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.


Activity Picking Up.

The local urban condo market saw a bit of a gain in listings adding to the inventory at plus one unit. Four new listings against three new pending sales and a closed sale. This is good activity across the broad spectrum of pricing from the entry level at $210,000 up to the higher end in seven figures. Units are selling and new units are arriving to replace them.

Northwynd at Columbia Shores has the most units listed and the activity in that complex seems to favor buyers. Just about everywhere else in the Vancouver urban condo market, sellers hold a slight advantage.

Kirkland Tower (left) and Indigo Hotel (right)

Kirkland continues its work on the two building complex at Block 4 on the waterfront. It appears that the emphasis is on the completion of the 8 story Indigo Hotel project rather than the 12 story condo tower. This would make sense because the Kirkland Tower condos are going to rely on the hotel for some of the HOA amenities. The Indigo Hotel is nearly done with the glass siding and they are only needing to finish up exterior trim facades before the interior gets finished out. Even with the COVID-19 delays it does appear this project will complete close to the scheduled time of late Q4 perhaps pushing into mid Q1, 2021. The condo tower may be delayed completing late Q1, or early Q2, 2021. These timelines are based on observations and not any official report from Kirkland Development. These will be the first brand new condominium units in Downtown Vancouver in many years.

Block 16 proposal, Gramor Development

The success at Kirkland Tower is very important to the rest of the Vancouver waterfront project. There are multiple condo projects in the pipeline including Gramor Development’s 14 story 80 unit proposal for Block 16. Kaiser+Path in Portland has proposed a 16 story CLT condo tower on Block 14 as well. I would imagine those two groups are waiting to see how Kirkland does with its smaller but likely more luxurious 40 unit 12 story tower.

Kirkland is also pursuing an shorter 8 story project east of the Interstate Bridge near the current Who, Song, and Larry’s restaurant. This project may include condos as well.

The Springs Living, proposal, Block 18

The Springs Living proposed a 12 story senior living tower for Block 18, offering a wide variety of amenities geared towards the needs of elderly citizens. The city seemed rather pleased with the project proposal on the pre-app submission based on comments published in VBJ and the Columbian. Senior facilities do have their hands full with COVID-19 issues so I am not sure if the timelines for this proposal will be negatively impacted.

The global slowdown due to COVID-19 could translate to some of the waterfront projects being pushed back on start dates. Although that does not seem to be the case right now it could be at least part of why Summit Development Group has not broken ground yet on the Timberhouse project for Block 2.

Hopefully we can get through this economic turbulence and return to positive growth in the second half of 2020 leading into 2021.


Latest Activity Report

This past week saw two pending sales, one closed and one new listing in Vancouver’s urban condo market.  That is a nice contrast to the +11 inventory that I reported last Monday.

Take note that the data on Vancouver’s urban market can have wild swings due as much to the smaller total inventory as actual market activity. The total inventory including all units for sale or not is only about a thousand so the data pool is pretty small. In general inventory for urban style condos is trending tight.

I have no real news about upcoming developments as the city agencies and most construction is on a COVID-19 pause. I would imagine that the new Kirkland Tower project will experience a delayed opening due tot he shut down, but hopefully the units will still be ready by this time next year or earlier. Kirkland Tower will feature 40 luxury units right on the water and will tap into the hotel services for homeowners. This is a unique arrangement here in Vancouver, although it is not a novel idea.

If we can get the virus locked down in the next 30 days and start to ease back into positive economic growth, we should see a robust return to prosperity. One local developer seems to be optimistic as the Columbian reported earlier today that Ryan Hurley and Ten Talents construction submitted a pre-app to the city for a companion office tower to the Hurley Tower completed earlier this year. Let’s hope this virus pandemic ends soon.

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.

Surplus of High-End Properties

There is a bit of a surplus of high-end real estate right now in Vancouver and Clark County; from single family homes to luxury condos. This is slowing things down quite a bit. Make no mistake the local real estate market remains very hot in the entry level to median price points with quick sales and multiple offers on the bottom half of the market. Once you meander north of the middle things get decidedly cooler.

On the Downtown and Urban Vancouver scene this is playing out as well except  for a few variations of the theme. Tidewater is one of the most exclusive and expensive condo projects in Vancouver with units routinely playing in deep into 7 figures. Those units are not in plentiful supply and with the exception of the really expensive ones above $2.5 million they seem to be doing OK. Units in Shorewood and Parkview seem to be a bit heavy on inventory. To be fair, they are selling but I see that new listings are coming in a bit faster than old ones are selling. Shorewood and Parkview have a commonality in that they have some great view units and some with little or no view. the view units will command a significantly higher price, particularly in Parkview where the interior view is the side of an office building.

There are still sellers that think their unit is built from a solid billet block of gold, because I see some puffed up prices. This market will not tolerate a bloated price. Buyers should be unafraid to beat down a seller with delusions of grandeur, but be cautious against trying to steal something as this market will not tolerate low-ballers much either.

The urban units in Vancouver represent a broad range of diversity from the old and tired but still nice Academy in the $200k range to the high-rise of Viewpoint, multi-millions luxury of Tidewater, and the value proposition that is Shorewood. There is something for everyone in urban Vancouver and for the most part it is a nice neutral market.

Activity Up, Prices Steady

Downtown Vancouver is seeing some robust activity in the low to middle priced urban condo market right now. New units have come online over the last couple of weeks but units are selling as well. There has been a sizable load of activity in the Parkview Condo Tower at 701 Columbia this year.

Parkview is in the unique position of offering relatively affordable units that can be purchased for less than or very near to the price of a rental unit. In fact the building just south of Parkview is a nearly identical but slightly shorter tower with all rental units.

I believe the excitement over the waterfront and the local tight rental market has put positive pressure on the entry-level to mid-priced condos and Parkview is where most of those are located in the downtown core area.

In other urban living news, Riverwest Apartments are very near complete. I would imagine they will start leasing soon with delivery sometime in the late spring.

Kirkland Project now Rising above Street Level

I went to the Maryhill Winery opening this past weekend and they have a lovely tasting room on block 12 next to Twigs Bistro. I noticed the Kirkland project progress as I drove by.

Most of the underground infrastructure and parking are complete and the Kirkland Tower and Hotel Indigo structures are rising above the street now. Generally these types of tallish buildings have a slow start building the ground support and elevator towers before the steel frame rises. Once the base structure is in place things start to move fast. The building goes up fairly quickly from this point.

According to reports from Gramor, the Waterfront developer and Kirkland the block 4 project developer, The 8 story Hotel Indigo will be completed first followed by the 12 story Kirkland Tower. Both will be built simultaneously however.

I am intrigued by both of these projects. The hotel is quite possibly going to be the nicest in town. Built with an interior open atrium design and an El Gaucho location the project is aiming pretty high. They are also putting in a ‘sky lounge’ on the 8th floor. Kirkland Tower is a condo building that will be directly connected to the hotel structure and owners will have access to some of the hotel’s amenities and services. The project will have underground parking shared with the hotel, but also featuring a stackable parking setup which will be unique in Vancouver. This parking arrangement lifts one car up on a rack allowing another to be parked underneath.

The real test is the pricing on the units. Rumors are circulating that the larger units, which are not really going to be that big maybe 1600-1800 SF will be listed in the $4 million plus range. Now to be clear, Vancouver USA has condos that have sold in these upper reaches of pricing, mostly in the Tidewater project to the east. But those are much larger units some with 4000 SF. If Kirkland can get these units sold in that price range, it does bode well for the success of the grand waterfront as a whole.

Some reports show that there are some who are concerned with the high pricing on units so far, and to be fair they have a point, but equally fair is the point that so far the structures going up are right on the water. These are the most premium lots in the project, one should expect higher end uses. As the project builds out to the lots further back off the water, I would estimate that units will start going in with more modest middle-income pricing. Patience is important in these matters.

Part of building a community that is fresh and exciting is luring in some big dollars to boost the local economy and this project is certainly doing that quite well.

What’s up at Northwynd?

There has been a surge in activity at Northwynd Condos at Columbia Shores. Quite a few units are now listed. There doesn’t seem to be any real negative issue, just a lot of people making a move. Recently the association at Northwynd had a small assessment that led to a $100 increase in HOA dues, but that is really not a big enough deal to produce an exodus.

I spoke to one Realtor® privately that has a few listings in that complex; she thinks people are excited about the new waterfront and some may be capitalizing on the “buzz” surrounding the waterfront. Although there is some merit to the idea that some homeowners could be ‘taking profits’ like investors do in the stock market when values are high, it seems a bit more complicated than that. I’ll be sniffing around to see if there is more to the story over the next few weeks.

This Week in Urban Vancouver

It seems like there has been a bit of an inventory bump at Northwynd Condos in the Columbia Shores area. Several Northwynd units have been listed this past week while one went pending. Meanwhile other units in the Columbia Shores neighborhood have remained steady, the waterfront unit at the Village closed they got 99.5% of full price. Also in Columbia Shores, a Meriwether unit that was withdrawn is now back on the market this two-story condo has a waterfront patio and spectacular views. 3105 SF listed at $2.45 million.

Downtown high-rise developments saw no new inventory this week and no new pending units. The recent snowy weather has no doubt softened the number of showings on these and other housing units in the area. Buyers willing the brave the elements can have an advantage sometimes as the perception for sellers is different when fewer showings are happening, even when the cause is likely only temporary.

Parkview at Vancouver Center continues to offer a relative value in Downtown Vancouver. These units in general are a little less “plush” than the luxury units in Viewpoint, but the west-facing units feature a nice view of Esther Short Park. They suffer a little from higher HOA fees than nearby Viewpoint, but the units themselves tend to be 30-50% less expensive making Parkview an attractive proposition for Downtown urban condos.

Meanwhile on the new waterfront; Kirkland has erected the first crane to help build the Hotel Indigo and the Kirkland Tower Condos. The Kirkland Tower is a 12 story building that just scrapes the bottom of the FAA height limit due to its close proximity to the Pearson Airfield. The Tower crane will need to be raised an additional 50-70 feet to 250 feet, in the summer with a special permit from the FAA. Kirkland will need to remove the crane by autumn to remain in compliance with regulations.

At this point there is no indication of an expected delay in the scheduled 2020 opening of both facilities. These units have no ‘official’ pricing, but the local rumor mill is producing figures in the $1 million to $4 million range depending on size and view.

Rediviva is actively filling up their beautiful new mid-rise apartment building on the waterfront and the much larger Riverwest building should start leasing this spring. So long as demand for both rental and sale units remains solid, the waterfront and downtown construction boom should boost activity for resale condos in the area.

Joe’s and Who Song Could Become Twin Towers

photo from The Columbian, 12-12-2018

The Columbian reported last week that local developer, Dean Kirkland is proposing to replace the aged restaurants, Joe’s Crab Shack and Who, Song, and Larrys with a mixed use retail/residential complex of two buildings of at least nine floors each. Maybe a hotel as well.

In the article, Kirkland indicated he would be interested in retaining the two eateries for the new development. If approved these would be the two tallest buildings in Vancouver by floor count east of I-5. It is unlikely they would be taller in height than the 8 story Firstenburg Tower at Peace Health Hospital.

Although the waterfront and downtown have a flurry of activity including numerous mid-rise and high-rise buildings, this is the first such project proposed east of the Interstate Bridge.

Although neither restaurant is really outstanding they both offer reasonable fare, and excellent happy hour opportunities on the decks overlooking the river. Whether these two restaurants return to the development is not a major concern of mine, but another restaurant or two would be nice to keep the public interest in the waterfront area with both the trail and riverside dining. You hear that Mr. Kirkland?

More urban living opportunity is on the horizon.