Careful, Urban Views can be Fleeting

Buyers of urban style high-rise condos should be very aware of local plans and proposed new projects as they can often have a temporary or permanent effect on the quality of life for existing residents in existing developments.

Urban living is not just about an 11th floor condo overlooking the city, river, mountains, etc. It is also very much about the lifestyle. Living in the thick of things with easy walking access to a large list of venues for food, entertainment, and events.

For many a view is important and having that view last more than just a few months or years could be an important issue for many potential homeowners. New high-rise projects almost always cause some disruption to nearby residents and businesses as the tower cranes and work crews sometime cause detours and street closures along with a little dust and noise. This is temporary and many times the new project is a great improvement over the last use for the land either a vacant lot or under developed run down structure.

Google maps with unofficial representations of proposed and approved projects near Vancouver Center.

But there are times when the new building is tall enough to block the view of other nearby developments. Sometimes people sell their units in these “doomed” view buildings and they may not necessarily point out that the new structure proposed and approved by the city for construction will have a negative effect. This of course is a permanent problem as opposed to the temporary inconvenience of construction.

Right here in Vancouver USA we have a rather robust flurry of building activity in both the Downtown and Waterfront areas. Two projects are in place to cause some permanent view obstructions to a series of units in Vancouver Center, Heritage Place, and Smith Tower.

Parkview Tower in Vancouver Center is a bold example of this ‘price of progress’ problem. Parkview is aptly named considering half the units in the building actually face Esther Short Park. Esther Short Park is recorded on the National Register of Historic Places and thus will not be leveled to make way for any large high-rise projects in the future. Units facing the park will always enjoy the views over the park. But the units on the opposite side of the building currently have a more “urban” view looking across a small courtyard into the windows of the Vancouver Center 3 Office/Condo Tower which is much taller than Parkview. Some of those units that are close to the ends have views either to the northeast or southeast looking over vacant lots.

This view is ‘doomed’ When Block Ten rises up 11 floors in 2020-21

Those looking to the southeast will lose these views by the end of this year as the long-awaited Vancouver Center Tower 4 is slated to break ground next month. That tower will be as tall or taller than Parkview Tower, thus eliminating the current view of the South Main District and peek-a-boo Columbia River views.

Later on next year the superstructure of the new 11 story tower on the ‘Block Ten’ lot will eliminate the northeast views for Parkview. Many people, even Realtors® can’t seem to wrap their heads around why the units facing west over the park are priced so much higher. It’s the view! And the view is forever versus the views in east facing units that are in effect doomed.

Interior unit view, unaffected, already obstructed

Buyers need to be aware of projects that are in the pipeline and how they might affect the view of a home they are considering. Even if a view is unimportant to the buyer, the future obstruction could have a negative impact on property values.

At Parkview the interior east facing units are not likely to be affected by these projects because they already look out into the side of a building. These views are already obstructed and have been for many years. These units also are priced lower as a result. It’s the east facing corner units that have a view now but will soon have a view similar to the interior units. Realtors® list these units and show the “views” but often fail to mention that these views are not likely to persist. They may not be aware that these new projects are even in play.

Buyers, be careful and do not be afraid to ask direct questions to your real estate agent about the likely hood of the views being obstructed. No one knows for sure what may or may not happen in the future, but in this case we have a building going up this year that will affect views and another that is very likely to go up shortly after that affecting other views.

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New Proposal for Waterfront Block 20

The Columbian reported yesterday that San Francisco based, Jackson Square Properties has submitted a proposal for lot 20 at the waterfront. Jackson Square is no stranger to Vancouver having developed property in Vancouver already. All of the properties they did locally are more suburban style low-rise apartment complexes, so this represents something a bit more ambitious for them. In fact I couldn’t find any residential building they did anywhere with more than 4 floors.

That mentioned, the proposal is for a 7 story apartment building with 230 plus units and underground parking for 250 spaces. This project is proposed for a phase three area of the waterfront that was planned for later development beginning in 2021. They want to break ground next year. Of course lot 20 is at the far western end of the waterfront development area right up against the park and riverfront. It is a premium lot but the original idea was to reserve those western lots for taller structures since they have a higher height allowance under the FAA imposed height restrictions. At least that seems to be the case when looking at the master plan.

I suppose a shorter building at that location would help keep the value of the two blocks behind it (north) as those could have a taller structure overlooking this proposed building. I also like the idea of getting as much development done while the economy is still hot and developers and investors are excited about new projects.

I would imagine some renderings will emerge in the next few days giving us a peek at what may become of Block 20.