Busy Week in the ‘Couv’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Springs Inches Closer to Reality

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

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

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

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

Summer 2021 Should be Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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High End Units are going FAST!

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

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

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

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

Be sure to subscribe for exciting new information on restaurant openings, reviews along with buying, selling, and renting information in the booming Vancouver city center.

Is Urban Condo Living for You?

The “Downtown” living concept is not necessarily for everyone. There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a dense urban area filled with condos and apartments. Anyone thinking about this lifestyle ought to spend some time evaluating it before buying a condo unit.

The urban lifestyle allows people to walk to many if not all of the regular activities in their life. In suburbia the automobile is a mandatory prerequisite for a convenient living arrangement. In Downtown Vancouver or any other dense urban center, a car is truly optional. But owning a car while living in a mid-rise or high-rise residential building often comes with additional “issues.” Parking is at a premium and may require a monthly fee if not specifically deeded with the unit. Additionally urban properties often have structured parking in a garage that is a fair bit of a walk/elevator ride from the unit. Multiple trips from car to house can be a cumbersome task.

Friends and family coming in for a visit may find parking a hassle requiring a short walk and/or expenses for parking in the neighborhood. Also families with small children have a very different situation regarding playgrounds and street play. Many parents choose the suburban alternative when raising children.

The ideal candidates for this lifestyle are generally retired persons or young professionals looking for low maintenance living and proximity to exciting activities. People with long hours and busy schedules tend to prefer being close to ‘everything’ and retired people like the walkability and low maintenance of urban condos.

Urban condos generally offer good security as well. Most of the mid-rise and high-rise buildings have private secure lobbies. Units several floors off the ground tend to be safe from unwanted intrusions. The city center atmosphere is going to be noisier than the suburban life and much noisier than rural life. There will be an ever present ambient noise level that is much louder than what you find in the burbs. The streets will be a bit more crowded as well, but the level of activity provides an exciting buzz that leads to a feeling that there is always something to do and you can walk to it.

Vancouver USA has a fantastic urban core but whether going completely car free is doable depends largely on the lifestyle and work arrangements of the individual. Once the new market goes in at 15th and Main the “walk score” for much of Esther Short, Arnada, and Hough neighborhoods should be in the upper eighties to low nineties. But getting out of town will still require private transportation to maintain a reasonable level of convenience. However a couple or small group of people could easily share a car where as the tendency in car-dependent suburbs and rural areas is a car for every adult. Cars are expensive to own and maintain, so urban living with fewer cars or zero cars can save a fair bit of cash each month.

It comes down to lifestyle, living in the urban core is exciting and fresh with lots of activities, events, restaurants, bars, breweries, pubs, etc. and all in walking distance. But the urban life tens to be noisier and a bit busier so it may not be for everyone, but it just might be for you.

This past week saw some closings and pending sales but only one new listing and that one went pending right away. It seems like the busy buzz of our local market is affecting the urban condo scene as well.

Last week in a televised interview, CEO of Gramor Development, Barry Cain indicated a likely start on the Springs Living 12 story senior living tower should be in January. That’s good news, that looks like an exciting project. I also received word last month from an official at Summit Development Group that Timberhouse on Block 3 ought to break ground this month. Looking forward to another exciting summer of new construction, new restaurants and things to do in Downtown and the Waterfront.

Flurry of Activity in Condo Sales

Several new condo listings appeared on the MLS this past week, but more went pending than arrived. Condo inventory in the urban core got even tighter this past week. It seems we are moving towards a traditional spring listing bump but also hungry buyers are waiting to snatch them up. The last two listings in the exclusive and rather expensive Tidewater Cove closed last week leaving none of the seven figure priced units available for sale. How many of these units former owners are waiting to grab one of Dean Kirkland’s waterfront tower homes? It will be interesting to see how that plays into the success of this important project.

Several modestly price condos went pending this week as well and it is quite possible that the severe shortage of single family homes in Vancouver may be pushing buyers into condos both in suburbia and the city center. Despite Vancouver having a tight inventory on urban condos the activity around new listings up until now have been less frantic than the multiple offer in the first hours of listing scenario that has plagued buyers for median and sub-median detached houses in Vancouver. Buyers frustrated with the multiple offers over ask might consider the urban living lifestyle Downtown as things are a tad more relaxed.

Meanwhile DosAlas restaurant is scurrying about getting that venue ready for a projected May opening. This will fill the upper floor of the “Jean” building above Wildfin and overlooking the Grant Street Pier. The Jean is now fully leased. There is only a small amount of remaining space in the “Don” building for additional tenants. A small space upstairs next to Barlows will be the next restaurant space and completely fill the two buildings that form part of the public centerpiece around Grant Street Pier.

The renovations on the Vancouver Landing and public dock are moving along nicely and the AC Marriot Hotel is built up about halfway to its final height right behind the cruise ship landing. A large mobile crane is parked in front of the last bits of the Red Lion at the Quay and it appears to be a wrecking ball operation. We are still several years away from replacing the 100 plus year old Terminal One pier, but the demolition of the Quay may be underway soon. I wonder what the Port Authority will do with the space while we await funding for the new pier and future public market?

Block Ten is rising top nicely now about 2/3 the way to its final height. It is really nice seeing the last of brewery complex blocks becoming a new development. I’m sure the city is happy too after holding that property for 30 years. This project will have 110 units of apartments in the west tower (right side of picture) and office space in the east tower.

There is quite a bit of construction happening in the city center and this translates to jobs, economic activity for the local businesses and over the next couple of years lots of new residents!

Sunshine in the Sky and on the Ground

It’s rather sunny this week and the outlook for commercial and residential development in Vancouver is also very sunny right now. Several large scale urban residential projects are now or very soon to be underway. The Broadstone development on Block 17 at the Waterfront has its tower crane base in place. The crane will go up as soon as the concrete is set. The Aegis project is also underway, but that one will have a fair bit of ground prep before a crane goes up. I am still betting on a May groundbreaking for the former Timberhouse project now dubbed, “The Third” on block 3 of the waterfront.

For all the young families that are moving into the urban core, a brand new elementary school is going up. This school was originally part of the Library Square project that seems to be rather quiet at the moment. The school was to be among three to four mid-rise and high-rise structures on the former Carr dealership property on C Street just south of the library. That school is now rising up behind officer’s row across from Clark PUD on Fort Vancouver Way at Mill Plain. The school is still using the working name “Downtown Elementary” we will see if that holds up.

Activity continues at a brisk pace on Block Ten as the multi tower project is now rising above the two story podium. The office tower is an all concrete and steel affair on the east side facing Washington Steet while the residential tower will have the upper 5 floors in wood frame. Although this project is a little smaller in scale than Holland originally proposed, it is still a full block development with six and seven story towers. It also fits in with its surroundings nicely. I look forward to watching this rise up over the next several months.

Meanwhile, down on the waterfront a bustling construction environment continues. Kirkland Tower and the Indigo Hotel are inching closer to completion. It looks like the Hotel is still on track to open first perhaps in mid-summer with the 12 story condo tower looking more like a late summer opening. We shall see. That is a big project valued somewhere in the $100 million range, COVID and the supplies shortage has likely played a role in delaying this one some six to eight months. There hasn’t been a lot of interior renders for the hotel since the project was approved in 2018. But this is an open atrium hotel. There will be an open area on the second floor with floors 3-8 rising up around it and a giant skylight roof at the top will shower natural light below. This is going to be one of the nicest hotels in the entire Portland-Vancouver metro-area.

Another hotel is rising up really fast on Terminal One. Vesta Hospitality is working hard to get this seven story AC Marriott up right in front of the cruise ship landing that is under a complete renovation right now. I also could not help but notice a second mobile crane hovering over the remnants of the old Red Lion at the Quay. It looks ready to smash the porte-cochère that still stands along with parts of the old hotel. So long Quay! I hope the Port of Vancouver USA decides to keep the “Quay” reference perhaps calling the future open air market the “Market at the Quay” or something 🙂

In condo news, there was a flurry of new pending sales this past week. Two were new listings that sold quickly. The inventory Downtown condensed a bit while things at Columbia Shores were neutral.

More New Starts… Busy Summer Ahead

Last Thursday I updated the Broadstone at Block 17 Waterfront page on this site. There is a new full block perimeter fencing around the site with preparation and grading underway. It looks like Broadstone is ready to start. That is good news as the project should bring in $25-35 million to the local economy during construction and another 177 apartment units to market likely in Q2 2023.

Meanwhile at Terminal one, progress is moving steadily as the 7 story hotel is rising up behind the Cruise Ship landing. According to a press release by the Port of Vancouver and discussed in The Columbian on Thursday, the port signed a 50 year ground lease for blocks A and C. The lessee is shown as BOZ PORT OF VANCOUVER OWNER LLC which is a joint venture of Lincoln Property Company in Dallas, Texas and local firm, Bridge Investment Group. This project was teased a year or so ago and the drawings were presented in the preliminary review process. The Terminal One project is scheduled to start construction later this year and should produce close to $70 million in construction value.

I have been reporting on the 400 Washington Street block project recently. I noticed that the Hyatt Place Hotel development was approved nearly a year ago and nothing was happening. That isn’t a surprise, what with the COVID pandemic wreaking havoc on hotel business in general. But then I noticed Hurley presented a full block, 170 unit apartment proposal in front of the CCRA last year and I began to opine on this very site about the potential replacement of the Hyatt project. Last week The Columbian newspaper reported that Hurley Development is moving ahead with the full block proposal for the apartment building. Hyatt is dead, Washington Apartments is a go.

I was able to reach a lead contact at Summit Development the developer behind the Timberhouse project on Block 3. They are aiming for a May start pending some final permitting. I am excited about this project and look forward watching it rise over the next two years.

I mentioned activity at the Academy site for Phase 1 of Aegis. I have not heard from Marathon Acquisitions and Development yet, but it looks like they are ready to go. There is no underground parking on this project but I’d imagine there is a fair bit of ground prep due to the fact that the lot is a bit raised off the street surface at the north end. That may take a while to get prepped before we see the structures rise up.

I reached out to Kaiser + Path in Portland to inquire about the Trestle project proposed in 2019 for Block 14 at the waterfront. They are no longer pursuing that project. I have no other information from the developer, but I wouldn’t rule out issues with getting permitted on high-rise CLT of that height. This was to be a 16 story residential tower rising up to about 185 feet. It would have been the tallest CLT structure in the USA. CLT is an exciting new trend in building but is not without its detractors. It is disappointing that the project is not going to proceed. Hopefully we will see a future proposal from Kaiser + Path as they are a bold designer of projects that stand out in a crowded urban space.

Locally the urban condo market continues at a similar pace as it has over the last several months. Listings ticked up and so did sales. These are exciting times in Vancouver USA.

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 😉 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.