Activity at the Academy… Aegis?

I noticed that Pence Construction has erected full permitter construction fencing around the site of Phase One: Aegis at the Academy. This bodes well for my prediction that ground breaking is eminent.

I haven’t heard any official announcement for the ground breaking, but the fencing is a real strong indicator that the project has cleared the permitting process.

I’ll sniff around and keep you posted with a full update on Monday.

Rendering for both phases, Phase 1 on the left

The Street Eats extended, and Portland pulls a… Portland.

A report in The Columbian newspaper mentions that the City of Vancouver has extended the “Street eats” program for a full three years. This was a program designed to give local restaurants additional seating space outdoors during the pandemic to help them stay afloat. This allowed restaurants to apply for a grant and permission to use one or two on street parking spaces to build covered out door seating areas. It was highly successful and likely saved the businesses of numerous restaurants. There is even an app showing the participating restaurants. Three years may seem like a long time, but I think this has evolved into a business opportunity rather than just a makeshift effort to support local business.

Downtown Vancouver actually has pretty good parking for a mid-sized city with the level of density we have. I know some people get cranky when they can pull right in front of the place they want to go, come on, walk a half block, it won’t kill you šŸ˜‰ This program maxes the number of spaces used to just 50 and that is an almost immeasurably small percentage of total available parking in the city core. It is truly nominal. I think city officials see an opportunity to create a more lively atmosphere and if so, I agree.

Portland pulls a “Portland.” Yes that’s a thing. The Columbian also reported that a local anti-highway group in Portland called “No More Freeways” filed suit against the federal government claiming a plan to add auxiliary lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter would cause more pollution. I have nothing against a group that wants to promote public transit and fewer cars, that’s all fine and well. But there is more to a highway system than just commuting and such. Highways are an integral part of every modern country on the planet. The section of I-5 through the Rose Quarter is a joke, it is a laughing stock. Portland is a major US city, and it has its primary arterial Interstate 5 choked down to just two lanes in each direction. This group doesn’t seem to understand that choking traffic to a crawl is the number one cause of localized automobile air pollution. Literally the science is all over this. Ah but science is only useful to an activist when it supports the cause, otherwise it is a nuisance best ignored.

Portland and the ODOT are not planning to expand the capacity of I-5 but rather to just add much needed auxiliary lanes allowing cars to safely and smoothly mitigate the transitions on and off the various ramps supporting the busy Rose Quarter area. I have little doubt this group will succeed in bullying local officials to pull out of the program, denying Portlanders a safe downtown highway, increasing traffic incidents and adding more pollution as congested traffic dumps exhaust of idling cars into local neighborhoods. Oh, and killing off $800 million in construction revenue and great union jobs for local workers. Nice one Portland… please stay south of the Columbia River, we don’t want to catch the brain cell killing disease you seem to have down there.

This anti highway attitude in Portland is the primary reason I do not support a ten lane bridge to replace the Interstate Bridge. Portland is not going to expand the I-5 corridor so there is no logical reason to have more than three lanes through on each side with one or two auxiliary lanes to support merging traffic. The key to the new bridge will be the approaches and ramps to keep merging cars rolling safely and smoothly.

Several projects in the urban core are in the final stretches including Angelo’s Mill Plain II Tower which provides much needed parking to support the Mill Plain I office tower and offers retail, office, and 44 units of housing. That project should be ready Q3 this year. The Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel project will likely be completed sometime this summer. Kirkland is already pushing through another project just north of the Waterfront and their other project dubbed Waterfront east has been in the new lately as well. The large seven story, 248 unit apartment building on Block 20 of the Waterfront is also in the final stages with exterior cladding and interior build-out underway.

I’m still waiting for groundbreaking announcements for both the ‘Timberhouse’ project on Block 3 of the Waterfront and the Broadstone on Block 17. Kirkland has not released publicly the pricing for the units in the nearly complete Kirkland Tower. This will be the newest and one of the nicest urban high-rise condominium opportunities in Vancouver. I still feel like the accelerated activity int he high-end Tidewater condo project with multi-million dollar units closing recently in much higher than average numbers could be indicative that Kirkland is doing well on pre-sales of units int he new 12 story tower.

For the fine-dining crowd: DosAlas directly above Wildfin at the Grant Street Pier, should open within a couple months and the El Gaucho restaurant at the new Indigo Hotel should be open shortly after the Hotel opens to the public late summer early fall.

The urban condo market remains strong, but it is not as crazy as the single family housing market in Vancouver which is just plain nuts right now. Anyone tired of endless bidding wars and offers 30% over ask can relax a little bit on the condos as those tend to be a little more ‘civilized’ transaction.

Urban Living Video Updates

I’ll be doing some video updates as progress continues on dozens of active projects in the urban core. The first of the new series is live now on YouTube. Be sure to subscribe to the channel to get the latest updates. Video has become a staple in the business of information dissemination. My preference is the written word, but video is definitely a more popular medium these days.

Strong Economic News

Nationally the economy is being driven by a great deal of factors. There is certainly pent-up demand for travel, dining, leisure and such after a year of lock-downs and restrictions on activity in the face of a global health pandemic. As governments loosens their grip, people are busting out of the proverbial seams to get back to some semblance of “normal.” The economy prior to the pandemic was roaring quite well and it seems it wants to get back to riding the wave.

Some economists are predicting summer GDP growth in the 5-7% range which is nuts. There are concerns however, among them is the amount of economic growth being driven by federal spending. A few dubious marks have been met including the federal government proposed spending figures reaching nearly one third of the GDP. That should and does concern many analysts about the long term sustainability of the current positive economic news.

Locally the urban condo market tightened again. Units are selling faster than new ones are coming to market. Downtown Vancouver offers a broad range of size and price for urban condos the likes of which are hard to find. A unit closed in Parkview last week at $240,000 and another unit closed over at Tidewater for $1.6 million. There is something for everyone, but there is a shortage of inventory as well. Sellers are keen to list now before any “rush” of listings in the traditional mid-spring market.

Last week did not offer a great deal of information on projects underway or soon to break ground. The tower crane at the Columbia project was dismantled which shows that project now entering the ‘home stretch.’ I did read an article about that project in The Columbian, that suggested November as the opening date for the 248 unit Block 20 development on the Waterfront. That however is at odds with comments quoted by The Columbian staff that the first move-ins would begin in July of this year. I think that project is on track for a mid to late summer open. We shall see.

The three projects I have my attention on now are Aegis, Broadstone, and Timberhouse AKA Block 3 Flats. These three should be getting underway soon.

Aegis is a multi-phase project with Phase 1 fully vetted by local government, but no ground breaking yet. Phase one is a two building project with 5 and 6 stories respectively and 140 apartment units. Some retail will be included in the mix. The project received a little more scrutiny than some others due to the proximity of the historic Academy building. Additionally the development will lie directly on top of existing parking that has not yet been replaced. I still expect that project to break ground between now and mid-summer. It is a good looking project that is complementary to the Academy site.

The Broadstone is proposed for Block 17 of the waterfront. This development is slated to have structured parking for 177 apartment units in a 5 over 2 layout. 2 floors of parking in the back of the base podium and a single floor in the front for a lobby and amenities. 5 floors of wood frame apartments over the top of the podium. The CCRA looked over the project and moved it forward tot he council. I feel like we should hear back soon and a ground breaking could very well happen this summer.

Timberhouse was originally planned as a 12 story CLT tower (cross laminated timber). CLT projects have been struggling lately and it seems that the developer, Summit Development Group in Clackamas County decided to move in a more traditional direction. This building will be 5 wood frame floors over a 3 story podium mixed with parking and retail. The 8 story project will feature 227 apartment units just north of the new Indigo Hotel and Kirkland Tower. Summit Development has owned the dirt for a couple years, I would imaging they are itching to get started. As I have previously reported, the block 3 location has been completely cleared by Kirkland who was using the parcel as a staging area for the $100 million dollar Block 4 development now approaching completion.

Sometimes these delays in start are due to more than just local government approval. Vancouver has a very robust construction market right now and sub-contractors are booked out pretty deep on the calendar these days. The taller urban projects have a number of speciality contractors as well who are often busy with other projects both Vancouver and elsewhere in the metro-area.

As these new projects come online, more people will reside in the area offering a boost to local businesses and also could create opportunities for new businesses to thrive. It is an exciting time be covering Vancouver’s urban renewal.

The Latest Buzz

I had the opportunity to get a preview of the new Aria apartment project that is now leasing. Cascadia Development Partners have created a nice space with an urban vibe and some solid views even from the lower floors. This project has 128 units including 5 townhouses that front West 6th, Street. These offer tenants a direct access to the street and two levels of living. The top five floors contain traditional apartment flats varying in size from studio to two beds and pair of baths. The third floor has a terrace that looks west towards the Port of Vancouver and the Columbia River. This facing is nice as it will block that notorious east wind that blows hard sometimes.

The Aria is well done and the rents, although not cheap by any measure, they are noticeably more reasonable than those on the Waterfront, and perhaps rightfully so. The Grant Street Pier is but a 5 minute stroll from the street in front of the Aria and the foot trip to Esther Short Park is measured in seconds not minutes. The Aria offers the full Downtown experience in a brand new building for what seems to be locally reasonable rents, all things considered.

Kirkland Development announced that Seattle’s ’13 Coins’ restaurant will open a location in the new Indigo Hotel slated to open this summer. 13 Coins expects to be operation in the fall of this year. The restaurant offers a broad menu across all mealtimes with a bit of an Italian ‘flavor.’ Although the restaurant has broad hours it also offers 24 hour delivery / takeout which should suit the Waterfront and Downtown scene well.

Kirkland also presented revised plans for his property just north of the Waterfront, Block 14 on West 7th. The company presented a proposal for a seven story storage facility last year, but has now decided on a seven story senior living residential and mixed use building according to an article in The Columbian yesterday.

Last month I mentioned that the Block 21 Listing sign had a red “in contract” on it. Well I went by last week and noticed the sign no longer has that “in contract” on it. Hmm, interesting. It seems that was either a mistake or perhaps the “deal” fell apart. That does happen in real estate sometimes particularly in commercial and high density residential.

The condo market in the city center tightened again with more listings moving from active to pending and pending to closed than were there new listings.

The Aria Begins Leasing and Tidewater Condos all Sold

The Aria, taken earlier this month, ready for occupancy first week of April, 2021

Cascadia Development Partners has completed another large and stylish apartment complex. After significant success with the Uptown built in 2018, the have completed another project, The Aria just west of Esther Short Park. I will be doing a tour of this latest mid-rise apartment project mid week.

Although the project is listed as a six story building it is actually seven. The “first” floor is actually two story townhouses sitting under five floors of apartment flats. I think this project will fill up nicely. It is just three or four blocks tot he Grant Street Pier at the Waterfront and half a block to Esther Short Park. Rents will likely be more reasonable than the two current projects on the Waterfront. These unit will offer some views of Downtown and the Columbia River and local Cascade Mountains.

On the condo scene, I noticed that every Tidewater condo listed in the last few months is now pending sale or closed. There are no active listings at Tidewater Cove right now! These are expensive condos ranging in price from $1 million to $3.5 million. My gut tells me that some of the equity from this activity will end up in Kirkland Tower when those luxury high rise units arrive to market sometime before summer this year. This is exciting stuff. I’ll report back next week on the Aria for those of you considering a nice urban apartment.

Grocer for Downtown?

The Columbian reported over the weekend that Cascadia Development Partners has proposed a development on the long vacant block at 15th and Main that would offer a New Seasons Market to serve downtown. Let there be no doubt, Vancouver city officials have been trying to get a market downtown for decades. This is not exactly “Downtown” but it is close enough.

What has been presented shows a modern NW style structure yet traditional suburban style grocery store: a single level 26,000 SF store (smallish for a supermarket) and a parking lot to support 71 cars. As near as I can tell this project will occupy the entire block. It’s not exactly a high density project. I don’t mind a bit if they build it as shown, because a supermarket is about the only thing missing from Vancouver’s urban core. Currently Downtown and waterfront residents have to travel about two miles to the Fred Meyer at Grand Central or about the same to Safeway at 37th and Main.

Where the hell was New Seasons when Gramor was trying to court grocers for Block Ten? New Seasons is a high end store that would have flourished on Block Ten with that dense development and higher end residences at Viewpoint, Heritage Place, Frontier Block, and the Waterfront. But at this location New Seasons could be a bit “rich” for the neighborhood. Of course the residents near Esther Short park will still prefer this location to the longer distances at Freddies or Safeway, but will they walk? Hmm… I don’t know about that. It is a slightly more car dependent area as opposed to the walkable nature of lower Downtown. I still think New Seasons will be successful at this location as well.

I’m not suggesting this is a ‘bad’ project, but it seems a little bit of an under utilization of the property. This really should be a mixed used project with some residential units over the top of the store. I’m not suggesting an expensive mid-rise or high-rise, but can they not build 10-12 units of apartments on four floors over the top of the grocery store? Of course they can. Cascadia built the Uptown and the Aria. They definitely have the chops for it.

I feel like the city will be quite receptive to the notion, since it checks off an important milestone for the Downtown area. Cascadia could leverage that a bit and get a larger project pushed through quickly that includes needed apartment space. We will just have to see how it all washes out, whether it goes as planned or becomes a larger, more sophisticated project; it is a positive enhancement for the community.

More action in the local urban condo market. New units came to market and about an equal number went pending or closed. Inventory is about the same level. I see a nice broad range of pricing is available across the local urban condo market.

Sunshine, Dine-in, Condo Sales… All Good.

Yesterday and today have both been lovely pre-spring days with sunshine and nice temps in the upper fifties. Lot’s of people out stretching their legs after a cold and snowy February. Last week the local health officials were able to move us up in the COVID restriction chart to allow dine-in at reduced capacity. That’s a good thing. We should all continue to mask up and follow the guidelines to ensure ‘Uncle Jay Inslee’ doesn’t cut us off again šŸ˜‰

A couple of new urban condos rolled onto the market last week and several more either went pending or closed and that means we are still a tad tighter on inventory that we were the week before. It is pretty tight out there. That doesn’t mean there are no opportunities, in fact there are. Some units are priced a smidgen high which keeps them around longer and leads to a potential discount offer being accepted. There was one unit in Parkview that closed at 30k under asking despite the inventory situation and that was probably because it was priced too high, or perhaps there was an issue with the unit, but either way, savvy buyers can find urban units across all price ranges. It may just require some flexibility in style, condition, location, or perhaps more importantly a little patience.

I drove around greater Downtown today and found no new ground breaking but progress is still moving along on the dozen active urban projects. Indigo Hotel is finally getting the full finished cladding and the building is looking nice. I don’t see that project finishing until late Q2 at best. It also looks like nearby DosAlas may open soon, the interior trim and finishing bits seem to be nearing completion. That is a Latin themed restaurant on the second floor of the Jean on Block 9 at the waterfront. That is just above the Wild Fin restaurant. That is an upscale version of Jorge’s Tequila Factory and Margarita factory location around the city and it should be a solid waterfront experience.

AC Marriott at Terminal One

Meanwhile the AC Marriott hotel two blocks west is starting to rise with the 3 story concrete and steel base 2.5 stories high. The upper floors will be wood frame most likely. The entire Block Ten is now built up above street level. The Columbia on Block 20 at the Waterfront has been topped out for several months but things seem to be moving well with glass and insulation in. I’d imagine exterior cladding will start later this month of next. That project might just make the “Summer 2021” opening they planned for. Technically summer runs till September 22 šŸ˜‰

The Aria, West 6th Street

It looks like the 128 unit Aria will open sometime this month or perhaps next, it looks real close to being done. This project will offer five two story townhouse units facing West 6th basically in front of the rear parking garage with an exterior stoop to the street. It’s a clever design that gives the building a prettier street front. Then there is five floors of flats above. I’m not gonna lie, this building looks better in person than it did in the drawings and that is not always the case with these things. It’s a good looking project, kudos to Cascadia Development Partners, this is a nice follow up to the 2018 Uptown project on Main.

Al Angelo is making good progress on the six story Mill Plain II office and residential mixed use building. This project will feature offices as well as 44 units of apartments and a much needed parking structure to support both this building and the neighboring five story office building Mill Plain I that Angelo erected more than ten years ago. It will having a matching brick facade that ties in nicely with the Mill Plain I companion tower and both of the Prestige apartment projects across the street.

Vancouver still has a fair bit of high density infill opportunities and plenty of buyers and renters looking to get a piece of the action Downtown. Let’s make this new decade even better than the last one.

Good Activity for Mid-Winter

Across the full pricing spectrum several urban condo units went pending or closed last week. The dead of winter tends to be a little light on activity but not this year. From a modest studio condo with a mere 345 sf at Parkview priced at just $164,900 to a $2.5 million condo with 4290 sf closing at Tidewater. People are still interested in living Ā the urban lifestyle in Vancouver USA.

On the urban projects there seems to be little change this month on the official status of several large projects that are nearing the end of the permitting process. The city pushed through several smaller projects at the end of 202o and early 2021 but the final push on three large projects seems to be lagging a bit. Maybe COVID, maybe the fact that the council is down a meeting what with President’s Day a municipal holiday, we shall see. There are some unofficial activities that can offer a hint into the near future however of at least two projects. The three large projects I am referring to are all apartment buildings with 141, 177, and 227 units. These are Aegis at the Academy, Broadstone on block 17, The Waterfront, and ‘The Third’ formerly Timberhouse on block 3, The Waterfront. Broadstone has been eerily quiet since it was last present to the CCRA with seemingly favorable results. But I have seen unofficial signs of life on the other two.

The Third an 8 story 227 unit apartment tower that will occupy the entire block 3 at the waterfront is likely very close to breaking ground. Summit Development Group in Lake Oswego bought the block nearly two years ago and had originally planned a 12 story 254 unit CLT high-rise. CLT (cross laminated timber) has been an exciting new building method that is greener and sustainable, but also seen a few setbacks recently in both Portland and Vancouver. That may have been part of the delay and the shorter tower looks to be a more ‘traditional’ 5 wood frame over 3 concrete/steel base design.

There are signs this thing is coming sooner rather than later. I reached out to the project lead on this and will report any useful information I find. But the entire block has spent the last two years as a staging ground for the massive combination project on Block 4 nearing completion but still a few months out. But Block 3 is completely empty now. Nary a bit of staging remains as all of Kirkland’s contractors have consolidated their staging to Block 2 and possibly sharing some space with the AC Marriott staging on Block C of Terminal One. A freshly cleared block, hmm could be a sign the ground breaking is near. Or maybe Kirkland’s staging lease was up, who knows? I do know that Block 3 is an ideal staging location for the Kirkland project.

What about phase one of Aegis? This project whizzed through the CCRA several months ago and was essentially green lit by the Council, yet no signs of construction or groundbreaking. I have seen some significant in street underground utility activity in the last few weeks around the corner of 12th and C street. This could be regular maintenance but I was getting a more preparatory vibe from it. The project did get some local pushback, due primarily to the scale of the project relative to the scale of the historic Academy building it will stand aside. I like this project I think it does a nice compliment to the Academy and it is providing much needed revenue for the historic trust to spend on maintenance of this great building. The current use of the site is a dilapidated parking area, so I welcome a modern project to fill the space. I reached out to Marathon recently for comment, I’ll report back anything I hear.

Will 2021 Mirror 2020?

Condo inventory tightened a bit over the past week. High end units at Tidewater including one at $3 million closed. Are these people waiting on Kirkland Tower? We shall certainly see in the next few months when that project is complete.

2020 by most accounts was a year many would like to forget. But the COVID 19 pandemic is not a forgettable event. This virus has managed to kill more than 400,000 Americans making it one of the worst we have seen in our nations 240 plus years. But the overreach of the government in containing this epidemic cannot be overlooked either. It seems the new administration in Washington DC is no better than the last one regarding scientific data. They seem to be ignoring the medical science and dictating national policy counter to the prevailing facts and more in accordance with the special interest groups that gave them power.

I do hope that our governor will stand up to an increasingly aggressive federal government regarding what is best for Washington State. This is not a political blog nor am I condemning one political party over the other. In fact I believe that neither the previous President, nor our current President has followed the medical facts about this virus. It’s all political and it is not helping Washingtonians of any political affiliation.

Governor Inslee may not be President, but he is in charge of Washington State and he does not have to “Bow before Zod” to the President. Superman II reference fully intended šŸ˜‰ Governor Inslee can choose to do what is best for Washington State. Another year of lockdowns is not in anyone’s interest and whether one voted for the Governor or not last November, he was a least smart enough not to order COVID patients into nursing homes leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands like another governor did last year. The Governor should weigh carefully our options for dealing with COVID 19 in 2021 based on science not politics. That is sometimes hard for politicians to do, but Inslee has a brand new four year term. Let’s hope he follows the science and not the will of special interests. Inslee is a vastly better Governor than either Governor Brown in Oregon or Governor Newsom in California. To Governor Inslee I write this: you are a better Governor than either of the other two West Coast State Executives, so stop following the fools to the south and take the lead, you have the chops to get it right, just do it.

I bring this up because I do not think our state can swallow another lockdown year like 2020. I do not think the people want it, nor do I think the economy can take it. So much good stuff was happening on the approach to 2020 and I think that momentum is still there, but if 2021 mirrors 2020, all of it will die.

Although this site is dedicated to the events unfolding in Vancouver’s urban core, the pandemic has had far reaching implications to everyone the country, not just the success of the waterfront and Downtown, but the very lives of every one. I have disagreed with the Governor on some of his COVID 19 policy, but I also realize that there is tremendous pressure on the office of the Governor to get things right. The Ā constant misdirection coming from the CDC with their 180 degree turns on recommendations, certainly has not made his job easy nor the jobs of our local health officials. Let’s not forget that these officials are literally making policy decisions that could either save thousands of lives or lead to thousands of deaths. I do not reccomend or endorse vilifying these people because you disagree with their decisions, this is difficult policy to enact. But I do believe it is possible to open 75% and still offer maximum protection to those most at risk by following the medical science. There is significant scientific evidence to support this notion and practical proof in several foreign countries as well as some states here in the US.

Your voice should be heard and you should send an email to your elected officials at the state level. Every Washingtonian has two state legislators and one state senator and they are far more accessible than your federal elected representative. The states have the power in this pandemic, not the feds. We the people of Washington need to communicate to our elected reps, so they know where you stand. We have some excellent state reps in both political parties here in Clark County reach out to them and be firm but polite and professional, they will listen.

Our local elected State Legislators:

District 17: East Vancouver (east of I-205), Brush Prairie, Mount Vista

  • Senator Lynda Wilson:
  • Rep Vicki Kraft:
  • Rep Paul Harris:

District 18: Felida, Salmon Creek (W of I-5), most of non-Vancouver Clark County

  • Senator Ann Rivers :
  • Rep Brandon Vick:
  • Rep Larry Hoff:

District 49: Downtown, Port of Vancouver, Hazel Dell, Heights, West of I-205

  • Senator Annette Cleveland:
  • Rep Sharon Wylie:
  • Rep Monica Stonier: