Peter Wall building 1400 suites

Tuesday, April 8th, 2003

Three new projects involving about 1,400 new units are planned in the downtown area, reports Wyng Chow

Wyng Chow

…Architectura at Granville and Dunsmuir.

Peter Wall is developing three major sites in downtown Vancouver. Shown are ‘Electric Avenue’ on Burrard, …

Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun / …the Maple Leaf storage site in Yaletown, and …

Keys to a car come with keys to a condo at Electric Ave.

Flamboyant developer Peter Wall is starting construction on more than $400 million worth of downtown condominiums over the next several months, dispelling notions that the market may be getting saturated.

Wall’s three new projects on premium sites will throw about 1,400 new units into the downtown mix, but he strongly feels developers are still barely able to keep up with demand.

Among the maze of condo towers under construction by a dozen major developers in the downtown, Yaletown and Coal Harbour areas, the majority of units have already been snapped up, Wall noted.

“Every crane [project] downtown is at least 75 per cent sold already,” said Wall, chairman and CEO of Vancouver-based Wall Financial Corp., who has developed more than $1 billion worth of residential or hotel properties in recent years.

“Some projects are 90 or 100 per cent sold.”

Wall’s three new projects are:

– Electric Avenue at Paramount Place, comprising 456 condos, totalling 363,000 square feet and $110 million in value, in two adjourning 24-storey towers at Hornby and Smithe.

The 111,000-square-foot commercial component will include nine Famous Players cinemas, as well as ground-floor retail space. Completion is scheduled for summer 2005.

Yaletown Lanes, on the old Maple Leaf Storage site, at Mainland and Smithe, consisting of 540 condos in three 31-storey towers, totalling more than $200 million. Project completion is expected to take several years.

– A $110-million, 35-storey, 442,605-square-foot mixed-use project at Granville and Dunsmuir, which includes 414 condo units, with special “live-work” zoning, along with direct access to the Granville SkyTrain station and Pacific Centre mall. Targeted completion is fall 2005.

“I feel very privileged to get such coveted sites,” Wall said.

He paid $29 million to acquire the 2.26-acre Maple Leaf Storage development site, at 901 Mainland and 920 Homer last year, fighting off bids from four other major developers.

That purchase ranks among Vancouver‘s largest land transactions in recent years. By contrast, Canadian Pacific Properties just completed the sale of the 419,000-square-foot Coal Harbour waterfront site slated for the city’s convention centre expansion to the provincial government for $27.5 million.

Wall said he remains confident that along with local purchasers, Vancouver‘s hot housing market will continue to be fuelled by U.S. and offshore buyers.

As of March 31, Multiple Listing Service figures show there were only 402 active listings of new condo units in Greater Vancouver, a 43-per-cent drop from 709 units a year ago. Among resale condo units, there were 2,673 active listings, down 12 per cent from 3,040 in March 2002.

“I believe in downtown Vancouver,” Wall said. “As the world is in turmoil, Vancouver will continue to enjoy its international reputation as one of the safest, user-friendly cities in the world.

“Obviously, I’m very confident we’re going to get the 2010 Olympics, but that’s just a bit more icing on the cake. I have no fear that, even if we don’t, the impact will be absolutely zero. People will keep coming.”

At Electric Avenue — where more than 150 prospective purchasers are on the waiting list, even though marketing doesn’t start until June 1 — Wall plans to experiment with a car-sharing plan as an extra incentive to attract buyers.

He intends to spend $200,000 to acquire seven vehicles that would be put into a pool and made available for condo owners who want to live and work downtown, but prefer to avoid the expense of car ownership.

Wall is currently negotiating with Toyota and Honda dealerships to purchase four hybrid vehicles powered by a combination of gasoline and electricity, as well as looking for two sport utility vehicles and a compact car, such as a Volkswagen.

Wall Financial would provide the vehicles to the Vancouver-based Co-operative Auto Network, which already has more than 1,100 members and a fleet of about 60 vehicles accessible to them.

Tracey Axelsson, founder and executive director of the seven-year-old non-profit organization, welcomed Wall’s contribution.

“Developers can save a lot of money not having to build as many parking spots,” she said Monday. “It’s also much more environment friendly.”

Co-op members are required to invest $500 in a one-time refundable share, plus paying an initial $20 registration fee. When they book a vehicle, they are charged usage fees based on time and mileage.

“Instead of spending money on car payments, insurance and maintenance, they can pay off their mortgages quicker, or use the money saved to pay off other loans, or go on vacation,” Axelsson said.

If the car-pool scheme proves to be a big hit at the Electric Avenue project, Wall said he would consider implementing it at Yaletown Lanes.

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

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