Urban Projects Update

In the urban pipeline there are numerous projects in various stages of development and it has been a few since I updated these proposals and under construction projects. But first, on the local urban condo scene a quick update; sales, new listings, and pendings were pretty typical again this week. Inventory remains about the same.

COVID-19 of course has had an impact on projects. The City Center Redevelopment Authority held its first meeting since February last week. It is quite reasonable to suggest that the pipeline of proposals working through the system has been slowed due to a bureaucratic delay imposed by Corona Virus regulations and cancellations. The City of Vancouver is also notoriously slow when updating the online projects status on the city website. I’ve seen a building topped out before the city has changed the status from under review to approved. This is why I go to the meetings or listen to the recorded sessions to try and stay on top of activity.

Active urban projects under construction:

  1. Kirkland Tower, 12 floor condominium project on the Waterfront was topped out in 2019. This project was delayed a bit during the phase one reopening period as construction briefly was halted and then continued at a slower pace to remain compliant with the Governor’s rules. Phase two seems to have opened things up a bit and the glass front cladding is nearly complete. The tower crane was removed back in February by the authority of the FAA so this has likely slowed that process a bit. I have not seen any official completion adjustments, but I doubt they can make the Q4 2020 date, I’m figuring Q1 2021. The adjacent 8 story hotel will likely complete first.
  2. Several urban apartment projects are hammering away, The Aria is topped out, the Vancouver Center tower 4 is fully clad and now seeing final exterior trim and interior finishing. Our Heroes Place a two tower complex on Mill Plain is complete and leasing. Both of the 4 story apartment buildings in the VW-10 project in Midtown are topped out.
  3. The Columbia on Block 20 at the Waterfront is nearing completion on the underground garage and base podium. This 248 unit apartment building will rise rather quickly after the steel and concrete work is complete on the base. I believe the top 5 floors will be wood frame construction although I have not confirmed that yet. The suggested target opening of  “July 2021” suggests wood frame for the top five floors.
  4. Al Angelo’s Mill Plain II tower is topped out. The steel and concrete structure will be a mixed use building with some apartments included in the mix. It serves as the companion to the previously built Mill Plain I tower.

Proposed projects getting close:

  1. The AC Marriott Hotel at Terminal One has completed the ground prep but no activity yet on actual construction. The city has approved the plans but perhaps some permitting issues remain.
  2. The City green lighted the Hyatt Place Hotel on West 4th and Washington. This is a small hotel with 5 floors and a rooftop bar and patio. This seems like a nice little project. Evergreen and Ryan Hurley are involved in the development. I’d expect to see a ground breaking very soon.
  3. Aegis Phase One received the City blessing early this year, but has yet to get final approval to pull permits as near as I can tell. All indications were for a Q2 start, but COVID-19 may have led to delays. Since Q2 ends tomorrow I suppose Q3 is more likely for a start. I’m rather excited about this project as it will clean up the area around the beautiful Academy Building.

Proposed projects (selected):

  1. Timberhouse on Block 3 at the Waterfront remains in the pre-app phase. I have been unable to get a comment from the developer on the status of this project that is one of my favorites. This 12 story CLT (cross laminated timber) building seems to be stalled, but no one has said one way or another. The block was sold to the project developer, so it remains reasonable to assume they will start this project at some point in the not too distant future.
  2. The Springs Living proposed a 12 story senior community for Block 18 on the Waterfront last year. I would imagine they have their hands full dealing with COVID-19 in their other facilities around the Northwest. Not much has been released aside from the initial drawings in the pre-app submission. Based on my observations this will be a flagship location for them.
  3. The Trestle on Block 14 was a proposal last spring (2019) for a 16 story CLT tower that received media attention but has not publicly progressed any further. The Kaiser + Path website in Portland shows a number of cross laminated timber projects including the “world’s tallest” CLT building, but no mention of this project. The Block remains in the ownership of Waterfront.
  4. Vancouver Downtown, Block 10 is slated to get underway as soon as the Vancouver Center Tower 4 project is not needing the staging space on the block. This is a full block mixed use project by Holland Partner Group. A two story podium mixed with retail and structured parking will have two towers over the top one with five floors of residential, the other 4 floors of office. Block ten has sat idle for decades following the closure and subsequent demolition of the Lucky Lager Brewery complex.
  5. Gramor’s 14 story 80 unit condo tower on Block 16 at the Waterfront, has been proposed since the early development stages. The waterfront is advertising the project proposal on their website. I would imagine the success at Kirkland Tower will be monitored and have an effect on how this tower ultimately is built and marketed.

Urban Living in the ‘Couv’ is still tracking roughly 50 urban projects as they make their way from proposal to completion. Keep checking back every week for updates and information. Also remember you can track real time progress and activity of listed urban condos anytime by visiting this page.


Latest Buzz

Kirkland Tower is getting close to topping out. They are under a bit of a crunch as the FAA height restriction variance for the 250 foot tower crane expires this month. They are working on completing the 11 story super structure, I’d imagine the 12th floor rooftop penthouse and patio won’t need the tower crane. It looks like they have 9 floors built up and as of yesterday were working on the tenth floor. Kirkland Tower will have super premium condos, that take full advantage of the waterfront location and the amenities of the attached 8 story Hotel Indigo that topped out last month.

Last week’s CCRA meeting had updates for the City of Vancouver’s vision for the waterfront gateway area south of city hall and north of the BNSF Railway. I’m awaiting the release of any new information on this new development zone.

Last month the CCRA got a preview of the updated Holland Partner Group proposal for Block Ten which was met with mostly favorable response. That updated plan will be presented at the city pre-application conference this week. Hopefully some additional details will become available. This project is supposed to break ground this year to take advantage of expiring incentives. It will include a 4 story office building on top of ground level retail and two floors of parking. Also a residential tower with five floors of apartments stacked over mixed use ground level and again 2 floors of parking. It will be nice to have that long empty block built up with an enduring project.

I noticed that construction fencing has gone up around Block 20 on the waterfront. Also construction fencing went up around Block 19 but I suspect that Block 19 will serve as a staging lot for the fairly large project on Block 20. On Saturday there was equipment and supplies being unloaded on both lots.

This will be a 7 story apartment building with a similar size and scope of Riverwest on Block 8. Unlike Riverwest, this project is not expected to have a mixed use element and should be all residential. Jackson Square Properties out of San Francisco is the developer and they must be close to getting permits. The City of Vancouver project site still has it “under review” but I think they are probably already approved or very near approval.

I also noticed construction fencing has been in place for quite awhile around the Library Square property owned by Killian Pacific, but no activity appears to happening. This is a really important block and I feel like we need to get moving on it. Killian already got postponed a decade after the ‘Great Recession’ hit in 2008, another economic slowdown could cause more delays in the future. Why not get going now while real estate investment money is flowing like the Columbia River in springtime!

Marathon unveiled their phase two proposal for the Academy despite any actual activity at phase one. I think this also could be indicative of them feeling close to approval for permits on Aegis phase one. I like the Aegis project and would love to see them start on it before the end of the year.

Cascadia Development Partners is fast at work on the Aria. This is a 6 story apartment and townhouse residential building going up on West 6th just west of Esther Short Park almost ‘catty corner’ from City Hall.

Cascadia did the Uptown Apartments on Main Street and West McLoughlin. They did a fantastic job on that project. It opened in 2018 and they managed to get the building quickly leased. They were not as successful on the retail part, but they still got that building sold a year after it opened for a tidy profit. The building cost $45 million to build and opened in January 2018, it sold in May of this year for $57 million. The investors should be happy with their performance on that project. I think the Aria will be even better. The construction costs will be substantially lower (Estimated at $26 million) since it is a more simple approach, with a much easier excavation. The location is amazing. Cascadia should hit a home run with this project.

I’m hoping we will hear more from Cascadia about the full city block bounded by Main Street, West 15th, Washington Street, and West 16th. They have had a large development sign up with a leasing info contact, and some press reports about having something lined up for that block. That is an important block as it is visible to everyone visiting Downtown that uses the Mill Plain off ramp. I hate dead blocks!

Prestige Development is very close to opening the Our Heroes apartment buildings on East 13th at E Street. They have the clock/temp digital sign working on the top of the North Tower (Ed Tower).

The Columbian reported about two new ‘restaurants’ opening Downtown. A ‘Country Bar’ called “Six Shooter” should keep our ‘urban cowboys’ entertained and a Georgian restaurant called “Dediko” add to the expanding diversity of food and drink in our urban core.

The urban condo scene was business as usual with no new inventory but one unit returned to market after being pending for a couple of weeks and a few price changes and closings as well.

This Summer will Test the Waterfront

The next few months are a big period for the new waterfront. Several new businesses will open, the Riverwest Apartment Building will start leasing, and the tourists, whether local or visitors will either show up in droves… or not.

The waterfront has been limited up until just recently to the first two restaurants to open, Twigs Bistro and Wildfin. I have been to both multiple times and my experience has been more than pleasant each time. They seem to be fairly busy and that is a good thing. More ‘competition’ is on the way and that is also coming at a time when more permanent local residents are coming as well.

Regarding permanent local residents, The Riverwest Apartments will open this summer. It is important to note the Rediviva opened in December and has filled nicely, although they still have units to rent. These are luxury level apartments. There are only 63 units in the Rediviva whereas Riverwest is a much larger building with 207 units. I have done the tour of Rediviva and it is a very nice building with excellent amenities. It has a distinct modern motif and the location is undeniably fantastic. Riverwest appears to coming in with similarly high rents and my concern is whether they can fill that building. This is a tough time for the waterfront because it is only just starting to build out. Those that are living there now are enjoying that brand new euphoria, but how log will that last? This is an area that for all intents should be a perpetual construction zone for the next several years. It is imperative that progress continue towards that vision of a vibrant urban neighborhood with a buzz of positive activity.

Vancouver has placed some heavy emphasis on creating an urban neighborhood with a design around attracting visitors as well as permanent residents. I liken their efforts to what I have seen in Victoria, BC. Now in all reality, Victoria has a long head start on anything Vancouver USA is doing right now, but the parallels are there, none-the-less.

The city will have to make some hard decisions to protect the tourism in the area. Our region is well known for having substantial migrant and homeless populations. Our southern neighbor Portland has a serious problem with ‘illegal’ camping all over the downtown area including the ‘tourist’ spots. That city is dirty, dank, and undesirable to visit. Yet Portland city leaders have done little to curb the problem as far as any casual observer can tell.

Homelessness is a real problem and there are many people who have opinions on how to help people avoid this situation, great compassion is needed, but so may be a stern and heavy hand. One thing must be clear; the city cannot allow the new waterfront to descend into a homeless encampment zone. There will be some groups that take offense to any attempt to thwart people from living on the streets at the Waterfront, but the whole project is doomed to fail if the city doesn’t keep the area clean. Portland has already lost much of its ‘luster’ and people are flocking to the waterfront here, because it is in fact NOT PORTLAND, let’s try to keep it that way, shall we?


Another High Rise Proposed for the Waterfront

Carbon 12 in Portland, OR

The latest news has centered on a Portland firm planning a new high-rise for the waterfront. The Columbian newspaper reported last week the Kaiser Group has proposed a CLT ((cross laminated timber) apartment tower called, “The Trestle.” Perhaps the railroad parlance is in honor of the nearby rail operations for the Port of Vancouver. Kaiser Group is involved with the development of other CLT projects including the Carbon 12. It’s an 8 story CLT building in Portland, which is currently the tallest CLT wood structure in America. This new cross laminated timber structure is proposed for Block 14 with 16 floors and 185 feet tall. The building as proposed would be a little bit taller than the current FAA height restrictions in the area, but Block 14 is far enough west that I would imagine the FAA would be fine with it especially since the building will likely have a narrow elevation profile and the La Farge cement tower is nearby and exceeds 150 feet itself. A 16 story building with only 110 units will not be very wide. We shall see how this one develops, looking like a really nice project. If built it will be taller than the Timberhouse 12 story building proposed on Block 3 and would become the tallest CLT building in the United States. The Trestle, is in the preliminary stages and would be finished in 2023.

Timberhouse from Summit Development

Now that I’ve mentioned the Timberhouse, I haven’t heard anything lately from Summit Development on the progress towards a ground breaking. Summit Development is a bit hush on this project having not updated their website at all in several months. I like the classic style of this project, but I fear that they may be stalled out on it. No news is not good news in this line of business. The last quote I read from Barry Cain at Gramor, back in January, they were planning on breaking ground for Timberhouse this year. Let’s hope they do, there is a lot on money, both public and private riding on this amazing waterfront, the sooner these projects get started, the sooner more local, regional, and national buzz the site receives. Media buzz in this instance is very good.

There is a website that counts tower cranes and measures the economic success of cities based on the number of active cranes operating in the city. Seattle has spent the last few years at the top of the list in the U.S. Let’s get a few more cranes up here in the ‘Couv’.

Block 4 Construction Progress

In other Waterfront news, The progress on Lot 4 seems to be humming along as we ride into spring. I was at the Grand Opening of Fidelity and Chicago Title at the Murdock on Thursday night. That is a nice building to be sure. From the east side the windows look over the construction site for Lot 4 where the Kirkland Tower and Indigo Hotel projects are under construction. I took a photo with my phone, out the window of title officer, Joan Grimm’s east facing office. It shows the underground development on Block 4. These are two subterranean levels of parking for the complex. The 12 story Kirkland Tower condos will rise up on the near side of the block while the 8 story open atrium Indigo Hotel will go up on the far side of the block. The two buildings will be connected to form an almost single structure.

Downtown Vancouver and the Waterfront are the happening spot in the metro area right now, and there is no need take our foot of the accelerator pedal.

Vancouver Center 4 Modified, Again

Vancouver Center 4 is back in the news with the Columbian reporting in October, that construction should start in March.

Last year, Vancouver based, Holland Partner Group proposed a ten story light gauge steel structure for the site which would have housed 194 apartment units. The light gauge steel design has not been fully vetted for a west coast seismic zone so it seems that the alternative 6 story option will play out with 116 units and roughly 2000 feet of retail underneath.

Timing is important on this building for two reasons, first the city granted an extension on the special taxation / zoning of the building under the plan originally setup for the project in the early 2000’s. The structure must be done within a set time frame, which is closing in. Waiting on the seismic reporting was no longer an option. Furthermore, the building construction will be staged on Block Ten and Gramor is planning to erect their 11 story project on that block as soon as this project is complete, so again on the timing.

What I find odd is that Holland planned on a ten story structure but now according to the Columbian article is using a steel and concrete two-story base with four wood framed floors over the top. That doesn’t make sense when code allows for five floors up wood frame. The drawing from that same article shows a five wood frame up looking design over a single story concrete base. I imagine that is the plan since a seven story building was never discussed.

Steel and concrete building is time-consuming and expensive, so it is cost-effective to utilize wood framing whenever possible, especially for apartment units. If it is to be a two-story concrete base, it stands to reason the building ought to have seven floors.

Whatever the case may be, the beleaguered Vancouver Center 4 is finally going up and that is good news for downtown.