meanwhile, further west, The Springs should break ground soon on their large 12 story senior living tower at Block 18 and the Moderna is slated to rise 14 floors above Block 21. These large high-rise developments are in addition to several mid-rise projects including the companion apartment tower to Block 17 which is topped out with a similar 7 story project on Block 19 which should break ground this year.
Vancouver has hired the master developer for the Waterfront Gateway district as I mentioned a while back it is LPC West the same developer doing Blocks A & C as well as Block 1 & 2. There will be a fair bit of preliminary work but unlike the Waterfront which was reclaimed bare dirt when they started, most of the infrastructure for Gateway is already in place so we could see development begin as early as next year on that area.
Vancouver continues to rise to the occasion as the urban alternative to Portland.
Last week saw a fair bit of pending sale activity against just a few new listings. The urban condo market remains tight. With rate pressure mounting buyers are jumping in, but sellers are still a bit scarce. There is actually a bit of a rare window whereby both sellers and buyers should feel pressure to act before the market settles into a slower period. As rates climb fewer buyers qualify which can take pressure off the market. Likewise if a bunch of sellers suddenly list, that can take pricing pressure off the market as well. Buyers should be more concerned about rates than prices but sellers should be very much concerned about prices. Whatever ultimately bends, the market should settle in with a soft landing barring any major financial downturn. I am only a just a little bearish on the market after Q2-2022.
You may recall I mentioned last week that Barlow’s Public House at the waterfront was closed and a new tenant will take over in a few months. But the actual Barlow’s Brewery is in Cascade Park. It is still operational and is for sale. I do not have pricing on that one just yet.
Meanwhile the 2nd owner of Trusty’s Brewing downtown has listed the business for sale at $340,000. The Columbian Newspaper ran an article on the brewery that mentioned the owner had some family health matters to tend to and could not continue running the brewery. Trusty is located at Broadway and Evergreen in a nice older building. It is a small 3 or 4 barrel operation but they have some excellent beers there including the SR-500 Red Ale, ESB, and Shade Seeker which are quite good and well rated. The location has not been as robust as locations at the Waterfront or closer to Esther Short Park for taproom traffic but the impact of the Aegis Project just a block away will absolutely have a positive effect on foot traffic in the area. Those two mid-rise towers with 147 units, should be leasing sometime Q3 this year and the CCRA just approved Phase II that will add another 200 units to the development over the next couple years. Trusty will be the ‘brewery next door’ for the Aegis Project.
I’m no expert on brewing operations but an operational business with a good lease at $340k and can’t be too bad. I hope someone buys the operation because I love Trusty beer 🙂
I took my dog for a walk last week along the waterfront park and could not help but notice that there is activity on Block 18. This is a site of the 12 story Springs Living development. The was a drilling company on site working and a survey team had completed the stake and flag outline for the site. I bet a ground-breaking event is imminent. Once ground is broken on Blocks 18 and 2 there will be just one Columbia River frontage opportunity remaining at Block 16. Gramor has plans for a 14 story condo tower on that spot, but who knows what might actually end up there.
Last week’s news included an article in The Columbian about an announcement that Barlow’s Pub overlooking the Grant Street Pier would permanently close that location. The article makes no mention of the Brewery and taproom in Cascade Park, just the Waterfront location. It may have simply been a staffing issue or perhaps Barlow’s just couldn’t generate enough income for the sky-high rents on the Waterfront. Let’s face the waterfront is the most premium retail space in Clark County. I like Barlows, I loved the little alcove in the NE corner looking down Waterfront Way and of course the lovely southern views of the pier and river. The restaurant however was a bit understated for the location and I feel like most people came for the self serve beer wall and the bar.
According to the press the self serve taps are not staying with the building, so I hope Barlows will move them to their Cascade Park location or perhaps they will open another pub location in a cheaper spot. I like that beer wall 🙂 According to Barlow’s owner, he is moving out of the area to be close to family in Texas and Louisiana. He is also looking for options on retaining the brewing operation and small taproom in Cascade Park.
The article also mentioned that a new business is already in contract for the space. It will be a taproom and restaurant simply called “The Waterfront Taproom.” It will be run by a Portland area company called ‘Five Spice Restaurant Group’. The CEO said the new business should open by June and will be a bit more upscale but remain broad themed and family friendly.
I am still waiting for the city to realize either the audio or full video of last Thursday’s CCRA Meeting. That meeting had a loaded agenda including the final review of the Phase II at Aegis and the design review of the large two block waterfront mixed use multi-tower project for Blocks 1 and 2.
The urban condo market was mostly quiet with a handful of closings/pendings against a similar number of new listings. A single digit affair this week.
The Indigo Hotel and Kirkland Tower are very slowly approaching the opening date. I am not entirely certain why this project has had a seemingly long series of delays. I’d imagine it is a combination of troubles associated with the supply chain, COVID 19, and other notable issues, however other projects that started after Kirkland/Indigo have already caught up to or even passed in terms of progress. It would be nice to hear from Kirkland CEO, Dean Kirkland on the status of this important and exciting development.
Thursday the CCRA will have a full load of presentations on two major projects. The first is the Phase II of the Aegis at the Academy development. This has been proposed for a long time. Both buildings in Phase I are already topped out along C Street. This second phase will bring in structured parking along with surface parking and turn the long run down northeast corner of the Academy into a modern new space.
This has been through a vigorous review from the city and public due to the sensitive nature of the historic Academy building erected in 1873. I believe Marathon Development has done an excellent job blending the modern project into the historic campus and from street level the Academy building will remain prominent on the lot. This should be the final CCRA involvement before the city starts issuing permits. The presentation comes with a city staff recommendation to approve according to documents posted at the City of Vancouver website. The CCRA members will also review the MFTE application in a separate presentation.
The second large presentation follows a brief presentation last month for the Waterfront Blocks 1 and 2. This is officially part of the Waterfront Master Plan but these are the only two blocks in that planned area that are owned by the Port of Vancouver. LPC West which is developing the future ZoomInfo campus next door on Terminal One Blocks A and C decided to pick up this project for Blocks 1 and 2 at the Waterfront. This two block project will be the largest by gross floor area thus far at the Waterfront spanning the full two blocks. On Block 1 a 10 story office tower will be built with integrated structured parking on a five floors in the rear of the tower. On Block 2 which Gramor originally had planned for a 10 story office tower, instead we will have a 12 story residential building with stepped ‘wings’ of 9, 7, and 5 floors each. The two blocks work in symbiotically designed to allow the upper floors of the office tower in back to look over the shorter wings of the residential building. 200 apartment units are planned for the tower. Integrated structured parking is planned here as well.
The urban condo market is following the general market for Vancouver with some of the tightest inventories ever recorded. According the MLS stats last month showed a 0.4 month inventory level for Clark County. That’s two weeks of inventory. Wow, this is a great time to list your home best it a suburban single family house or a high rise condo.
I mentioned last year that Midtown could be the next ‘big thing’ and things are looking good for this unofficial district in Vancouver. Midtown is a loose term with no defined boundaries or specific neighborhood recognition, but it sort of defines the area along the SR 501 corridor which is Mill Plain Blvd eastbound and 15th Street west bound and north to McLoughlin Blvd. This is about 50 city blocks and roughly 88 acres.
This zone is really not ‘Downtown’ nor is it really ‘Uptown’ either. The official “Esther Short” Neighborhood is south of Mill Plain to the river and includes Downtown, the Waterfront, and Terminal One. The Uptown Village Business Association extends south to 15th Street along Washington Street, Main Street, and Broadway but Uptown Village is really more about Main Street between McLoughlin and Fourth Plain.
What we have seen in this ‘Midtown’ area over the last few years has been a significant urban renewal. The projects going in have not been particularly tall but there have been some large projects along with infill that are tall enough to provide the kind of density one expects in the urban core of a proper city.
Dating back to just before the Great Recession, Al Angelo started the renewal when they erected a five story office building facing the Mill Plain / 15th one way split and the defacto entrance to the Downtown core from I-5. This building replaced a former Denny’s restaurant. That was a big improvement 😉 It may have indirectly led to the major remodel of the four story former city hall building at Mill Plain and C street into a commercial office building and the four story IQ Credit Union main office was remodeled as well. Afterwards, the recession put the brakes on big development. As the recovery began multiple urban projects began to rise up starting with Prestige Plaza on the former Burgerville #2 site, a full block project with two four story apartment buildings . I do miss that Burgerville 😦 I would like to know when the Holland Company plans to build a new one like they promised back in 2013. They can do a modern adaptation of the old #2 walkup inside the lobby of a mid-rise or high-rise building, that would be cool. Or maybe as part of the New Season Market project right next to their HQ office.
Midtown as it turned out was just getting started. In 2014 and 2015 two five story apartment buildings went in, 13 West on the corner of Columbia and West 13th Street and 15 West on west 15th. Both of these projects serve middle and lower income tenants with income restrictions. Local developer Cascade Development Partners brought some big game mojo when they built the elegant and successful six story ‘Uptown’ apartment building with underground parking, first floor retail, and 168 units at the SW corner of Main and McLoughlin in 2018.
That’s fair bit of big time real estate investment in this relatively small area of the city, but we are not done yet, not even close. Two four story affordable apartment buildings covering a full block at C Street and 16th were completed in 2020. Prestige added the luxury infill apartment project with two five story buildings on a half block at E street and Mill Plain called Our Heroes Place, which opened early 2021. Al Angelo completed a six story companion to the five story office building they erected more than a decade earlier and VHA has two affordable projects nearing completion one at 16th and D Street with two apartment buildings on a full block, the other is the four story Ginn Group project bordering West 15th. A series of tiny infill projects with three story apartment buildings on former single family house lots are scattered about the zone. Hurley Development is also building an interesting infill project on four single family lots and over the top of an existing commercial-retail building. That will ultimately be a half block four story project that should complete next year.
The future is still bright for this emerging area in Vancouver as New Seasons Market should break ground soon on a full sized upscale grocery store. It will be close enough to serve the Downtown as well as all of Uptown from its Midtown location on the full city block at Main and 15th Street. Al Angelo also has a building planned for the skinny lot along 15th that served as the staging area for the recent six story project kitty-corner on C Street. All told in the last eight years this little ‘district’ added, or has in the pipeline about 1000 housing units with real estate investment in the neighborhood of $400 million. That is a big deal for an area that is getting very little press in the shadow of the mighty multi-billion dollar redevelopment at the Waterfront and Terminal One.
Then there is this: The 1500 Block Investors have finally proposed a project for this full city block they acquired back in 2019. This looks like it would fit in just fine on Vancouver’s fabulous waterfront, yet it is planned as the replacement for a series of automotive shops on the block immediately west of the New Seasons market project in Midtown. It will likely front 15th Street and Washington. The seven story project has elegant tapering and irregular shapes to provide a nice architectural look that effectively masks the large full block size of this proposal. I like it very much.
This corridor is the main entrance to the City Center from the West, East, and North so it is fitting to have it look the part, right? Right.
Locally the urban condo market got its inventory squeezed yet again as more units went pending or closed than arrived on the market. It seems that demand remains strong for mid-priced and affordable condos at places like Parkview, Heritage Place, Frontier Block, and Academy Square Downtown, and at Columbia Shores. Meanwhile high end units are also seeing strong support in market with buyers unafraid to spend seven figures at developments like Viewpoint and Tidewater Cove. According to local reports I’ve heard, the ultra-luxury Kirkland Tower has 12 units left from the 40 units in the building. That building has been stuck with some delays and is reported to be about 50% over budget. The delays may very well be just part of the issue facing the whole nation with supply chain issues, employee shortages, and COVID restrictions.
Word on the street is that there has been an ongoing dispute between homeowners and the Viewpoint HOA over some billing issues and services. My source is a unit owner that says it is likely to be favorably resolved in the next several weeks. Viewpoint remains an excellent alternative to the Kirkland Tower with amazing views and units that are significantly less expensive. There are only 22 units and they do not come up for sale often enough.
I finally got around to visiting the newest apartment building Downtown and on the Waterfront. The Columbia at the Waterfront opened on Block 20 with limited space last fall and now that the building is 100% open. I figured it was time for a tour. Jackson Square Properties based in San Francisco was the developer and they have a sizable portfolio here in Vancouver. This was their first urban scale project in the area and it looks good.
A very gracious and pleasant staff greeted me when I entered the lobby unannounced. The leasing agent was happy to show me around even knowing that I was not a potential tenant. I looked at four different apartments, all nicely equipped and featuring nice surfaces and fixtures. The decor was similar to what has been the popular rage these days with grays and whites. As I noted with the Riverwest building when I visited there back in 2019, these units are nice but not over the top luxury, you are paying to live in the fabulous Waterfront and that comes at a steep price. I think it is well worth it. You will find small studio and one bedroom apartments in this 248 unit project well under $2000 a month, but other larger units and/or apartments with a spectacular protected view will go north of $5000 a month.
I call this the “quiet” end of the waterfront because the west side of the Waterfront is designed to be predominately residential with very little retail and a focus on urban community living. It lies a couple blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the ever popular and busy Grant Street Pier with its fantastic restaurant scene in the middle of the Waterfront. The rents in this building are similar to others right on the water. These are luxury units and fetch handsome rents. But renters looking to live at the “quiet” end of the Waterfront can find units priced comparably to other high end units Downtown if they are willing to forego the grand view of the river. The crescent shape of the Waterfront allows this building at the west end to peek out over the river and have protected views. Some of the units towards the north end of the building facing north or east, have temporary views that are spectacular but will be eliminated when Block 18 The Springs rises up over the next year and Block 21 Moderna in a couple years.
The amenities here at the Columbia are very nice with a second floor open courtyard that is decidedly smaller than the one at Riverwest, but opens up to the river unlike Riverwest. This area includes the fantastic infinity pool, benches and a very park-like setting with trees and bushes. There is also a large clubhouse right in the center with games, televisions, a community kitchen and much more. Take a peek at their website here. As of right now this is the largest single building apartment development in the city with 248 units in a single structure. That will be short lived if the Moderna goes as proposed across the street. Pro-tip for tenants looking for a view at a discount, the 7th floor units facing north are significantly higher than the the top of the proposed building on Block 19 and the new building on Block 17. Those are both 7 stories as well but the first two floors are short level parking. The Columbia has parking underground making this a taller building. This gives a view of Downtown Vancouver’s skyline and the Cascade Mountains by day and robust city lights at night. A final comment, I liked the fact that several units are irregular in shape in portions of the building that have rounded or contoured design allowing for some creative floor plans that aren’t for everyone, but make for a really exotic feel to the space. Kudos on a job well done.
Many people renting these apartments are “trying out” the Downtown and Waterfront life to see if it is for them. I have been fielding calls lately from renters now coming up on their lease that are inquiring about condos in the area. The idea is that they decided they like it so much that buying in the area is for them and that bodes well for condo development in the future. Perhaps Gramor will find an investor to get Block 16 started soon.
Inventory for urban condos is very tight right now. In fact there are currently just FIVE active units on the MLS right now in the urban areas this site tracks.
Parkview unit 701 $339,000
Kirkland Tower unit 300 $929,000
Kirkland Tower unit 301 $1,182,000
Shorewood unit 5410 $394,900
The Village at Columbia Shores unit 420 $684,900
That’s all she wrote, well sort of. There are still several units that have been withdrawn, presumably for the holidays, that will possibly return to market soon. Also the Kirkland Tower still has roughly a dozen units available that are not listed not the MLS. All that said, it is really slim pickings for the urban condos right now.
Interest rates have definitely been inching upwards and that can lead to fewer buyers qualifying for loans. Any buyers out there ‘waiting’ may want to jump in while rates are still manageable and buying power still strong. Sellers do still have the upper hand with just five units, but sellers also need to be aware that buyers can always choose a more suburban setting for which inventory has been edging up in their favor somewhat over the last half year. Now is not the time to get greedy.
Demand for living space in Downtown and along the Waterfront cannot be overstated at this point. Quite literally hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into the area in the form of new residential development. Investors clearly feel good about the future of the Vancouver core. So far the bulk of the building has been in apartments rather than ownership opportunities. A few of the buildings both recently completed, and proposed could be set up for a future condo conversion. I do not know if that is the plan, but the proposed Block 21 is going to be a Type I construction which is expensive and often used in high rises. It is also desirable for homeowners as the fire resistance is the best of the typical building types. That could start out as apartments and then later be converted to condos. Parkview in Vancouvercenter was originally apartments and later converted to condos it is Type I construction as well.
It will be interesting to see how it all pans out, but in the mean time over the next several years we are likely to be dealing with mostly resale condos in the urban core.
The CCRA will be reviewing the proposed project on both Blocks 1 & 2 at the waterfront. This project as proposed would feature a five story podium of parking and retail supporting 3 connected towers of residential on Block 2. The towers would be 7, 9, 12 floors respectively including the 5 base floors. The tallest tower should only rise to about 130′ according to the drawings being presented to the city. That should work fine for the FAA although they may have some tower crane issues like Kirkland did. The Block 1 portion will feature a 10 story office tower also supported by 5 floors of structured parking. That tower is shown as rising 132′ which will lead to the same potential issues with tower crane operations.
The project is offered by the Lincoln Property Group and its local partner and judging by the success they had pushing the two tower, two block proposal for the future Zoom Info office at Terminal One, they should be able to skate through. The 10 story office tower proposed by Gramor and marketed for lease by Colliers International will need to be cancelled for this project to proceed. Perhaps The Lincoln Group was considering the Gramor proposal when they decided to go ‘bigger.’
Several years ago an investor group bought up all the lots on the 1500 block in Midtown bounded by Washington, Columbia, W15th, and W16th. These lots all had retail operations mostly in automotive service. Other than the sale and the long term eviction announcements shortly after the sale, it’s been crickets, until I noticed a pre-app submittal for land use review. Hmm, I have no details yet, but the original press release suggested an office building or a mixed use building of 5-6 floors was planned. I’ll be following this closely as I think the ‘Midtown’ area is primed for some serious building activity. Al Angelo’s 6 story mixed use project completed in 2021, is currently the tallest structure in the loosely defined “Midtown” area which is basically the section of Vancouver between Uptown and Downtown near the SR 501 corridor (Mill Plain eastbound and 15th westbound.) Recent urban projects in the area include the 5 story 13 West apartments, 5 story 15 West Apartments, 4 story infill housing Miles Terrace, Our Heroes Place two 5 story apartment buildings, Al Angelo’s new 6 story Apartment building, The Rosa twin 4 story apartment buildings. Currently under construction 4 and 3 story VHA housing, Hurley’s 3 story 3/4 block Bennent Apartments, and a tiny 3 story infill project called Florence. Projects in the late planning stages New Seasons Market, and the proposed projects, a small infill 3 story office building by Al Angelo and this 1500 Block proposal. This narrow section of the city has seen about 200 million in development over the last half dozen years. Not bad considering the area is on the ‘outskirts’ of Downtown.
I mentioned at the New Year the other significant projects very likely to break ground in 2022 including Waterfront Block 18 12 story senior living by The Springs, Block 19 7 story apartments, Block 21 14 story apartments, Blocks A & C at Terminal One Zoom Info HQ, Hurley’s 6 story full block apartments at 400 Washington, Downtown.
2022 should also see the completion of several notable projects including the 12 story Kirkland Tower, 8 story Indigo Hotel, and Block 17, 7 story Broadstone Claro apartments all at the Waterfront. Terminal One 7 story AC Marriott Hotel, and Downtown the Holland HQ 6 story office and Holland 7 story Apartments on Block 10.
The local urban condo market was conspicuously quiet this past week. A single transaction showed up on my tracking it was a closed unit on the 7th floor of Parkview.