Community Spotlight: Parkview at Vancouvercenter

Today I’d light to start a series about the various urban condominium developments in the area. Each with their own distinctive styles and niche in Vancouver’s small yet rather eclectic collection of city condos. Before I do that, a little news: activity picked up this week as expected with the holidays now firmly in the rear view mirror. Inventory remains about as tight as it was leading up to the end of 2022. The coffee poll continues to gather votes and Kafiex on the Waterfront and Relevant in Uptown remain the favs.

OK, Parkview at Vancouvercenter. Here we go. First, what is it? Parkview is one of four towers at the two square block Vancouvercenter. The first three towers were completed in 2003-04 with two mid rise buildings facing Esther Short Park and a high-rise mixed use office and condos facing Washington Street. The fourth tower was originally planned as a nine story office building but that plan faded away in the recession of 2009-2012. It was reborn as a seven story apartment tower and completed in 2020.

Parkview is a seven story condominium project that offers arguably the best ‘value proposition’ in the city. Half of the roughly 120 units face Esther Short Park. This is widely regarded as the oldest public space in the Pacific Northwest and has been a focal point for Vancouver for 170 years. These days there are events during the spring, summer, and fall every weekend and even during the week. Concerts, festivals, and one of the best farmer’s markets in the region along with concerts and activities make Parkview an ideal location for active living.

Under Construction Photo from RH Construction

Despite Parkview’s short height and low floor count at just seven, the project is entirely type one construction. This is more than just a technical fact. Type I construction utilizes all steel and concrete rather than combustable wood frame. Most 6-7 story buildings these days use a Type III wood frame over a 1-3 story type I podium. When living in a type I construction tower, you should save money on fire insurance and enjoy personal peace of mind as the resistance to fire is much better in these types of buildings. Residents will also notice that there is less detectable noise coming from neighbors as the walls and floors are typically concrete and steel framed.

The amenities at Parkview are somewhat limited. Residents can gain access to the fitness center in Vancouvercenter 3 and can have access to a secure underground garage for an additional monthly fee. What makes this a “value” is the mere fact that condos in this building still sell for less than $400,000. The secret is simple, most of the units are smallish in size with typical two bedroom two bath homes having 820-870 square feet. The idea of a park facing unit priced well under the median is hard to wrap my head around, yet there they are. Parkview also offers a selection of hard to find studio condos ranging in size from 380-450 SF and priced in the $200’s when they come up for sale. There are also a handful of larger units with 2-3 beds and a little over 1000 SF.

Parkview is a tale of two sides. The west facing units as previously mentioned face Esther Short Park offering permanent views and a lovely four square block city park. The east side units all face a narrow plaza and nearby tallish structures that limit views. It can be a bit dark on this side of the building as light has trouble filtering in. Units facing east however tend to be priced better so that is a plus. Another quirk is that there are basically three different setups as you rise up in the tower. The first floor features street facing units that have traditional stoops and direct access to the street. These have special zoning allowing small businesses to operate out of them via the street side access. Floors two and three have larger patio/balconies and they are covered. They also are completely outside the building so no interior space is lost. Floors four through seven have the balcony/patios partially inside the walls taking up some interior space. They are also not covered.

Parking is the primary downside as there are no deeded spaces for Parkview residents. The third level in the underground garage has spaces guaranteed for monthly pass holders but it is first come first served as far as which space you get. Other spaces in the 800 spot garage are open to the public. Parkview is ideal for a limited or no auto lifestyle.

A very nice upside to Parkview is the fact that heating and cooling are included in the HOA fee. The building utilizes a structural HVAC system so utility costs are lower. In my experience the heating works great the cooling is adequate for most but those that like frost to form on their hair on a hot day might be less enthused about it.

The location is hard to beat. Not only does it front the park, it is also in the heart of Downtown with hundreds of restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, and shops all within a few short blocks walk. Vancouver’s shiny new Waterfront is also just a few short blocks away.

Pros and Cons to Parkview:

Pro’sCon’s
Free HVACHVAC system is adequate but not excellent
Off street parking availableOff street parking limited and requires extra expense
Excellent locationBusy neighborhood tends to be a tad noisy
Type I construction, quiet and fire resistantNo cons
Excellent pricingUnits are smallish, and some have odd floor plans
View opportunitiesEast facing units a little gloomy
Patios/balconiesFloors 4-7 balconies impede on living space

So there is the first neighborhood spotlight. I intend to look at all the urban developments over the rest of the year. Leave a comment if you would like to see a specific condo development covered next.

What’s Going On Underneath The Cranes?

Just a couple of news bits before I dive into the title query. Very few transactions in the urban core this past week but that falls right into the post holiday norms. Kirkland had another closing so there is only about a dozen units yet to close. Time is growing short for your chance to live in the most premium condo tower in the region. Check out the ‘selection’ here.

Last week I posted a poll for the best coffee in the city center area and we have some votes trickling in. I’d love to see some additional input but so far Relevant in Uptown and Kafiex Roasters on the Waterfront are tied for the lead. I know there are more coffee lovers out there. Place your vote here.

If I have success with this coffee poll, I intend to expand to breweries, pubs, restaurants and other city center attractions.

OK now on with the title story. Some of you may be wondering what the projects are underneath all these tower cranes downtown. Well most of the projects are represented on various pages right here on the site, but here is a brief synopsis of what’s going on beneath the cranes.

Adera Apartments. 400 Washington Street. Hurley Development is building a 6 story 180 unit building with underground parking. This project will cover the entire city block bounded by Columbia Street to the west, 5th Street to the North, Washington Street to the East, and 4th Street to the South. Some of these units will be townhome style with street access and classic stoops. This project is just now peaking up above the street. It features a type 1 concrete base with five additional levels of type III wood frame above. It should be complete in the next 12-18 months.

ZoomInfo HQ. Terminal One Blocks A & C. LPC West is developing the twin office tower project to house the successful local tech firm. This project is on two blocks starting at the corner of Columbia Street and Columbia Way. There will be two towers of ten and nine stories each with a stepped public court yard and an eighth floor sky bridge connecting them. The west tower will feature five levels of above ground structured parking as well as south facing retail underneath five levels of class A office space. The east tower will have the same five levels below with four levels of class A office space above. This 365,000 SF project is now rising up above street level and is large enough to require not one, but two tower cranes to support it. The all type one construction towers will likely complete sometime in 2025.

The Springs Living. Block 18 at the Waterfront, Columbia Way at Waterfront Way. This very ambitious project will have twelve floors above ground and three levels below. The large building will have 250 units housing seniors and offering substantial levels of elder care. The facility is expected to be a top of the line experience and is a bold addition to the Waterfront. The type 1 construction project is aiming for completion by mid 2024.

Broadstone Apartments. Block 19 Waterfront Way at Boise Place. This is a companion project to the just recently completed Claro on the adjacent Block 17. The building is very similar to the seven story type 1 under type III wood frame development next door. There is a slight design variance between the two but this new project features the same two level type one parking structure above ground with five levels of wood frame apartments above. Both buildings will have some retail / amenities on the south facing portion of the building in front of the parking garage. This building will likely complete in Q1 or Q2 of 2024.

So there is the list of what’s underneath those five cranes Downtown. A sixth crane is operating at 192nd and Brady for a condo/apartment project at the exciting new Columbia Palisades development.

Happy New Year!

OK 2023 is here and last week I reported on activity for the year as well as projected activity for this new year so you can check that post out as well. As is typical for the holidays activity was light again last week with just 2 closings and not other transaction activity in urban condos.

I did notice that the paving is complete and striping is done on the new temporary parking on Blocks 13 and 14 at the waterfront. All that remains is some final landscaping and the installation of the parking payment systems. Once those spaces are officially ‘online’ they can begin the parking structure construction on Block 7. Based on the final presentation to the CCRA last year, that will require a tower crane which will bring the total in Vancouver to seven cranes. We currently have a record six operating now,

Once the new garage is operating which will probably take 12-14 months to complete, the final phase of development can begin at the Waterfront. Blocks 5, 10, 11, 13, and 14 will be available for development as the temporary surface parking will no longer be needed. The only other block available right now is Block 16. That block had a proposal for a 14 story condo tower that I believe is now dead. Block 16n is also currently serving as a staging area for the very large Block 18 project, The Springs Living that is just now rising above street level. That project will top out later this year at 12 stories.

The Waterfront has been a roaring success and that is really not refutable. Although some projects were scaled back in height due to a combination of FAA restrictions and costs associated with building type one high-rises, the development is pretty close to or maybe even ahead of schedule for full buildout. Of the 21 blocks on the Waterfront, eight are complete, three are under construction, one will break ground this month, another will break ground in Q1 this year. Two blocks are already committed to development but may not star until next year as they are currently serving as staging for the giant ZoomInfo HQ project at Terminal One. This leaves just six of the 21 blocks at the Waterfront to go. The original talk was an 8-10 year buildout and we are only six years in at this point.

Meanwhile next door at Terminal One, they seem to be ahead of schedule with one of the four blocks already complete and two more under construction now. Only the fourth block and the new pier remain. I noticed that the AC Marriott hotel at Terminal One has ballrooms on the seventh floor that have pretty nice views. That might make a great location for the New Year Gala that used to happen at the now demolished Inn at the Quay. Hmm, good idea, methinks.

The Aegis Phase one should be complete by the middle of this year and Phase two should start shortly thereafter. Based on the designs and renders submitted to the city, that phase may need a pair of cranes to complete. If so and if those cranes go up this year Vancouver could have nine tower cranes in operation simultaneously. There are some major US cities that don’t have that many right now ๐Ÿ™‚

Starting this year I’d like to do some on-line polling about restaurants, bars, breweries, coffeeshops, wineries and such in the greater Downtown area. I figure, why not start right now? What are your three favorite places to get coffee? I stuck to the urban core but let me know if I missed a spot ๐Ÿ™‚ Poll might not appear in email version, but a link to the web version is at the bottom of your email.

The End is Near…

Oh no! Has Rod finally gone mad? Is he standing on a street corner with a repent sign? Well, not really, it’s just the end of 2022 that’s all. Yes another year is about to vanish beyond the rear horizon and in this last week of 2022, he suspects a quiet passing.

There is a new listing from last week at Academy Square for someone seeking a nice little one bed condo well under $300k within walking distance of all the Downtown hotspots. Other than a closing last week that was about it for condo activity in the urban core.

2022 was another robust success for Vancouver’s emerging urban center. All told Vancouver had six major urban projects complete. Two of them were actually two in one developments, so to speak. They represent more than $300 million in development.

Completed in 2022:

  • Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel (Hotel and Condos) reported as $150+ million
  • Holland HQ and Apartment Tower estimated $50 million
  • AC Marriott at Terminal One (Hotel) reported as $57 million
  • Broadstone Claro, Block 17 Waterfront (Apartments) estimated $45 million

Well the end of 2022 is near, but the construction train is not done yet. Scores of significant urban development projects remain under construction, or proposals with likely ground breaking next year.

Projects topped out in 2022 should complete in 2023:

  • Timberhouse / The Third, Block 3 Waterfront (Apartments) estimated $80 million
  • Aegis at the Academy: Phase One, Downtown (Apartments) estimated $50 million
  • Fourth Plain Commons, Fourth Plain Village (low-income apartments) $30 million

Projects that started construction in 2022:

  • The Springs Living, waterfront Block 18 (Senior community) estimated $160 million
  • ZoomInfo HQ, Terminal One estimated $200 million
  • Alliance Block Waterfront 19 (Apartments) estimated $50 million
  • Adera Downtown (Apartments) estimated $50 million

Projects already underway in 2022:

  • The Ledges at Columbia Palisades (Apartments & Condos) estimated $60 million

Projects likely to start in 2023:

  • Waterfront Garage, Block 7 (8 story parking) estimated $35 million
  • Modera Waterfront, Block 21 (Apartments) estimated $150 million
  • Kirkland Waterfront (Apartments) estimated $40 million
  • Kirkland Waterfront East (Mixed use) estimated $90 million
  • Aegis at the Academy: Phase Two (Apartments) estimated $70 million

These are just the larger projects. Dozens of significant urban scale projects were completed in 2022 and others are underway or nearing a ground breaking. These smaller $10-25 million developments are equally important in our booming local economy. But just this page alone shows some $1.5 billion in estimated development last year and into 2023. It’s looking good friends, looking good.

All Quiet on the Condo Front.

Yes the week before Christmas is notable for it typical quiet demeanor in real estate transactions. Among the developments tracked here at Urban Living just a single transaction was posted on the MLS which was an active unit going pending. No new listings or closings were reported.

I did update the Kirkland Tower page which now has all 40 units displayed with more than half already closed. Four units in the cities most luxurious tower are listed on the local MLS while another ten units are offered for sale directly through the developer. You can still bring your Realtorยฎ along as Kirkland is cooperating with licensed real estate agents in the area. I am currently working with a client interested in one of the tower’s remaining units. The Kirkland staff has been very professional and are excellent to work with. Buyers interested in the most exciting new construction condo opportunity in decades should reach out to their agents and get started as only 15 units reportedly remain. These remaining units are scattered in the tower from smaller one bed homes under $1 million to larger 2 and 3 bed units with over 3000 SF in the $3 to $5 million range. Kirkland is Vancouver’s Premier Urban Condo Development.

Vancouver USA is a city with dramatic upward economic potential. Our city is not a major city like Portland or Seattle, but we have all the pieces that tend to draw companies and people to those larger cities with far less of the things that chase business and people away from those same major cities. Vancouver has a robust five terminal seaport, a large heavy industrial capacity, plenty of high tech capacity, and a roaring Downtown with exciting new development. All of these sectors have room for growth and Vancouver has generally shown business the red carpet treatment with few exceptions. It would be nice to see our local city leaders do a better job at chasing more business like previous administrations have.

I wrote an article in the Couv Life about potential opportunity for our port. It discusses the important and valuable role the Port of Vancouver USA plays in our robust local economy. Check that out here.

Happy Holidays and may your New Year be filled with prosperity.

Kirkland Tower Just Got ‘Real’

The Kirkland Tower is complete; many of the reserved units are starting to close and buyers are moving in. The four units listed on the MLS last year are still available and a few more are available as well. According to Kirkland Tower, 16 units remain ranging in price from under a million dollars to super premium top floor units over $4,000,000. There has been a mass flurry of closings since mid-November at Kirkland. Now that the tower is ‘real’ and buyers can look around, I suspect these remaining homes will get snatched up over the next couple of months.

These units are the most premium condominiums in the city and frankly rival anything in the metro area. They are not the biggest homes in the urban space, but they are the only completed examples of a hotel-lifestyle living opportunity in the entire region. Yes, that includes Portland.

There are many things to consider when buying a unit in a property like Kirkland Tower. One is views. The building sits right on the Columbia River and is essentially divided into north facing and south facing units. The lower floors do have one unit each facing west towards an office tower. The south facing units will offer a spectacular view of the river and water views have always been among the most coveted views. That said, these are going to carry a premium price tag. These views across the river are essentially “forever” views as there is no property between the tower and the river, just the Waterfront Park across the street. Any south facing unit in Kirkland Tower above the third floor will always be able to look out across the river. Lower units may see partial obstructions as the trees planted along the street mature in the decades to come.

Kirkland Tower units also have a viewpoint that is about a floor higher than the actual floor number due to the tall lobby with a full height mezzanine level. So a second floor unit in Kirkland is situated on the defacto third floor of the tower. Kirkland Tower also has very tall ceiling heights and that makes each successive floor a little higher than its counterparts in structures nearby. This bodes well for those electing to purchase a north facing unit above the 7th floor.

I have a very high level of confidence that Kirkland Tower will remain the tallest building in its immediate vicinity so buyers of north facing units on the 8th floor or higher will most likely enjoy a decades long city view. Taller structures going in at the Waterfront will be mostly limited to the west end far away from Kirkland, where the Federal Aviation Administration has more lenient height restrictions.

North facing units will offer a Cascades view with local landmark mountains such as Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount St, Helens visible from higher units. The downtown Vancouver skyline will light up at night offering evening views to rival the water views on the south. At night the River is pretty dark. I have always liked a city at night viewpoint and units on the eight floor and up in Kirkland should enjoy spectacular city style views day and night. These units despite having favorable urban views will be substantially less expensive than a similar unit facing South over the water.

OK, enough about views, what about the lower North and West facing units? These units are for people less interested in a premium view and more interested in the lifestyle options at Kirkland Tower. These units provide all the amazing accommodations of the tower, plus the adjacent hotel for a much more reasonable price. One of the oldest ‘tricks of the trade’ in real estate is to own an inexpensive property in a very expensive neighborhood. Well, Kirkland Tower just sold and closed a unit on the tenth floor at $4.4 million. In the very same building is a one bedroom 1100 SF unit listed for under a million dollars. All the prestige and quality associated with a top tier project like this are available to those that choose a lower floor, non-river facing unit. These buyers save, quite literally, millions of dollars. Exchanging a panoramic view for millions of dollars makes sense to a great many buyers.

There is a certain wisdom in this approach. Obviously a development like this will not actually have an inexpensive unit, and of course, I recognize that $936,000 for a one bedroom unit is still rather expensive. But the logic remains sound when buying a unit for one fifth the price of an immediate neighbor. This juxtaposed position adds upward value potential that is excellent. People will always associate Kirkland Tower with the super expensive units on the upper floors, just as people associate Beverly Hills, CA with mega-millions properties owned by hyper-wealthy celebrities. This despite the fact that properties under $1,000,000 exist there as well.

I figured now is a good time to look at the placement of this amazing development relative to current development under construction and projects that are breaking ground soon. How will these affect Kirkland views and sightlines? I have added properly scaled models based on actual renders and design review details to enhance the 18 month Google Earth imagery to show a 3d view from a vantage point equivalent to the 9th floor at Kirkland Tower facing north. There are two stitched images in each that are a little out of alignment but show a representation of the view north. Higher units will have a better vantage point than this roughly 9th floor look.

There is a great deal of activity in the downtown area and many new projects are proposed to fill in undeveloped parcels. The city has already pushed through a master planned development that sits between the waterfront and City Hall. I have some scaled simple block models based off the latest plans submitted for review and those that represent the completed projects currently under construction underneath the tower cranes. Of course the cranes will come down when construction is over. I am not sure what is planned for Block 5. That project will likely start after the new Block 7 parking garage is complete sometime in 2024 or early 2025. The Mount Hood view looking east down Columbia Way should remain intact once the cranes come down at Terminal One but it will be a bit of a peek-a-boo affair once the new structures are up. 10th and 11th floor units will see over the top of the new towers lining the north side of Columbia Way, 8th and 9th floor units will peek around these structures. The view below should represent a view sightline that will last decades as no other nearby lots would be available to build tall structures after this is complete. One last point on views, residents in lower units lacking a view will still have access to the community amenities on the roof including the exercise area, patio, garden, and kitchen/clubhouse that all have amazing views.

So there is the skinny on Kirkland Tower. 16 units are all that remain. This is a true one of a kind project and we are lucky to have it here in our city.

Fresh New Inventory Has Arrived

Urban condo inventory in Vancouver has been tight for a long time. Last week saw a bit of a surge in inventory as new listings outpaced new pending sales 4:1 and that is a plus for buyers. It is still tight with sellers holding an overall advantage on the supply/demand scale.

Recent trends in the lending market have seen a bit of stabilization with rates remaining much higher than this time last year, but now showing a more traditional up and down fluctuation. The Fed is scheduled to make an adjustment this month and recent comments suggest it will be lower than originally expected. Rate increases can have a significant effect on the buying power of borrowers. In general every $100 in payment needs about $250 in income to offset it. Of course this is a hyper-generalization, but for many borrowers it fits pretty closely.

The last few years of craziness in the market was largely due to artificially low mortgage rates created by government meddling to prop up the economy during both he recession of 2009-2012 and the Covid 19 crisis. In an effort slow down inflation, the Fed is trying to slow down one of the biggest engines in the economy, real estate. It’s working, buyers have been forced out of the market by higher rates. The counterpart locally is our very strong job market. This is keeping things stable for now.

Buyers should not that current rates are actually pretty close to the 50 year average so by no means are we in a hyper inflating interest rate market. If the Fed overcorrects and we see mortgage rates hit double digits then we will have a new problem. Hopefully the knuckleheads in Washington DC will control their urges and keep things stable.

I mentioned the Christmas Ships last week and tonight is the first of four nights this month the parade will pass in front of the Vancouver Waterfront. The parade actually starts on the Oregon Side near Salty’s Restaurant then crosses the river to Tidewater Cove moving west past Columbia Shores, Waterfront East, Terminal One, and the Grant Street Pier before crossing the river again to pass in front of Hayden Island and into Hayden Bay. The following is excepted directly from the Christmas Ships website.

7:00PMย – Columbia Fleet assembles in front of M. James Gleason Boat Ramp, 43rd/NE Marine Drive and turns at the east end of the parking lot to cross to the Washington side near Tidewater Cove, then heads downriver to the I-5 Bridge Area, arriving at Beaches at approximately 7:40 PM. We parade in front of Beaches and nearby restaurants for about 20 minutes and then continue under the I-5 Bridge to the Vancouver Waterfront. We arrive at Grant Street Pier at approximately 8:10 PM and parade in front the surrounding waterfront for about 20 minutes before continuing toward Grandmaโ€™s Cove on the Oregon Side. We then head upriver, parading by the Holiday Inn and arriving at Hayden Bay at approximately 8:45 PM. The fleet begins on the Washington side and can be seen from both sides of the river. The fleet is out for about two hours.

Waterfront Ideal for Christmas Ships Parade Next Month.

Urban condo activity last week was dead as can be, but the short Holiday week certainly played a role in that. A single pending sale came back on market last week so technically we are plus one to inventory this week. December tends to be a quiet month but not as quiet as many people think. I have had some rather riotous Decembers over the years. We should see a flurry of closings at Kirkland Tower in the coming month as many of the reserved units using bank financing can close now that the building is complete.

Quite a bit of activity in the form of new businesses have opened or are about to open on the Waterfront. The Indigo Hotel is complete and 13 Coins has opened for business on the northeast corner of the hotel. Meanwhile El Gaucho is either open or about to open on the south side facing the river. El Gaucho will also operate the Witness Tree Lounge on the 8th floor with a 9th floor rooftop patio as well. That would be an interesting spot for viewing the Christmas Ships parade next month.

The Christmas Ships schedule is available on their website here. It looks like the fleet will parade in front of the Waterfront on December 5th, 7th, 15th, and 20th. I would check with the various Waterfront Restaurants about reservations or arrive early to secure a window location or patio location if you feel like braving the elements ๐Ÿ˜‰ Their are now more options than ever to view the parade from restaurant and lounges. Although we lost Joe’s Crab Shack during the pandemic and Pier 23 to demolition we added several spots. Here is a list of restaurants along the Columbia that should have ideal viewing for this 68th running of the Christmas Ships Parade, I will offer a subjective view rating of 1-5 stars this has nothing to do with the quality of the restaurant or bar, they are all excellent in that regard:

  • Williamette Valley Vineyards, Grant Street Pier, Waterfront 2nd floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • Maryhill Winery, Grant Street Pier, Waterfront 1st floor. โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†
  • Waterfront Taphouse, Grant Street Pier, Waterfront 2nd floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • Twigs Bistro, Grant Street Pier, Waterfront 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†
  • The Grant Street Pier, Brave the elements and stand on the pier โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • Wildfin Restaurant, Grant Street Pier, Waterfront 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†
  • DosAlas, Restaurant, Grant Street Pier, Waterfront 2nd floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • Kafiex Roasters, Riverwest Building, Waterfront obstructed street side view โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†
  • Stack 571, Rediviva Building, Waterfront obstructed street side view โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†
  • Brian Carter Cellars, Rediviva Building, Waterfront obstructed street side view โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†
  • The Yard Milkshake Bar, The Murdock Building, Waterfront obstructed street side view โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†
  • Ruse Brewing, The Murdock Building, Waterfront obstructed street side view โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†
  • The Witness Tree Lounge, Hotel Indigo, Waterfront 8th/9th floors โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • El Gaucho, Hotel Indigo, Waterfront 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†
  • 13 Coins, Hotel Indigo, Waterfront 2nd floor only โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†
  • Vancouver Landing, Terminal One, brave the elements โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • AC Hotel Lounge, Terminal One, 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜†โ˜†
  • Who Song & Larry’s, Waterfront East, 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • McMenemins on the Columbia, Columbia Shores, 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…
  • Beaches Restaurant, Columbia Shores, 1st floor โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…

Remember the star ratings are my subjective rating of the view for the purpose of viewing the Christmas Ships parade and is not a reflection of the quality of the food and beverage served nor a review of the restaurant or bar. My experience is that all of these establishments are excellent.

We should should see a flurry of activity this week as short holiday weeks tend to lead to hectic closings on the following week. We shall see next week.

Protected Views in Downtown Vancouver?

What is a protected view anyway? The term suggests that there is a “legal” protection such as CCRs or local zoning keeping structures from blocking the view. But it could also be a natural protection such as topography. A house perched on a steep cliff is unlikely to lose its view or a waterfront location. In urban areas the idea of a protected view is precarious at best. Today’s eighth floor city skyline view could be tomorrow’s view of the neighbor’s kitchen window. Even twelve foot trees planted along the sidewalk today could block views four stories up in a few years.

Many people buying condos in urban areas, especially up above the fifth floor, are doing so with a view in mind. Sometimes a premium is paid for such views. But will they be an enduring feature? It’s often difficult to say, but sometimes it’s an easy call. Today I will navigate the view corridors and properties with various views and compare them with a rating of 0-5. I will be focused on the condominium projects in the Esther Short neighborhood which is Downtown and the Waterfront. My subjective system will have a “view rating” based on the quality of the view and an “endurance rating” based on the potential for having the view endure over time. Both 0-5 where 5 is best. Of course an endurance rating of 5 on a place with a lousy view is not necessarily good ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Academy Square: This is an old property built in the 1940s and rising just two stories. It is a charming campus like full block development with a lovely interior courtyard. Although there are some urban city views from some units, these are at best low grade views. Overlooking the courtyard would be the enduring view. Exterior units have a view rating of 1 with an endurance rating of 0. Any project that rises up anywhere near this property will likely be taller than it thus killing any exterior view. The interior facing units that overlook the courtyard are a view rating of 2 with an endurance rating of 4. Taller structures going up on the block to the south will limit sunshine in the winter months.
  • Heritage Place: This property is a textbook example of how views can and do evolve. Located on two full city blocks fronting the north side of Esther Short Park, the south facing exterior units had spectacular park views when the project opened in 1999. But the limited height of 4 stories saw those park views become obstructed by the trees lining the streets. These are still decent views but more of a greenery view than a Park View at this point for much of the year. The two buildings have the units wrapped around courtyards in the middle. The interior facing units have a view rating of 3 and an endurance rating of 5. Exterior North facing units have a view rating of 2 with an endurance rating of 1. New development over the next few years will almost certainly affect the views on all floors of this project’s north facing exterior. The west facing exterior units has a view rating of 2 with an endurance rating of 1 as well. The east facing exterior units had a view rating of 3 just two years ago, but a large taller project to the east reduced it to a view rating of 1 with an endurance rating of 5 since that brand new project isn’t going away anytime soon. The aforementioned south facing exterior units offer a view rating of 3 with an endurance rating of 5. Esther Short Park is protected by both law and zoning.
  • Parkview at Vancouvercenter: This 7 story tower faces the eastern flank of Easter Short Park. West facing units above the 3rd floor enjoy views rated at 4 with endurance rating at 5. Floors 1 through 3 on the west side enjoy a view rating of 3 with some trees obscuring the view along with cars and trucks and such on the street. West facing end units have tall projects blocking views from the north and south facing windows. The 7th floor south windows on the corner unit does peek over Columbia at Vancouvercenter just barely. The east facing units have always looked across a dark courtyard at a much taller Vancouvercenter 3 tower. Until 2019 they had a peekaboo view to the southeast but Coen at Vancouvercenter went up blocking that. 7th floor units might peek a tad over to the southeast. View rating is 0 on floors 1-5 and 1 on floors 6-7 with endurance rating of 5. East facing end units have tall projects blocking views to the north as well.
  • Viewpoint at Vancouvercenter: This is the tallest condo project in Vancouver at the moment and it is located on top of the third tallest building downtown. Condos are located on floors 8-11 with class A office space on floors 1-7 and a retail wrap with a brewery taproom on the southeast corner of floor one. Every unit in this project has a great view, some better than others. The building is split down the middle with a corridor all units are exterior units. each floor has four end units with windows facing two directions. The east side of the building has 100% unobstructed views from any floor. The west side has some obstruction to the west, northwest, and south west but even the 8th floor easily looks over the top of the surrounding towers. The 10th and 11th floors are high enough to practically ignore the short towers nearby. The west side units have a view rating of 4 on floors 8-9 and 5 on floors 10-11 all with an endurance rating of 5. Any future tall structures will be far enough away to likely enhance the view rather than ruin it. East facing units feature a view rating of 5 with an endurance rating of 4. I doubt seriously that any buildings will go up within the two blocks to the east taller than 5 floors. The east units look over a zoning protected area that follows Main Street. In fact the endurance rating is really a 4.5 but I’m sticking to whole numbers and it is possible that some future tower could replace the 1970s Key Bank branch directly across the street to the east. I doubt any such future tower will be tall enough to obstruct Viewpoint. East facing end units have either north or south views as well, those are rated 4 on floors 8-9 and 5 for floors 10-11 for view and 5 for endurance.
  • Frontier Block at 500 Broadway: This project is a smaller scale version of Viewpoint with condo units over Class A office. This 6 story tower has office on floors 1-4 and condos on 5-6. This building does have middle units on all four sides. The endurance rating is challenging with the relative short tower in a part of Vancouver that supports much taller structures. All units here are exterior facing. The north facing units have a classic urban city scape view looking straight up Broadway with mostly historic shorter buildings in front. There is an old motor lodge on the northeast side of the building that potentially could be redeveloped in the future into something tall. I would rate the view as a 4 with an endurance of 4 west of Broadway and 3 east of broadway. The east facing units have a view rating of 5 with the river and Cascades including Mount Hood. The endurance rating is also a 5 as I-5 and the Fort Vancouver National Park stretch out in front providing a protected view. The south facing units are tricky. Right now these units look out over the I-5 and SR14 Downtown freeway interchange. When the new Interstate Bridge is built it is hard to say whether the new interchange will feature ramps tall enough to interfere with views. I doubt it. South facing units enjoy a view of the river and the new waterfront developments. South facing units offer a 5 rated view with a 4 rated endurance. West facing units have a mostly urban landscape view looking over a shorter office building to the immediate west to reveal two of downtowns tallest buildings a few blocks away. There are peekaboo river views that will all but evaporate over the next 2 years as tall structures are under construction now. west facing units have a 4 view rating and a 4 endurance rating.
  • Kirkland Tower at the Waterfront: This is the newest condo tower in Downtown Vancouver. It is also the second tallest condominium project in the city after Viewpoint. Kirkland is the only lifestyle hotel-condo project in the entire Portland-Vancouver metro area. Portland’s Ritz Carlton will join it in a year or so. The way this project is built there are no east facing units, not even corner units. Units either face north, west, or south with western corners featuring either south or north views as well. Kirkland Tower is a defacto 13 story building with the 1st floor lobby having a full height mezzanine level. The condos are situated on floors 2-11 (3-12) and the 12th floor (13) is the community clubhouse, workout room, and rooftop patio/garden. Despite having more floors than Viewpoint, Kirkland is ever so slightly shorter in height (146′ versus 150′) and furthering the difference is the fact that Kirkland tower is 20 feet above sea level and Viewpoint is 60 feet above sea level. All that said the south facing units at Kirkland all have spectacular views rated the full 5 looking over the waterfront park and the river. Endurance rating are split by floor with units on 2-4 rating a 4 due to trees that will eventually grow up and partially block views. 5-11 are endurance rated 5. Views to the west are already blocked by a 7 story office tower so floors 2-8 are a view rating of 2 and endurance rated 5 while floors 9-11 are rated 4 and endurance rated 5. North views are a wild card as the future tower on Block 5 is not yet proposed. The Timberhouse apartment building on block 3 lies directly north of Kirkland tower and its eight floors block the views on floors 2-6 with higher floors looking over the top. Floor 10-11 are unaffected. It is possible that a tall tower will eventually go up on block 5 but I figure that an 8-10 story tower is most likely. Views on north facing Kirkland units are rated a 2 on floor 2-6, a 3 on floors 7-9, and a 5 on floors 10-11. Endurance on these is a 3.

So that seems a little confusing, but basically Viewpoint units, Kirkland units above the 8th floor, most Frontier units, Parkview west facing units are all great view properties with enduring views.

Urban Condo Activity Remains Neutral with Low Inventory

There is a fairly healthy flow of activity with a new listings, new pending sales, and closed sales occurring at a relatively even pace. Inventory remains tight enough to keep prices reasonably stable in light of economic conditions that might otherwise precipitate a rapid decline in values.

Vancouver’s urban core offers a broad range of pricing from entry level right up to the top of the stratosphere in the multi-millions of dollars. It is somewhat unique to be able to live in a modestly priced condo unit just a few blocks from some of the most luxurious units in the metro area.

The advantage of a broad mix of housing allows workers in the service sector to afford an entry level condo. They end up with a short walkable/bikeable commute and fill much needed jobs that support the service and retail of the urban core. The higher end units attract quality retail services and restaurant businesses to the area that everyone can enjoy across the broad economic spectrum. The improved density also adds viability for a diverse mix of services and restaurants making the area even more desirable.

Downtown Vancouver has small condos in Academy Square and Parkview with prices in the 200’s. Coupled with the typical HOA fees, that works out to be similar to a $300-$400k house which is well below the city median price. Although rents seem high in the urban core, the pipeline of units coming up in the next two years will soften rental prices a little and more affordable apartments will once again start to appear in older buildings that have been puffed up in rents due to the shortage of units.

On a bright and cheery note, this week’s weather is forecast to bring us a substantial amount of sunshine. Temps will be chilly but don’t let that keep you from Esther Short Park or the Waterfront. Remember those businesses need you even in the winter months.