Paul Liberatore

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The Ward House on East Fifth Street is free to anyone who can give it a new home. 


Heritage home. 2,500 square feet. Edwardian character. Free. Must provide own land.

A Lower Mainland developer is hoping to save a North Vancouver heritage home from demolition by offering it up for free to anyone who can have it trucked away to its own vacant land.

The 1909 home at 245-248 East Fifth St., dubbed the Ward House, is on a lot scheduled to be redeveloped into townhouses by Tien Sher Homes.

“There is a lot of character in it,” said Charan Sethi, Tien Sher founder.  “If we feel it’s the right person who’s actually going to turn around and use it somewhere, they can have it for free,” he said.

The house was first owned and occupied by Percy Ward (1882-1964) and Zellah Celestine Ward (died 1962), according to documents filed with the City of North Vancouver in 2010.

Another character home on the same block will be fully restored by the developer.

Moving a heritage home starts around $40,000 to $60,000 and can climb higher if the mover must arrange for telephone and hydro lines to be temporarily removed. But that’s still a “hell of a lot cheaper” than building a similar structure elsewhere, Sethi said.

Moving heritage homes otherwise slated for demolition is an innovative solution to preserve heritage that more developers should be pursuing, said Kyla Gardiner, a North Vancouver real estate agent who specializes in heritage homes and a board member with the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society.

North Vancouver realtor Kyla Gardiner outside a 106-year-old heritage house on West Fifth that's up for grabs - Mike Wakefield, North Shore News

“It seems everywhere you look, these old homes are being torn down and new homes are being built and we’re losing that sense of history in our community,” she said. “It’s such a waste. We talk about being a green city and it’s just a joke with everything being demolished. There are so many opportunities for innovative solutions.”

The society prefers that old buildings be restored and given heritage protection, but that’s not typically an option on the table said Jennifer Clay, society vice-president.

“Our preference is always to retain the house as much as possible but we understand we can’t block development,” Clay said. “It’s an unavoidable consequence of progress.”

Smart developers are using heritage preservation as leverage when negotiating for redevelopment with municipalities, she added, often by moving a century home elsewhere within the same lot and freeing up space for infill development.

Clay said her dream is to find someone with a huge plot of land, anywhere in B.C., to be set up as a heritage village — new home for old homes.


A trend in land development in the Lower Mainland has land-rich organizations such as First Nations, municipalities, universities and health authorities work with the private sector to generate cash and other benefits.

“In the last couple of decades, we’ve seen a real shift in who is undertaking large-scale land development and why,” said Gordon Harris, president of the Simon Fraser Community Trust and an urban planner.

“What we are seeing is less about the acquisition of land for the purpose of changing and intensifying its use, and more about the decision of land-rich organizations to create value from surplus land and to use that to support the core activities and functions of those large-scale organizations, or for other reasons such as advancing social and community goals,” said Harris.

He and three panelists spoke Thursday at a session sponsored by the Vancouver chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

The landlords who are conducting these atypical deals have been in the spotlight recently as Vancouver Coastal Health signed an agreement with the Onni Group for the sale of its Pearson-Dogwood lands, a four-block parcel at 57th Avenue along the Cambie corridor. One estimate puts the deal in the $200-million range.


First Nation deals include Tsawwassen’s agreement with Ivanhoe Cambridge to develop a $600-million shopping centre on treaty lands through a 99-year lease, and the high-profile federal government settlement with the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations for the Jericho military lands and two other smaller parcels in the city of Vancouver. The three First Nations are 50-per-cent partners in the $300-million deal with the federal Crown corporation Canada Lands Company.

While the groups are making money from these deals, they are also seeking other benefits. For example, the Tsawwassen First Nation is seeking jobs and training for its members.

The Tsawwassen estimate that a full residential, commercial and industrial build-out of its plans for their 742 hectares of treaty lands will inject $548 million annually into its economy.

“The success has to be translated back into our community, not only for current generations, but for 100, 200, 300 years,” said Chris Hartman, president of the Economic Development Corp. for the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Hartman said he believes that partnerships with private companies can be successful even though developers are more familiar with land deals that involve straight purchases.

He noted that one can be very creative with long-term lease development deals.

Surrey City Development Corp. president Aubrey Kelly said while there was initial criticism from the private development community that Surrey was competing with the private sector, that has died down, noting his group has worked with developers Bosa, Century, Townline and Beedie.

Stef Schiedon, director of real estate for the Fraser Health Authority, said health authorities are among the largest land holders in the province.

“I think we are among those hidden groups in real estate,” said Schiedon, noting the group he heads has 700 employees and carries our leasing and property management for four health authorities.

He said profits are invested into health care and in the case of the Pearson-Dogwood lands, a parcel of land was retained for future health care use.

For the Simon Fraser Community Trust, which developed the 10-year-old UniverCity on Burnaby Mountain adjacent to SFU, now with 3,500 inhabitants, profits are plowed back into an endowment fund that supports teaching and research. The University of B.C. has also used land-lease revenues to help feed a $1.1-billion endowment fund.

“The real issue is we get to do this once every 100 years. Let’s get it right. And that’s not just take the money and run: what can we give back and put pack in the community and make this whole region a richer place,” said Harris


Developers already know that, which is why Intergulf Development Group vice-president Shaadi Faris will be keeping a close eye on the transit plebiscite results. Better transit won’t just offer better regional access, but it will add fire to the already hot market.

“All development sites are based around transit – as a city, that is our issue,” says Mr. Faris. “We are surrounded by water and mountains, and we can’t expand that way, so we have to work around transit. Transit drives development here. It’s our biggest concern.

“If they go ahead with this referendum, for sure what I’m going to do is say, ‘Where is this new infrastructure going?’ And I am going to look along those points and talk to different municipalities and ask, ‘Where do you want to see the corresponding increase in density to serve these new transit stops?’ That’s going to lead the next wave of development. The Cambie Corridor is built because of the Canada Line. The Evergreen Line in Coquitlam, all those stops, same thing. It absolutely dictates the next wave of density in those places.”

Developers know what’s coming down the pike before anybody. If a municipality has plans to rezone single-family housing into multifamily to grow density around a transit hub, developers will snap up those properties first. The Cambie Corridor has generated billions of dollars in real estate investments because of the Canada Line. Intergulf is building Empire at QE Park, which will be the first condos ready for occupancy this year in the corridor. But it’s only one of dozens of developments either on the way or going through the application process. There is Marine Gateway, MC2, Oakridge Centre redevelopment, Monarch at QE Park, Forty Nine West at Oak, King Edward Green, Cambie Star, Bennington House and Cambria Park, among numerous others.

Some observers make the argument that the public should reap the rewards of such major development that exists only because of transit infrastructure. For example, TransLink could have purchased the developable land around Canada Line and sold it to developers to cover some of the cost of the transit, says architect and principal at Bing Thom Architects, Michael Heeney.

“That way they get the uptick in the value, which they should get, because they invested millions of dollars.”

Another analyst suggested a tax levy on transit-oriented developments.

“It’s clear that transit could be paying for itself in some manner such as it does in other cities around the world,” said the analyst, who preferred to remain nameless. “Transit infrastructure is one of the few government investments which actually makes money. If you build a new hospital or courthouse or some other civic improvement, it’s a net cost. But a new transit line generates significant real estate profits.

“Here, the general public pays and private development benefits.”

Mr. Shaadi has got his eye on the Broadway corridor to the University of British Columbia, whose future will also depend on rapid transit.

“Talking from an investment standpoint, [Broadway] will be interesting. People will want to position themselves speculatively and builders will get busy and scope out those sites once they’re clear on where the stops are going to be.”

He doesn’t see a No vote standing in the way of the new corridor. The plebiscite will only help answer the question of who will pay for better transit. Regardless of the outcome, adjustments will have to be made. There are an estimated million-plus people expected to move to Metro Vancouver by 2041.

Vancouver was ranked as having the worst traffic congestion in Canada, with a level of 35 per cent. The city places 20th in most-congested cities in the world. Something has got to change.

That’s why transportation consultants like George Poulos argue for higher density areas, better land use and transit-oriented developments. In the face of unaffordability, homebuyers often erroneously move further from their jobs for cheaper housing, he says. They are underestimating the costs of running a car.

“If you live in areas with limited mobility options and must drive everywhere – especially with a two car household – this could be very expensive,” says Mr. Poulos, who has a degree in transportation engineering.

A keen backer of better transit, Mr. Poulos has supplied the data for an arsenal of interesting apps that figure out commuting costs and behaviours. It’s all part of his work with Discourse Media, a group of journalists that publish urban development reports. Based on a rate of 66 cents per kilometre, and the average annual mileage for a personal-use car of 14,600 kilometres, it costs almost $10,000 a year to operate one car. For a two-car family, that’s a hefty premium to live far from work.

Another study by David Hughes of Mortgage Group Ontario showed similar results. It compared the suburban commuter’s property purchase with that of the urban resident who uses transit, car share, bicycles and taxis. The suburban couple paid $220,000 less but operated two cars. Based on a mortgage rate of 3.5 per cent with a 25-year amortization, the urban buyers came out ahead by $33,865 after 40 years.

The same variables wouldn’t apply to everyone, but the point is clear. When buying a house far from one’s job, commuting costs need to be factored into the overall cost. And that’s not including other costs, such as the added stress of the road, or hours spent driving.

UBC adjunct planning professor Andy Yan says close to 60 per cent of transit users with mortgages are under the age of 40. That would make sense since incomes are relatively low compared to the rest of Canada, and property prices are sky high.

“The thing about transit is it typically helps fix those costs,” says Mr. Yan. “It becomes one less cost variable a person has to account for when trying to find a place to live. It fits into the overall profile of transit. The general population that takes transit to work are people under age of 40. It all fits.”

They are also mostly women. Of all workers who use transit, 60 per cent of them live on an income of less than $40,000. Of those, 60 per cent are women. And most commuting is happening between sub-regions like Langley and Surrey. Vancouver is not draining out every night, says Mr. Poulos. People living outside of the urban core are also working outside the urban core.

“It’s far more dispersed in the sense that we have people living and working in the same area. It’s slightly unusual.”

Mr. Heeney and Mr. Yan were involved in the community plan for Surrey City Centre, which is a success story largely because of the SkyTrain station. When the university campuses began opening there, they initially worried that students would fill the mall parking lot. It turned out that 80 per cent of students use rapid transit to get there, from all over the region.

“That development was then accessible to the entire region and everybody understood the value of Surrey City Centre, which is much more convenient than downtown to most people in the region,” says Mr. Heeney.

That intra-region travel needs the support of better transit if we’re to get people out of their cars. An area like South Surrey, where the population is booming, is screaming for a better way to connect to the region, says Landcor’s Rudy Nielsen.

“South Surrey desperately needs SkyTrain because they are building thousands and thousands of townhouses every year. It’s really growing fast. It used to be a laid back, quiet community. Now it’s all being snapped up by developers.”


Remember playing Monopoly and trying to buy adjacent properties of the same colour so you could build and collect higher rent? That's actually playing out in real life in Vancouver.

Known as land assembly sales, multiple homes next to each other are being sold together as one package. The deals are attractive to developers and incredibly lucrative for homeowners.

Driving it all are the City of Vancouver's plans to re-zone single family lots into high-density residences like condos and townhouses along the city's main arteries, says The Vancouver Sun.


So in certain communities with a density allowance, a 10,000 sq.-ft. house could all of a sudden be turned into 25,000 sq. ft. of new townhomes, explains Business in Vancouver (BIV), which makes a tidy parcel of properties quite attractive to developers.

Michelle Yu, arguably the queen ofVancouver land assembly deals, recently sold nine lots in a row on Granville Street. The $33.4-million deal meant each home — appraised separately at about $1.7 million — ended up selling for an average $3.7 million, reported Global News.

The RE/MAX realtor has a dozen land assembly packages listed on her site, including one for 11 properties on Oak Street. The $34-million offering could net each homeowner roughly $3.1 million on an average assessed property of $1.24 million.

But while selling in numbers can be money in the bank, land assembly sales can be a risky business.

After the deal is made, sellers could be forced to wait at least a year or two while re-zoning plans make their way through the city's approval process.

During that time, homeowners could change their minds and try to back out. But Mark Goodman from HQ Commercial told BIV that some developers sweeten the deal by allowing residents to live rent-free during the re-zoning wait, or by adding a $100,000 payment.

Some developers are snapping up land assemblies without waiting for details from the city on density in the area — such as in the Granville Street sale — which has people like city planner Brian Jackson worried about speculation, reported the Sun.

A land assembly also does not discriminate between old homes, completely renovated ones, or new builds. They all get torn down in the end, which some point out only creates more waste out of perfectly livable residences.

But Yu predicts the land packages will only continue in both pace and price, said BIV


Metro FileCondos seen in Yaletown in Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver wants to develop a website that would allow residents to report vacant homes.

The news comes from an April 20 memo sent to mayor and council from the city’s chief housing officer, Mukhtar Latif, who was asked to look into the issue of vacant homes during the city’s housing crisis.

Latif outlined the lack of data and limited research available, and writes a website that allows the public to report vacant homes – which would then be paired with BC Hydro data to confirm homes are indeed vacant – would be helpful.


“We’ve all heard people asking why Vancouver is so expensive and telling us to look at all these empty houses. It’s a persistent question, so let’s get to the bottom of it and find out,” Coun. Kerry Jang said on Sunday.


Jang said he often receives feedback from frustrated residents blaming vacant homes and prospective foreign owners on Vancouver’s high housing prices, but the city is unsure whether those claims are justified and to what extent.

Jang said he personally is unsure whether those claims are true or not.
“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” he said.

Latif’s memo cites two studies that try to get a handle on the issue.

Using 2011 census data, the Urban Futures Institute reported 6.7 per cent of the city’s apartment dwellings are unoccupied (it’s seven per cent across all Canadian metro areas).

Bing Thom Architects’ Andy Yan studied 2009 hydro data and surmised five to eight per cent of downtown condos are “dark”.

Neither study looks at vacant detached homes.

The city says it has had difficulty identifying data sources that can provide exact numbers, though it is working with Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to try to understand the issue.

The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency has also issued a request for proposals from consultants to help investigate vacant housing.

If the data shows vacant homes are contributing to rising housing costs and low rental supply, Jang said the city would look for solutions with provincial and federal partners.

Other jurisdictions, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have experimented with restrictions and additional levies on foreign ownership of real estate.

According to CMHC’s 2014 market rental report, the city’s rental vacancy rate is just 0.5 per cent.

The average cost of a detached home in Vancouver is now more than $1.9 million, according to a recent Vancity report.


We have listed a new property at 5378 RHODES ST in Vancouver.
ATTN INVESTORS AND BUILDERS. Large 48x139 level lot across the street from NORQUAY PARK. Home is outdated but still liveable. Hold and rent now and build later. All measurements are approx and must be verified.1st and only showing will be at an open house, Sunday April 26th, From 1-3pm. All offers in by Monday April 27th at 12 noon.

A massive footprint and a vacant plot of land near Main Street and Terminal Avenue will make St. Paul’s Hospital the envy of Canada and chart a course for the future design of health care delivery, board chairs for Providence and Vancouver Coastal told The Vancouver Sun Monday.

Unlike most hospital redevelopments, which involve renovation or expansion on limited land mass, the new St. Paul’s will move to the False Creek flats where there is space enough to build a unique “campus of care” offering a variety of services on one site.

The hospital itself will be larger and the campus will provide residential care for the frail elderly, a 24-7 integrated care centre staffed by family doctors to divert patients away from emergency departments, mental health and addiction services and research facilities, said Geoff Plant, chair of the Providence Health Care board and Kip Woodward, chair of Vancouver Coastal Health board.

West End residents will lose a hospital in their own backyard, and possibly the 1912 iconic brick building fronting Burrard Street; however, Plant said, “It’s my view that health care has to trump nostalgia all the time,” later adding that St. Paul’s is beyond help since it’s a “pile of bricks that could fall down in an earthquake.”

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, said the plan is like his worst dream. “In earlier drafts, there was going to be an emergency room of some sort on the St. Paul’s location. Now they are talking about full-scale selling of all the lands for condominiums or some sort of other development.”

Chandra Herbert said the new hospital will be too far from the downtown core in an event causing mass injuries.

“I’m not against health care investment elsewhere, I just think we need emergency services in downtown Vancouver.”

Woodward responded to Herbert’s complaints, saying: “There are rural communities where people would love to be within five hours of a hospital. The new hospital is only three kilometres away (from the current site), three to five minutes farther away.”

Only six per cent of those who use hospitals live within three kilometres of such medical facilities, noted Dianne Doyle, CEO of Providence (which operates St. Paul’s) and that proportion happens to be Vancouver’s West End residents. “So they are fortunate from that point of view,” she said, noting that ambulance drivers have told her they will find it far easier to get to the new site near Main and Terminal.

Dr. Julio Montaner, the internally renowned director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s, said he knows downtown residents are “emotionally attached” to the hospital and will not want to see it move anywhere, but “we are moving a few blocks away, it’s not like we’re moving to another continent.”

And with the construction not expected to be completed for at least seven years, Montaner said he expects as he ages, he’ll one day be a patient in the hospital.


Metro Vancouver multi-family landlords are basking in a confluence of factors that make owning old apartment buildings perhaps the best real estate play in Canada, a Vancouver real estate meeting was told April 9.

Most buildings are full, few new rentals are being built, landlords pay the lowest mortgage rates and the value of their properties have skyrocketed.

“We should all get up and do the watusi,” quipped Ward Jones, president of WIP Investment Corp., which specializes in buying, improving and renting some of the half-century-old wood frame apartment buildings that make up 85% of Metro Vancouver’s rental universe.

There are 105,000 multi-family rentals in the region, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) and that number hasn’t changed in nearly 20 years, added Jones, part of a five-member landlord panel at the Vancouver Real Estate Forum.

CMHC mortgage insurance on rental buildings, meanwhile, allows landlords to secure 10-year bank financing at rates as low as 1.9%, which is lower than the annual rent increases allowed under B.C. rental legislation. It is also a lower lending rate than that charged to investors in condominiums, which represent the only real rental competition.

At the same time, demand for land has driven the price of old apartment buildings to record highs. A day before the Vancouver Real Estate forum opened, a 60-year old, eight-suite apartment building on West 10th in Vancouver sold for $500,000 per suite and “per-door” prices average more than $230,000 across the Metro region, up 12% in the past year.

The rental vacancy rate in Metro Vancouver is a tight 1.4% and the average rental rate, at $1,166, is the highest in the country, confirms a survey by Colliers International, which notes that soaring home prices may push the number of Vancouver renter households above the current 50% level.

Despite protests from tenant advocates, “renovictions” – where tenants are evicted as landlords improve aging apartments to achieve higher rents – are rare in Vancouver, the panel was told, with most landlords opting for incremental improvements.

“In reality, the motivation [for renovictions] is not there,” said panelist Hanni Lammam, executive vice-president of Cressey Development Corp. “Notwithstanding the state of the building or the state of repair, we still get top market rent. I don’t think there is a lot of renovictions. It makes a good sound bite, but it doesn’t really happen that often.”


top 5 apr 17 main image

With detached homes and duplexes scarce in this hectic spring market, it's no wonder there were no condos on the most-clicked list this week. But which was home with its own front door was the most viewed by property hunters?

#5. Walnut Grove, Langley

top 5 apr 17 no 5 langley
5 Bedrooms
4 Bathrooms
2507 Square Feet
Lot size: 3250 ft²

New to this chart, a fully detached single-family home on bare land strata with maintenance fees of $65.87. Large kitchen has brand new stainless steel fridge, stove, dishwasher & hood fan. Large family room off the kitchen and eating area. Three good-sized bedrooms and open den upstairs, and downstairs has an office/den space as well as a one-bedroom suite with its own washing machine. Close to schools and transportation.

#4. Fleetwood Tynehead, Surrey

Top 5 April 10 No 5 Surrey

8 Bedrooms
5 Bathrooms
4917 Square Feet
Lot size: 12070 ft²

Rising from fifth to fourth spot this week is this huge, custom-built home on a massive 12,000 square-foot lot in a quiet cul-de-sac. This one-previous-owner home has eight bedrooms, five bathrooms and features tile and hardwood flooring, nine- and even 20-foot ceilings, beautiful mouldings, custom finishings and a large triple garage. The spacious floor plan boasts bay window living room with gas heatilator fireplace adjacent dining room. Chef's gourmet kitchen with built-in stainless steel appliances, island, walk-in pantry, eating area and a separate spice kitchen. Family room with gas fireplace and french doors to patio.

#3. Sullivan Station, Surrey

top 5 apr 17 no 3 surrey

6 Bedrooms
6 Bathrooms
3777 square feet
Lot size: 4290 ft²

Slipping one place this week is this spacious six-bed, six-bath home in Surrey, boasting fine finishings including granite countertops, hardwood floors, crown moldings and baseboards. Open floor plan, bathrooms everywhere and a media room plus two-bedroom suite downstairs. Close to shopping, transit, highway and schools.

#2. Sapperton, New Westminster

top 5 apr 17 no 2 sapperton

3 Bedrooms
2 Bathrooms
1946 Square Feet
Lot size: 45 ft x 113 ft (5080 ft²)

In at #2 is a detached home on a sizable lot, with great mortgage helper potential, in the historic Sapperton area of New Westminster. The listing agent describes it as one of the most affordable homes in the neighbourhood. This home has two bedrooms upstairs, an open-plan living and dining room and a large sundeck. Downstairs that has a one-bedroom-and-den suite (two bedrooms if you forgo a dining room) that is ideal to rent out. The yard is fully fenced and pet friendly, and the home had a new roof in 2009. Close to Skytrain, freeway, hospital and the new Brewery District. In need of some updating but still seems like good value at half a million.

#1. South Slope, Burnaby

top 5 apr 17 no 1 burnaby

4 Bedrooms
4 Bathrooms
1880 Square Feet
Lot size: 33 ft x 117 ft (3940 ft²)

Making a re-entry into the list is this semi-detached four-bedroom duplex in the South Slope area of Burnaby. Features include enclosed front yard, high vaulted ceilings, stone gas fireplace, crown mouldings, large open living and dining area, high quality floors, gourmet kitchen with granite counter-tops. Main floor has one bedroomm and 1.5 bathrooms, and upstairs has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, including a big master with ensuite and private covered patio. There's also potential for an additional one-bed suite. This spacious home is also close to schools, walking distance to 22nd Street Skytrain and Market Crossing shopping centre and 10 minutes from Metrotown. No wonder it's getting lots of attention.


VANCOUVERApril 16, 2015 /CNW/ - Deecorp Properties Ltd. is pleased to announce Aritzia's up-and-coming flagship expansion on Robson Street in 2016.  The additional 6,500 sq. ft. flagship store will sit along the Wilfred-only, existing Aritzia and Base locations at the prime intersection of Robson & Thurlow.

"We feel that Aritzia's strong brand and market presence brings a revitalized energy to this area." says Jay Lirag, Deecorp's Vice President of Development and Leasing.  "The expansion of Aritzia shows the confidence in the 1100 block of Robson Street, arguably one of the busiest retail centres in Vancouver."

The interest and demand for Robson Street remains positive with the recent influx of some high profile tenants, such as Sephora, L'Occitane and Lululemon, all of which have opened up their flagship stores on Robson Street in 2014. Roots is currently in the process of renovating and expanding its flagship and a third redevelopment on the 1000 block will attract another high quality tenant in the next couple of years.

Aritzia is an innovative women's fashion boutique that cherishes excellent design and quality, offering beautiful clothes and accessories that no one can match at its price point. Providing unparalleled customer service and a personal shopping experience both in store and online, Aritzia curates a collection of fashion brands both exclusive and non-exclusive, providing guests with a unique vision of what's best every season.  Aritzia's design philosophy also extends to its stores, which strike the perfect balance of sophisticated and welcoming. High-quality natural materials, ambient lighting, and luxuriously warm finishes make for a casual, lounge-like atmosphere designed individually, so no two are the same. Aritzia was founded on providing personalized customer service through friendly, knowledgeable, and fashionable staff. After all, "excellent customer service never goes out of style," says CEO Brian Hill.

Deecorp Properties Ltd. is a comprehensive commercial real estate company based in Vancouver, Canada. Over the past twenty years it has acquired, repositioned, developed, financed, and managed a portfolio of real estate assets with a combined value of over $300 million. Deecorp specializes in signature properties of interest for investors seeking long term positions in the North American market, with a primary focus in acquiring and optimizing street front retail assets in downtown Vancouver.


Vancouver photographer Rob Atkins thought he’d get above asking for his little eight-unit South Granville apartment block.

He didn’t expect he’d get more than $1-million above asking, however. And neither did the scores of real estate agents who told him he’d get anywhere from $2.8-million to $3.1-million. Mr. Atkins and his friends, who are minority co-owners, listed the Fernhurst apartment block for $3.199-million.


It sold in eight days for $4.28-million, to an investor who plans to fix it up and sit on it as a long-term investment. It was a surprising sale, for both the owners and all real estate agents involved.

“I still don’t believe it,” says Mr. Atkins. “The amount of money that was paid. … I was truly shocked.

“We saw that story about the house that sold for $567,000 above asking on TV, the night after the offers were presented. And my wife and I just laughed and said, ‘That is chump change.’”

The small three-storey walk-up at 1626 West 10th Ave. was built in 1926 and sits on a 50-foot lot, which is about the same size as the average west side residential lot. Mr. Atkins, who lives in the Commercial Drive area, had purchased the building in 2006 for $1.5-million, using money from an inheritance. He owned 75 per cent of the building and a friend owned the remainder. Later, he sold another 10 per cent to another friend.

“We are self-employed, and we wanted something for our retirement,” says Mr. Atkins. “It felt like a sound investment at the time. We were very new to the idea of real estate, and it seemed like a lot. But it also seemed to us that we have this heritage place, it’s the west side, you’re near Granville, Burrard and Broadway. It seemed that this had to be a worthy investment. We never looked back.”

They had 14 offers in total, and several of those offers came from people who planned on living in the building, says listing agent Dwayne Launt. One offer came from a couple who had plans to sell their west-side house and turn the two top floor suites into a single suite, and give the second floor to their kids. The bottom floor would be maintained as rental suites. Those buyers couldn’t compete with the investor’s offer, but their attempt illustrates that people are getting more resourceful in trying to figure out ways to buy a home in Vancouver. A small apartment block can provide housing as well as revenue, on a greater scale than the usual detached house with a basement suite or laneway house.

The buyer is an investor who owns several properties, but has no plans to live there.

All of the tenants are fans of the heritage architecture, with suites that are spacious and bright. The rooms have so many details that it feels as if you’re standing inside a house, not an apartment. In the stairwell, there is a large leaded-glass window, and each of the eight suites has a fireplace, French doors, coved ceilings and inlaid oak floors. In the 1920s, apartments were built for families and long-term residents. The milkman would deliver milk bottles to a little cupboard door that opened to each suite. Those little doors are still there, but they are sealed shut. A couple of the tenants have moved away and returned a few years later, says Mr. Atkins, who knows each of them.

He wasn’t a typical owner of commercial property, he says.

“Our first mistake was we fell in love with the building, and our second mistake was we befriended all the tenants,” he says, laughing. “I’ve talked to other building owners, and it’s the bottom line for them. Everybody wants more. They want a bigger slice. But our philosophy has been to keep good [tenants], and that’s what we’ve done. I think the tenants here are worried about change, but the building has always had a positive cash flow, so I don’t see things doubling suddenly. The new owners sound like they want something sturdy, solid, and just keep things running the way they are.”

Rents are lower than market rate, he says. They range from $1,160 for a 680-sq.-ft. one bedroom and den to $1,482 for an 806-sq.-ft. two bedroom. After expenses of $48,777, the owners earn $87,000 net income from annual rents.

Mr. Atkins, who will stay on as the building’s maintenance guy, says he and his wife also thought of living in the building.

“We thought about taking over the two front suites and joining them, and living here and having the rental income come in. But the numbers didn’t quite work for us, so we sold.”

He’s “extremely relieved” the new owner has no plans to tear the building down. However, none of the offers came from buyers who wanted to demolish, says real estate agent Mr. Launt. That’s because it’s only a 50-foot lot, and without assembling other lots into a bigger parcel, there’s little room for more density, and profit. As well, there are strict city restrictions that protect rental properties.

“You’re not doubling or tripling anything,” says Mr. Launt.

The fact that a small apartment block is not only easy to manage but can also become the owner’s primary residence makes it an appealing product, says commercial real estate agent Mark Goodman, who specializes in apartment building sales. He did not view the property, but he agrees the sellers got a great deal.

“It’s an insane price, but typically, with small buildings – especially under 10 units – the price per unit is higher than a standard rental building. This is because there is a deeper market – smaller buildings are more affordable – and if the owner or family member decides to live in the property, it’s more of an emotional buy, rather than strictly dollars and cents.

“People attempt to do this because they compare it with buying a single-family home in the same area, and say it’s $4- or $5-million, they could buy an apartment building for the same amount, put family members in there, and have revenue helpers.”

After considering advice from commercial agents, Mr. Atkins took the unusual step of hiring a residential agent to sell the Fernhurst. Mr. Launt says residential agents have an advantage when it comes to small apartment blocks, which sell better when they’re treated as homes, not dollars-per-unit bulk properties.

“You look at the numbers, yes, but you also consider the location, the street. … Does it fit your lifestyle? If the roof has a leak, it can be fixed. That’s how you have to look at it.”

Vancouver needs rental stock. Roughly half of Vancouver residents are renters and, according to a city report, those renters have about half the income of homeowners. Over the years, the city has made it difficult to demolish rental buildings, and it has offered incentives for developers to build more rental.

But that doesn’t mean rental stock isn’t diminishing.

Detached houses are being demolished to the tune of three per day on average, and many of them contain invisible rental suites that are being lost to the development of multifamily units sold at market rate. Even if those units later enter the rental pool, the rents will be considerably higher.

Generally, condo units as rental units are not considered an affordable, long-term option for renters.

And outside of Vancouver proper, rental stock is under threat from development. In Greater Vancouver, 123 rental buildings were sold last year, which is a 31-per-cent increase over 2013, according to the Goodman Report. Of the 123 buildings, 31 of them were slated for demolition, representing the loss of 700 rental suites. Most of those buildings were older two- or three-storey wood-frame buildings in Burnaby’s Metrotown area.

For now, though, the Fernhurst will remain a South Granville mainstay, with its eight rental units intact. The new owner will be doing repairs, so the rents are bound to increase. But they’ve asked Mr. Atkins to stay on as the property maintenance guy, and after some thought he’s decided to do it. After all, he says, the renters are like old friends.

“The [new owners] paid a high price, but they are looking long-term. And I think they will do pretty well.”


Shelley Fralic: Micro life — Does size really matter?

A tiny show suite in the sales centre for Evolve, a 35-storey 406-unit condo that will be developed in Surrey by WestStone Group.

After a lifetime of living large, there comes a time when one realizes that size — at least on the bricks and mortar front — really doesn’t matter.

And so you find yourself chatting with anyone who will listen about how, at some point, you might join the downsizers, trading stairs, vacuuming and never-ending maintenance for a cosy little flat and a simpler lifestyle.

Turns out that while you’re contemplating a smaller life as yours winds down so, too, is a much younger generation whose lives are just winding up.

In case you hadn’t noticed, micro living is the new yoga.

Tiny houses. Float homes. Caravans. Laneway houses. Shipping containers. Yurts. Mobile homes.


And, of course, micro lofts, those closet-free, can’t-swing-a-cat, one-room condos that are the current darling of developers, and of earnest millennials, evidenced by the numbers of buyers and open chequebooks throughout the region at the mere sniff of new micro development.

Last weekend, the prospect of an affordable ($94,000, which in Metro Vancouver is an outright steal for anything with plumbing) 316-square-foot “micro suite” in a new 35-storey Surrey development called Evolve had prospective buyers lining up around the block.

Not surprisingly, many of the buyers snapping up the micro units were single and young, often upgrading from a bedroom or basement in their parents’ home and not averse to living in a modern space that isn’t much larger than the average master bedroom if it had a sink and mini-fridge.

“We’re finding, especially with a younger group of buyers, they don’t seem to collect as many things as older buyers do, they like to collect experiences,” is what Evolve spokesman Bill Morrison told CTV.

Well, that’s great. But then, we all started out that way, didn’t we?

Single, young, idealistic and committed to the simple life, bunking with buddies, our possessions easily transported in the trunk of a Toyota.

The tiny living trend is nothing new elsewhere in the world, of course, especially in highly densified urban cores like New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, where 100-square-foot apartments aren’t unusual.

But in Metro Vancouver? Not so much. Generations of locals have grown up in roomy houses and apartments, with big rooms and yards and gardens, and so this transition to the tiny has come as something of a shock.

To guide us through the bewilderment is the increasingly urgent message, from developers and others who have a vested interest in shrinking floor plans in direct proportion to rising real estate prices, that small is better because it forces us to be selective and thoughtful, to live within our means, to save on energy and building costs.

And they might well be right: Living in a smaller footprint means there is less to clean, less to store, less to maintain and less debt. Less guilt, too, especially for a green generation committed to the eco-friendly life.

Sacrificing space, we are being told, also provides more time for those all-important “experiences,” though some of us aren’t exactly sure what that means and wonder if maybe it’s what we used to call life.

Anyway, it all sounds good. On paper. In theory. And we’re all for any clever option that gets first-time buyers and the ever-increasing numbers of singletons into the housing market, because you have to start somewhere and why not in a Murphy bed.

So we applaud Metro Vancouver’s new pioneering micro lifers, though wonder what happens once they couple up, have kids and suddenly need space for the stuff they didn’t think they’d ever need but now can’t do without. Like Lego.

Because this much we know is true. The longer you live, the more footprints you create. And footprints need shoes. And where do you put those shoes when there is no closet?


Don’t have a million dollars for a Vancouver home? A new Twitter campaign shows you’re not alone

The #DontHave1Million hashtag is spreading on Twitter, as people complain about being priced out of the housing market.

Don’t have $1 million for a house in Vancouver? Turns out you’re not alone.

A hashtag campaign created by 29-year-old Vancouverite Eveline Xia is encouraging priced-out urbanites to speak up about their home ownership woes by sharing their age and profession on Twitter.

The campaign, called #DontHave1Million, is attracting posts from engineers, planners and scientists, as well as real estate agents from other B.C. communities where housing is cheaper.

“Will never be able to afford living in the city I grew up in,” tweeted a business graduate.

“Every city everywhere in this country needs the people that keep it going,” added an industrial rigger and specialty mover.

“If only I could plant a money tree instead of bok choi, kale or mustard,” said another poster.

But others countered with posts calling the tweeters entitled.

“Don’t be foolish ... rent and invest instead,” said one.

“Buy within your means. Move to the burbs. Suck it up, buttercup,” said another.

Responding to critics of her campaign in a statement on Twitter, Xia said her generation is “not looking for a handout,” but rather “asking for a fighting chance to stay here in the city we love.”

Salaries have not kept pace with housing prices, she noted, and young, talented workers are beginning to leave in favour of communities where they can afford to buy a home for their families.

“To have a diverse, interesting and thriving community, Vancouver needs people like us to stay, work and raise our families here,” she said.

According to a VanCity report released in March, the average detached Vancouver home could cost $2.1 million by 2030.

“Although 75 per cent of Millennials think that home ownership is a primary long-term goal ... many will have to revise their goals to accommodate rising unaffordability in Metro Vancouver,” said the report.

Warning that if trends are not reversed, homes in the suburbs will also become increasingly unaffordable for people earning the median income, the report said a reversal would be possible through public policy and changes in financial practices.

Those using the #DontHave1Million hashtag expressed hope that the social media campaign would be the start of a “revolt” leading to change




Adrian Crook has discovered life is better once you abandon the accepted wisdom that you need a house and backyard to raise happy kids.

A divorced dad, Mr. Crook lives in a 1,023-sq.-ft. high-rise rental condo with his five children and partner Sarah Zaharia. He has three boys and two girls, ages 8, 7, 6, 5 and 3 – or, as some people call them, “the countdown.”

Mr. Crook and his family might be the extreme, but they are the new model of modern Canadian life – urban, minimal and connected to their community. He doesn’t see their lifestyle as cramped, or as a temporary phase, or second best to living in a detached house. Although living small is not for everyone, Mr. Crook says he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s so pleased with the arrangement that if someone gave him $1-million, he says he still wouldn’t buy a house. Instead, he would sock the money away.


“I’m not going to live in a six- or seven-bedroom house in my lifetime. And I don’t even want it,” he says, seated inside his remarkably clutter-free apartment. A nanny keeps the two youngest kids somewhat occupied.

“Those articles you read about how much you need to live in Vancouver? They are based on buying a house or a condo, which I’m not interested in doing. If we bought a condo, the burn rate would be almost double what it would be right now, unless you put $500,000 down, or something silly.”

Mr. Crook, a video-game designer, pays $2,150 for his rental condo in a Yaletown building built in 1994. He’s heard there are about 60 other kids in the building, which makes sense. Older layouts are generally more spacious than the newer ones.

His is the alternate perspective in a world that obsesses with big. For a good many people, the bigger, the better. Consumers want big houses with double sinks, walk-in closets, massive kitchens and a bedroom with ensuite for every kid. They want SUVs they can drive to Costco or Walmart and load up with stuff. And they spend endless hours driving their kids around, going from hockey practice to art class to dance class to baseball and back again.

Mr. Crook, 40, has never wanted any of that, and he says his children will never have those things, either.

“It feels like the whole kid thing is flipped around, where the kids used to contribute to the household. Now it’s flipped around. We are indentured servants to the kids, giving them these coddled lives. It shouldn’t be like that.”

Mr. Crook and his ex get their kids on alternating weeks. When they’re not at his apartment, they’re at their mom’s townhouse in North Vancouver. Because downtown schools are at capacity, he drives his kids to school in North Vancouver.

At his place, his kids will always sleep in bunk beds and share a single bathroom and have chores in order for their household to run efficiently. The trade-off is they get a father who’s around a lot, because Mr. Crook has turned down career advancement to work at home, as a consultant.

“It’s not a kid’s right to have their own bedroom. They’ll have a lot of other things that a lot of kids don’t have, such as an urban lifestyle. And they have me. I’m around far more than the typical parent who works 9 to 5. Kids don’t remember that they had their own bedroom. They remember that they were loved.

“I think it’s far more useful to be cognizant that you are a family and you have to care about each others’ needs as opposed to burying someone on another floor and forgetting about them.”

Mr. Crook might be onto something. The Center on Everyday Lives of Families at the University of California released a study that looked at the habits of 32 middle-class, double-income families. Over a four-year period, ethnographers studied how the families related to their living spaces during waking hours. They found that regardless of the size of house, the families spent nearly all their time in a space of around 400 sq. ft., almost exclusively in the kitchen, family room and dining room. The rest of the house was almost never used. The average backyard use by the children was only 40 minutes a week. Parents used the outdoor space 15 minutes a week. They discovered that while we crave abundant space, we rarely use it.

“I like small, confined spaces for how efficient they are, and I also don’t like having spaces that don’t get used for days or weeks at a time,” says Mr. Crook. “That’s insane to me, a total waste.”

Still, raising kids in a small space will call your judgment into question.

“When I told my mom that I was going to continue living downtown with kids, you would have thought that I had told her I was actively strangling one of my kids,” he says.

“A lot of people think living downtown means you just want to party all the time, that you haven’t grown up. And you’re forcing your kids to suffer.”

In response, he started a blog called 5 Kids 1 Condo, so he can show other families the benefits of raising kids downtown. For example, it’s not unusual for the family to walk 10 kilometres in a day, or make use of a pool in a nearby building. His kids once helped give out socks to homeless people.

“I want to expose them to things that are atypical.”

In Canadian terms, Mr. Crook’s own childhood could be classified as pretty typical. He grew up in a big house in Port Moody, B.C., near a creek and a park, living the suburban dream. Early in his marriage, he and his wife lived in a big house in North Vancouver, and he remembers walking along deserted streets. He also remembers rooms in the house that never got used.

“I was totally miserable,” he says.

Mr. Crook gets his kids one week on, one week off. The kids divide their time between Mr. Crook’s Yaletown apartment and their mother’s North Vancouver townhouse. They go to school in North Vancouver, which is the only time Mr. Crook uses a car.

“I love the idea of having a smaller space, because then you aren’t tempted to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need. We go to Costco, but there’s no room for superfluous stuff. To make room, we are often taking stuff out to be donated.”

The boys share a custom-built triple bunk bed, with the eldest in the top bunk. The girls share a bunk bed as well, in a small room with a balcony. Safety issues are a concern when you live in a condo tower with small children. There is a sliding patio door that has a lock and key. All windows have safety latches, and the kids’ bedroom windows are alarmed.

In terms of efficient living, they are a model family.

The unit is two bedrooms plus a den, with small balcony. The girls’ bunk bed is in the small, converted den, and the boys’ custom-made triple bunk bed is in the second bedroom. The hallway closet has been turned into a cloakroom. The walk-in storage closet has been converted into an art-making room, with easel and paints. In the living room, all floor space is kept clear to maintain maximum square footage. The TV is wall mounted, and all books are kept on shelves.

Mr. Crook has instituted an awards program to maintain order. He gives out tickets for chores that are completed. By the week’s end, the child with the most tickets — usually around 50 to 70 — gets three Kinder Surprise eggs. Everybody else gets one candy egg.

“Some jobs are priced higher because they are not as desirable,” he explains. “Like taking the garbage and recycling to the ground floor used to be desirable, because it was a job that came with a lot of responsibility. But now it’s not as desirable. It’s more like gross,” he says, laughing. “So they get 10 tickets for that.”

His kids take their chores seriously, too. He’s had to check on them if they take too long in the recycling room, because they get so involved in the sorting.

“I remember the 6-year-old did it once on his own and forgot the keys and got trapped on the ground floor. Luckily, I was heading out and I came down and I took him back up.”

He’s confident that his building is safe. He knows his neighbours.

“The most dangerous thing you could do is load your kids into a car. The odds that you have a child abductor in your building, or even in the neighbourhood, are pretty ridiculously low. Not something I’m worried about.”

But then there’s the challenge of the teen years, when his kids might crave more space.

“I think they are on the right track, but who knows? When they are teenagers I’m sure they’ll have a bunch of crazy issues.

“We may have to make some changes,” he concedes. “I would love to stay here. But we may need a change.”

He would consider a bigger condo.


Real estate
IN PHOTO: New houses are under construction in a new subdivision in Golden, Colorado August 28, 2014. The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, which leads home resales by a month or two, increased 3.3 percent in July to its highest level in 11 months. Reuters/Rick Wilking

Canada is famous for remarkable cities with fascinating natural surroundings, providing inhabitants the best of both worlds. No wonder they enjoy great demand among home buyers. According to a recent study, Canada’s baby boomers are the new consumer power behind the surging luxury housing market in some of the cities. They are cash rich and ready with down payments so that their children get expensive homes. The study was conducted by the Sotheby's International Realty. It said middle-class boomers are helping out their children with down payments for homes of every price range.

Home sales worth over CA $1 million are booming in Canada's big cities. Homes in the Vancouver neighbourhood regularly sell for CA $3 to CA $4 million, reports CBC News. The study notes that a majority of young buyers of properties priced at over CA $800,000 had help from the mom and dad. “The luxury real estate market is not only shaped by economic forces, it's driven by generational values and demographics,” said Ross McCredie, President and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Canada. Sotheby's based its report on interviews with realtors in various markets across Canada.

Canada has 9.6 million people born between 1946 and 1965, constituting 30 percent of the total population. They are in their 50s and 60s with annual incomes in the range of CA $300,000 to CA $500,000. According to mortgage insurer Genworth, which also did a homebuyer survey, one third of new owners are getting cash from their family. It said baby boomers are sitting on a large pile of collective wealth drawn from inheritances from their parents, especially in Vancouver, where  homes have hugely appreciated in value over the past 25 years.   

Right-sizing Trend

According to Sotheby study, the luxury home sales are driven by "right-sizing," which means boomers opting for larger homes with spacious rooms to accommodate adult children or elderly parents. Given that these elders can afford the price for traditional luxury neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Toronto, the trend is not very surprising.

Right-sizing implies, buying of an average 3,000-square-foot condominium or a bigger home in a better neighbourhood, with room for elderly relatives or adult children who may be living with them. The so called better neighbourhoods include luxury areas such as Forest Hill in Toronto, Shaughnessy in Vancouver.

In terms of prices, an average luxury property is worth $2-5 million in Vancouver, $1-4 million in Calgary, $2-4 million in Toronto and $1.5-2 million in Montreal. For generation X and Y, in the age group of 36 to 50, the priority is to have a home close to good schools and show off their new-found affluence. For, people in the age of 35 or less (generation Y) a preferred luxury home is a downtown condo in a trendy urban neighbourhood.

International Buyers

Meanwhile, Vancouver real estate is seeing the influx of big money from foreign buyers and other Canadian provinces. This is fuelling huge price increases and no abatement is in sight, according to the CEO of Sotheby’s Canada. The affluent buyers range from Albertans with their black gold to globetrotting wealth of some lucky heirs.  “You’re not only competing with other wealthy Canadians but competing with wealthy people all over the world,” McCredie told Business in Vancouver.

Albertan Attraction

It seems, Alberta is most attracted to Vancouver. Wealthy Albertans have properties in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood, as well as Vancouver Island and Kelowna where vacation homes are in high demand. International buyers are also in hot pursuit of the high-end real estate markets in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Sotheby’s report says buyers from China dominate Vancouver, while Toronto is chased by China, Russia and the Middle East buyers. Similarly, Europeans (especially French) are ahead in Montreal followed by Middle East and Chinese buyers, who are very fond of Montreal property.


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East Vancouver schools could close

In school catchment areas in Vancouver’s east side, empty student spaces run at around 20 per cent.

More than three-quarters of the 9,000 empty spaces in Vancouver classrooms are in schools on the city’s east side, a Vancouver School Board report shows.

The issue of excess space in schools is hot topic in Vancouver.

Enrolment has been dropping in Vancouver public schools for the past decade and next year may cost the district nearly 50 jobs, as well as force the closure of 28 classrooms, the board’s recent budget proposal shows.

A special adviser has been appointed by the education ministry to look at cost savings for the district, and now that a moratorium on closing schools has expired, too many empty seats in any given school could ignite an argument for closures.

The Vancouver Sun requested a breakdown of school-by-school enrolment and capacity numbers. The VSB declined to provide that level of detail.

Instead it supplied a report to trustees which breaks down enrolment into nine zones in the city, based on pairs of secondary schools and their feeder elementary schools.

For example, Windermere and Killarney Secondary schools are coupled with their feeder elementary schools. In that group of schools, the working capacity is 8,585 spaces, but only 6,575 students are enrolled, leaving 2,010 spaces. That number is projected to rise to 2,112 unused spaces next year, according to the report prepared by David Nelson, the VSB’s director of instruction

On the west side, there are far fewer available spaces. For example, at Kitsilano and Prince of Wales, 96 per cent of spaces are full, with just 187 spots available.

In total, there are 7,052 unused spaces of the 35,238 total spots in east side schools (20 per cent) and just 1,900 unused spaces of the 23,282 spaces in west side schools (eight per cent).

The school board is beginning to see a levelling off of declining enrolment at elementary schools and is expected to see the same at secondary schools within two years, Nelson said.

But for now, the school capacity in Vancouver is uneven, with schools in some areas experiencing empty seats and even empty classrooms, while others are full, and even have waiting lists.

Downtown and near Olympic Village, schools are overflowing, and some students can’t get into their neighbourhood school. Five schools in particular are squeezed for space: Edith Cavell, False Creek, Norma Rose Point, Fraser and Elsie Roy Elementary schools.

With the price of single-family homes skyrocketing and more families choosing to live in urban condominiums, it is difficult to predict where schools will be needed in the Vancouver, Nelson said.

He says the school district uses birthrate data and tax data, but as families make different choices, traditional patterns change.

“Rather than choosing the free-standing house with the white-picket fence in the suburbs, the condo starter home will be more of the permanent home and I think that’s largely what we’ve seen downtown,” Nelson said. “It’s a hard thing to guess.”

School enrolment patterns are also tied to the seismic upgrading program, because older, bigger schools could be replaced with newer, smaller schools that can more easily accommodate an addition if the population changes, Nelson said.



VANCOUVER — The apparent turmoil in Canada’s retail market symbolized by the recent pullout of Target and the shock closure and rebranding of Future Shop represents a painful but necessary evolution for retailers and commercial real estate landlords, who need to adapt to the shifting shopping landscape, say local analysts.

The news of Future Shop’s closure of nine locations across B.C., coupled with the retreat of 19 Target stores, won’t necessarily spell disaster for landlords, especially in key locations in and around Vancouver, said Stephen Knight, CEO and managing partner for Sitings Realty in Vancouver. But other retail real estate experts interviewed say the closures represent a major challenge to landlords facing a glut of empty space with few prospects to fill it.

“This isn’t all bad news,” said Knight, who also owns Coventry Hills Centre in Calgary, a shopping centre that for 10 years housed a Future Shop, until last week.

“The majority of all these sites on the [closure] list is sought after real estate,” said Knight, who has also arranged roughly eight leases involving Future Shop in the Lower Mainland. Key shuttered locations such as at West Broadway in Vancouver and at the Langley Centre will likely find replacements in short order, he said.

Some of the vacated spaces would have lengthy lease agreements in place. “Some of these might have six months to go, and some might have five years to go,” he said. “The one that we had in Calgary had five years to go, so (Future Shop) is paying the rent for the next five years.”


Curiously, Future Shop had sent Knight a letter to renew the lease for another five years only three months ago, he said.

Knight said he’s not particularly worried about his own shopping centre in Calgary. “In this case, the project is shadow-anchored by Real Canadian Superstore and it is the primary driver of traffic,” he said. “We haven’t heard from any of the other tenants at this point. The retail vacancy in Calgary is about one per cent, so the prospects of filling the space are very good.”

But certain shopping centres here in B.C., such as Orchard Plaza in Kelowna, Coquitlam Centre, Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre, and Surrey’s Central City have now lost both a Target tenant and a Future Shop in a matter of weeks.

“First and foremost they’re going to have some spaces to fill, and that’s not necessarily easy,” said James Shandro, vice-president, consulting and advisory, retail, sales and leasing at Avison Young in Vancouver. “We have a somewhat limited pool of tenants of these anchor sizes and chances are they’re probably already represented somewhere in the marketplace.”

Some of these key vacancies could persist. “Those [landlords] that aren’t as well protected, and there certainly will be some implications, or they’ll definitely feel some sort of financial hit,” Shandro said.

“Some of these landlords are going to have rework, and there is going to be some significant overhaul at certain shopping centres, especially if there’s a Target and a Future Shop, or other anchor-sized holes,” he said.


alluster storage

As real estate prices continue to rise, homeownership in Vancouver has become somewhat of a wishful thought for first-time buyers. Developers have thus introduced micro lofts as an affordable alternative. In less than 291 square feet, these tiny spaces are growing popularity amongst young professionals who would rather opt for location over square footage.

Although the price may be right, living small doesn’t come without its challenges, the most obvious one being storage. The shift towards this type of micro living is what’s prompted Rob Buchanan to introduce Vancouver’s first storage valet.

“I grew up in the Fraser Valley where space and affordability were never an issue. We had big backyard, tons of bedrooms, and a two-car garage for less than what you’d pay for a studio apartment downtown,” Buchanan says. “My friends and I moved to the city and loved being close to work, restaurants, and nightlife. But living in tight quarters was a major adjustment.”

Rob looked into storage facilities to store his snowboard, bike, and other items, and was shocked that monthly fees were upwards of $200 per month.

That’s when he realized there was a need to offer affordable storage solutions that were both convenient and easy for those in small dwellings. Alluster Storage Valet, the city’s first delivery and management service for storing your extra goods, was born. When clients sign up for an account, storage boxes will be delivered to their house. Once packed, the butlers at Alluster will pick them up and transfer them to their secure storage location. Items are tagged with a QR code in order to create a visual catalogue. At any time, clients can request delivery of single or multiple items in their storage box that will be delivered within 24 hours.


Rob says the valet service was an important component, especially as more Gen Y-ers are opting out of car ownership. He’s also been working with several small businesses that also face storage problems, particularly retail stores.


Each storage box is $7.49 per month, and can fit up to 80 t-shirts, 12 binders, or 377 DVDs. Larger items like bikes, golf clubs, and snowboards are an additional $10 per month. 


Vancouver hospital to be torn down?

It is deja vu.

The NDP MLA for the West End says the word is, again, St. Pauls hospital will be torn down and moved.

“We do not need to see the Liberals closing St. Pauls hospital in downtown Vancouver.”

Spencer Chandra-Herbert “Through sources within the ministry, within business, unions, health care field, real estate field I am told the government is backing away. They are looking to close St. Pauls and rebuild elsewhere. I am speaking out because that is a bad plan.”

Chandra-Herbert says it is not a good idea to take an emergency room away from where people live.

“Christy Clark and the Liberals are preparing to betray, I think, the people of BC and Vancouver by closing St. Pauls hospital downtown and moving it away.”

When asked the ministry of health would only say it is committed to revitalizing the hospital.

Chandra-Herbert responded “If the rumours I am hearing are not true then the Liberals should come forward and deny them.”

The ministry also added an update on St. Pauls would be coming in a couple of weeks.

Prior to the last election Premier Christy Clark promised 500-million-dollars to upgrade the existing hospital.

Similar plans were floated, and ultimately shot down, under former Premier Gordon Campbell

A statement from the ministry of health is below.

Government remains firmly committed to revitalizing St. Paul’s Hospital. St. Paul’s Hospital is an important part of the network of hospitals in the Lower Mainland, serving a large and growing population from downtown Vancouver, and from across the region. We are continuing to work with Providence Healthcare on the best to revitalize the hospital for the communities it serves. We must make sure that this fits within the future long term vision of health care in the region and across the province, focusing on more comprehensive community services and a partnership between Lower Mainland hospitals.

We must also ensure that St. Paul’s Hospital can continue to serve the community while the revitalization project is underway. 

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