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Vancouver, once heaven, now merely a mess choking itself to death

Opinion: Sure it’s still pretty (those mountains!) but it’s become unaccessible, unaffordable, unfriendly and unwelcoming

A Strathcona resident became so fed up with the tent city that blighted Strathcona Park on the east side that in February he dumped garbage from the park to make his point in front of historic, art deco style Vancouver City Hall.A Strathcona resident became so fed up with the tent city that blighted Strathcona Park on the east side that in February he dumped garbage from the park to make his point in front of historic, art deco style Vancouver City Hall. PHOTO BY NICK PROCAYLO /PNG files

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In the 1950s, south Vancouver was an urban planner’s dream. Hundreds of compact, post-war bungalows bursting with freshly minted families lined the streets overlooking the Fraser River, an instant community surrounded by open fields and brick schoolhouses and corner stores that sold penny candy by the barrel.

Everywhere you looked were tangled piles of bicycles, and clusters of rag-tag kids, delivering newspapers at dawn, roaming from house to house during the day, huddled under street lights at the supper hour, waiting for moms to call them home.

It was paradise, the blueprint for an Ozzie and Harriet sitcom, and there was no better place to grow up.

In fact, half a century ago, Vancouver itself was a free-range playground, where unsupervised youngsters could hop on a trolley bus and take swimming lessons at Trout Lake, where noisy teenagers could stumble down the untamed cliffside paths to Towers Beach, and where young bloods could mingle in convivial lineups for hours on end, just for the pleasure of the 75-cent plate of pineapple chicken at the Green Door, or a schooner of beer at the Fraser Arms.

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Back then, it was heaven.

Today? Not so much.

Things change, of course, and cities change with them. Growth is inevitable, even welcome. People come and go, houses get built and torn down, development and construction waxes and wanes and, over time, a city’s imprimatur morphs into a reflection of economic pressure, fluctuating demographics and political imperative.

Peel back the striated layers of Vancouver and you will find the brief history of its evolution from a hardscrabble resource-based harbour town to a glitzy cruise ship nucleus vying for world-class recognition.

And age has certainly not dulled her looks. Still so pretty. Those mountains. The ocean. The pure beauty of the topography, the postcard backdrop.

Historic Vancouver as a free-range playground: Kitsilano secondary school students cheer on their classmates in 1950 at that year’s Vancouver and district track meet.Historic Vancouver as a free-range playground: Kitsilano secondary school students cheer on their classmates in 1950 at that year’s Vancouver and district track meet. PHOTO BY VANCOUVER SCHOOL BOARD

But let’s be honest. The rest of her is something of a mess, sagging under an unsightly jangle of overbuilt enclaves, congested thoroughfares, unchecked crime, cloistered neighbourhoods and absent leadership.

Commercial Drive? Grungy. Wreck Beach? Too woke for words. Gastown? Dodgy. Stanley Park? Cars unwelcome. Chinatown? Relocated. Downtown Vancouver? Nothing to see here and nowhere to park if there was. Punjab Market? Relocated. That park down the road? An overgrown swale of dog dung.

Today, much of Vancouver is an unrecognizable hodgepodge of dense population pockets where cars are treated as the evil spawn of industrialization, and where green spaces are surrendered to a spreading pox of homeless encampments that have created neighbourhood war zones where litter, lawlessness and open drug use are abetted by an impotent city hall, bureaucratic indecision, Band-Aid solutions and a shocking lack of political will.

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It is a town where coddled developers erect hundreds of tiny, dull, overpriced and often unoccupied glass bird cages, as if racing to blot out the sun in their unfettered quest for comparative architectural machismo.

Vancouver today is a city bereft of decent parental guidance and good old common sense, and it is choking itself to death. You are to be commended if you managed to plant roots in one of the still lovely quiet corners of the city in the before times, but unless you’re a dog, a cyclist, a tourist, a drug addict or a deep-pocketed investor, you need not apply for citizenship or a visitor’s visa into the downtown core these days.

No surprise, then, that Vancouver placed a dismal 174th in the recently released Maclean’s magazine annual list of Canada’s best communities, with rankings based on key features such as affordability, crime, weather and health.

I’m guessing that resident Vancouverites don’t much care what I think, or that I now actively avoid the once-vibrant city where I was born. Most of Metro Vancouver’s population now lives outside Vancouver city limits anyway. Maybe that was the plan, to make it so hard to get around and so unsafe and unsightly in so many areas as to exclude frivolous entry by those of us who want to visit, who once lived there and enjoyed its considerable charms, but who long ago fled to the more welcoming suburbs.

The truth may be that most of us simply don’t need Vancouver any more.

I don’t mourn for the town of my youth, wonderful as it was. Instead, I fear for its future, for what its caretakers have allowed it to become.

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Inaccessible. Unaffordable. Unfriendly.

You may not have seen the signs, but Vancouver city hall has posted them everywhere. You live east of Boundary Road, south of the Fraser River, north of Burrard Inlet? We don’t want you, or your business.

Stay away.

And so we do.

Shelley Fralic is a former Vancouver Sun columnist. She writes a regular seniors column for our You pages.

shelleyfralic@gmail.com

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First-time homebuyers in B.C. increasingly anxious over insufficient down payments

In B.C., 71 per cent of first-time buyers expressed concern their downpayment will fall short of getting them the home they want compared to 56 per cent two years ago.

A Royal LePage real estate sign is marked "Sold" in front of a house in Ottawa.A Royal LePage real estate sign is marked "Sold" in front of a house in Ottawa. PHOTO BY CHRIS WATTIE /REUTERS

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Canadian first-time buyers in an ever-intensifying housing market are increasingly worried about missing out on a property because they can’t make the down payment, according to a new survey.

The survey, released Friday by Royal LePage and residential mortgage insurance provider Sagen, found first-time homebuyers across Canada, except for Alberta and the Prairies, reported higher levels of anxiety compared with 2019.

In B.C., 71 per cent of first-time buyers expressed concern that their down payment will fall short of getting them the home they wanted compared with 56 per cent two years ago.

First-time buyers in Vancouver weren’t far behind, with 69 per cent reporting feeling worried that an insufficient down payment might cause them to miss out on buying a home — higher than the national average of 62 per cent, and 11 points higher than in 2019.

“The hurdle causing anxiety for first-time homebuyers is saving for a down payment in an environment of rising home prices in many parts of the country,” said Stuart Levings, president and CEO of Sagen, in a news release. “While some have parents who can step in, many do not and they are struggling to get into the market.”

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The survey found 25 per cent of respondents said they lived with parents or relatives before buying their first home. This figure is higher for Vancouver respondents, at 31 per cent, and B.C., at 28 per cent.

About half of those who lived with family paid rent. Among those who lived with their parents before buying their first home, 15 per cent said their living at home caused their parents to delay downsizing plans.

The federal First-time Home Buyer Incentive recently increased its income threshold from $120,000 to $150,000 in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria in an effort to give first-time buyers in these three cities a better shot at entering the market.

Related:Here’s what a $1 million home looks like in Metro Vancouver

Despite the pressure and anxiety that comes with buying a home, there is still a strong appetite to enter the market, said Adil Dinani of Royal LePage West Real Estate Services.

Condos are popular for first-time homebuyers. And the pandemic, which allows for remote working, has prompted some first-time buyers to look beyond Metro, said Dinani. Kelowna and other parts of the Okanagan have seen strong demand.

The survey, completed by Environics Research, interviewed 909 Canadians aged between 25 and 40 who had bought their first home within the last two years. The online interviews were conducted in February and March.

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I have listed a new property at 910 ROBINSON ST in Coquitlam.
POTENTIAL Land Assembly, flat lot, 0.9 - 1.4 SFR! Totally redesigned home in the past few years. Notable features of this home incl custom maple cabinets with tile flooring, hardwood floors that span throughout the living area, laminate floors that cover the bedrooms, & full 4pc main bathroom including a spacious tub. The downstairs suite contains a separate entry point that houses a 2 bedroom suite perfect as a mortgage helper. The whole house has been tastefully renovated to include newly installed vinyl windows & upgraded motor & parts fireplace perfect for the wintertime. Backyard comes with a shed perfect for those who love to garden or need a place to store their outdoor gear. House is situated in the best neighborhood w/close proximity to transit, SFU, & Lougheed Shopping Centre.
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I have sold a property at 1709 602 CITADEL PARADE in Vancouver.
South-East facing 1 bdrm & den, granite kitchen & bathroom countertops,glass kitchen backsplash. Generous sized den for home office feats flr to ceiling windows looking South-East towards Science World & False Creek. Outdoor balcony has views in 2 different directions with direct access from living room. Concierge service. Deluxe amenities incl 80' indoor pool, whirlpool, steam room & sauna, fully equipped gym, Hollywood style theatre, party room with kitchen + meeting rooms.
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I have sold a property at 801 1935 HARO ST in Vancouver.
Beautiful West of Denman sub-penthouse in a boutique-style building with only two units on this floor. This condo feels like a home with custom archways. tiles, and engineered hardwood floors. One-of-a-kind sub penthouse home located WEST OF DENMAN next to the Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park. This elegant residence of 1,260 SQFT occupies half of the 8th floor and features expansive windows from all 3 sides flooding the home with natural sunlight. Chef's kitchen with premium appliances, custom cabinetry, and a separate breakfast nook. Other features include 2 generous patios, laundry room, gas fireplace, 2 underground parking and a storage locker. Unparalleled West of Denman location where you can walk to the beach, Stanley Park or the heart of the city in just minutes.
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Metro Vancouver housing market “quietly slowing down”. Report says it’s good news for buyers and sellers as well


 

 
  • Dexter Realty report notes that the “incredible froth that has characterized the market over the past few months is settling down”.JOHNNYH5/GETTY IMAGES

Last month, agents with the real estate boards of Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley sold a combined total of 7,924 homes.

This means that at least 264 houses were changing hands every day in April 2021.

Realtor Kevin Skipworth notes that at such market clip, it is “hard to consider this a slowing pace”.

 

However, Skipworth, who is a partner and economist with the Vancouver-based Dexter Realty, sees something changing.

Skipworth wrote in a report that the “incredible froth that has characterized the market over the past few months is settling down”.

The Dexter Realty executive noted that Greater Vancouver sales in April were down 14 percent compared to March, which was the “first month-over-month decline in nearly a year”.

 

In the Fraser Valley, sales went down month-on-month by nine percent in April.

When compared to sales in April 2020, after COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions were imposed, sales last month rose over 300 percent in both regions.

Skipworth noted that such year-over-year improvement “may convince many sellers the Metro Vancouver housing market is now poised to roar into the record books with month-over-month sales and price increases continuing to set a record pace”.

“In reality, though, the housing market, relatively speaking, is quietly slowing down and more balanced conditions will become the new normal,” the realtor wrote.

That is “at least until the pandemic truly ends and the B.C. economy and its traditional immigration levels return”, he continued.

The change in market conditions has to do with more listings coming on the market, bringing inventory levels up.

In a report Tuesday (May 4), the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver stated that the total number of homes currently listed for sale in its region was 10,245.

The REBGV said that this represents a 9.1 percent increase compared to April 2020 (9,389), and a 12 percent improvement over March 2021 (9,145).

Also on May 4, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reported that the “influx of new listings improved supply with total active inventory reaching 6,030 in April 2021”.

The FVREB noted that April 2021 inventory was 20 per cent higher than in March 2021, and the “highest it’s been in six months”.

Combining the inventory levels in the Lower Mainland, Skipworth wrote in his report: “The total number of homes currently listed for sale across all of Metro Vancouver is 16,275, the highest level since June of last year.”

Now, what should sellers and buyers take away from all of these?

“This should be welcomed by both sellers and buyers,” Skipworth stated.

“Sellers can still expect to sell their property quickly, but in most cases will not be dealing with frantic, no-subject, multiple bids and concern about where they will find another home to buy,” he explained.

Skipworth added: “Fatigued buyers will regain the opportunity to shop the market more carefully and present more normal subjects and prices when negotiating on a sale.”

Dexter Realty released the report Wednesday (May 5).

On that same day, the B.C. Real Estate Association issued its second quarter forecast, which noted that the market is exhibiting signs of a “fading momentum”.

The BCREA report predicts a slowdown in the second half of 2021.

However, the BCREA forecast also projects that the pace of sales will propel 2021 into shattering the historic high of 112,209 homes sold in 2016.

The association’s report stated that “even factoring in a second-half slowdown, provincial unit sales are still projected to reach a record 125,600 units in 2021”.

 
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Why play the lottery when you can just buy and resell a house? Top 3 Vancouver property flips

2 of 3
  • This home at 65 East 39th Avenue made a profit of $450,000 in just over three months

What are the odds of winning the lotto jackpot?

The B.C. Lottery Corporation says it’s one in 13,983,816.

 

Adam Major, a realtor and managing broker with Holywell Properties, has a tip.

“Why buy a lottery ticket when you can just buy a house in Vancouver?” Major asks.

With that, Major lists three of the top property flips in the city tracked through Zealty.ca, a real-estate information site owned and operated by Holywell Properties.

 

Major said that the best contender might by 65 East 39th Avenue (see main photo in this story).

The two-storey home with four bedrooms and two baths is located near Main Street.

 

The property was reported sold on November 4, 2020 for $1,850,000.

On February 17, 2021, the same home was listed for $1,989,000.

No renovations were done. That would have to be done by the new owner.

The listing stated that the house is “stripped and ready for Reno...permits submitted to city and it's ready to roll”.

The 65 East 39th Avenue home sold five days later on February 22 for $2.3 million.

With a renovation cost of zero, the property made a $450,000 profit in just over three months, Major noted.

“Much easier just to buy a house and not actually do any work to it,” Major added.

2188 Mannering Avenue2188 Mannering Avenue

The Holywell Properties executive mentioned 2188 Mannering Avenue as another contender.

The two-storey detached home with four bedrooms and three baths was reported sold on July 8, 2020 for $1,505,000.

The property located near Kingsway got a makeover, and returned to the market on March 3, 2021 for $1,950,000.

The listing notes that the home “made modern with the help of award winning interior design firm Kalu Interiors brings out an emerald in the heart of Vancouver”.

The 2188 Mannering Avenue sold five days later on March 8 for $2,121,000.

It’s a price bump of $616,000, and Major estimated the renovation cost at $175,000.

This means a profit $441,000 in seven months, Major said.

7460 Gatineau Place7460 Gatineau Place

Then there’s 7460 Gatineau Place.

The Fraserview-area detached home of one-storey with four bedrooms and three baths was reported sold on June 3, 2020.

The purchase price was $1,675,000.

The buyer renovated the home, and listed the property on April 5, 2021 for $1,988,000.

“This home has been completely remodeled with re-finished oak floors, updated bathrooms, closet organizers, designer light fixtures and hardware throughout,” the listing advertised.

The home sold eight days later on April 13 for $2,400,000.

Major noted that the property increased in sold price by $725,000.

With an estimated renovation cost $225,000, Major said that the seller made a profit of $500,000.

 
Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo
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I have listed a new property at 700 DELESTRE AVE in Coquitlam.
Coquitlam West RM-3 Multi-Storey medium density Development Opportunity / Land Assembly East of Lougheed Highway and North Road. The site falls within the core and shoulder area of Coquitlam’s Transit-Oriented Development Strategy. The properties are located along major transit nodes in the centre of Coquitlam, near the new Evergreen SkyTrain expansion. OCP allows for a Medium Density Development Site 7-8 Stories with an FSR of 2.45 or a 4-6 story development with an FSR of 2.3 Please go to Realtors web site for feature sheet and more info including Site Video
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I have listed a new property at 1703 1327 KEITH RD E in North Vancouver.
A penthouse with sweeping views of the city and North Shore Mountains with sights of spectacular sunsets and Grouse Mountain skiing. A concrete building with new elevators , a covered balcony accessed by the bedroom and living room. A jetted tub Air conditioning in all rooms . This includes the benefits of a mature adult building ( 50 + and 19 +) There are resort style amenities with a spacious elegant lobby with a large functional fire place. Amenities include a pool, hot tub, sauna, gym, library, party room, bike room, work shop, large theatre, billiards room, large card room suitable for meetings, a guest suite and an onsite care taker. You are minutes away from 2 shopping areas for groceries, restaurants and medical and banking services.
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These are the five cheapest homes for sale in Vancouver right now

Apr 26 2021, 3:12 pm
 

Although Vancouver home sales may be skyrocketing, it’s still possible to find a beautiful place to live in the city – without paying a fortune over asking.

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Roomvu has gathered several recently listed homes for sale in and around Vancouver that prove just that.

“Living spaces can be wallet-friendly without trimming on convenience or views,” Roomvu said. “For those who have a little more in their bank, these places are also investment-worthy.”

So, whether you’re in the market for a new home or on the hunt for an investment, check out five of the cheapest listings in Vancouver below.

607 – 1128 W Hastings Street – $298,000

Brad Newman-Bennett PREC*/Roomvu

  • 1 bedroom
  • 0 bathroom
  • Hotel room

Located in the heart of Coal Harbour, the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle offers owners 30 free nights per year, a 15% discount at the Show Case restaurant, and 10% off room service meals. You also get access to the business centre, fitness centre, and the spa.

The listing notes that buying a room in the 4.5 star hotel lets you own a place in BC for occasional use without incurring the Vacancy Tax.

502 – 1534 Harwood Street – $359,000

Rochelle Chua/Roomvu

  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bathroom

This corner unit features an updated kitchen and bathroom and is just steps from English Bay. Maintenance fees include property taxes, heat, hot water, gardening, and a caretaker. Rentals and small pets are allowed, and parking and lockers are available for rent as well.

406 – 138 E Hastings Street – $359,000

Mathew Guidi/Roomvu

  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bathroom

This fourth-floor unit has high ceilings, euro-style cabinetry, laminate flooring, and a washer and dryer. It’s centrally located near Gastown, Chinatown, and Rogers Arena. Rentals and pets are allowed, and the unit comes with one secure parking stall in an underground lot.

705 – 6036 Tisdall Street – $360,000

Judy (Pei-Hu) Yu/Roomvu

  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bathroom

Located in a co-op building in a quiet neighbourhood, this large one bedroom unit offers views of the mountains. Maintenance fees include property taxes, heating, hot water, and free laundry. Rentals and pets are not allowed, and board approval is required.

101 – 4315 Fraser Street – $399,000

Joe Zhuang PREC*/Roomvu

  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bathroom

This west facing junior one bedroom features laminate flooring, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances. It’s one of only two units on the ground floor and is Airbnb-friendly. Nearby bus stops take you right to UBC, downtown, and the airport.

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I have listed a new property at 2808 BROADWAY E in Vancouver.
DEVELOPER ALERT: BUY 1 Whole City Block: 13 lots or Section From A Corner. PRIME LOCATION: Broadway & Renfrew. SKYTRAIN STATION. Investment: "SECURED MARKET RENTAL DEVELOPMENT SITE". The Best Build Option: 6 storeys with 99' frontage & corner lot > 3.5 FSR. ACT NOW MOTIVATION: *COV approved development applications (7/2020) for 2 sites around corner on Renfrew St. NEW DEVELOPMENTS PLANNED NEARBY. Request information to validate investment in this project. CREATE A LEGACY OF INCOME FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. We know you're ready to profit from your experience. GET ALL THE EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: call now.
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I have listed a new property at 2838 BROADWAY E in Vancouver.
DEVELOPER ALERT: BUY 1 Whole City Block: 13 Lots or Section From A Corner. PRIME LOCATION: Broadway & Renfrew. SKYTRAIN STATION. Investment: "SECURED MARKET RENTAL DEVELOPMENT SITE". The Best Build Option: 6 storeys with 99' frontage & corner lot > 3.5 FSR. *ACT NOW MOTIVATION: *COV approved development applications (7/2020) for 2 sites around corner on Renfrew St. NEW DEVELOPMENTS PLANNED NEARBY. Request information to validate investment in this project. CREATE A LEGACY OF INCOME FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. We know you're ready to profit from your experience. GET ALL THE EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: call now.
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I have listed a new property at 2882 BROADWAY E in Vancouver.
DEVELOPER ALERT: BUY 1 Whole City Block: 13 Lots or Section From A Corner. PRIME LOCATION: Broadway & Renfrew. SKYTRAIN STATION. Investment: "SECURED MARKET RENTAL DEVELOPMENT SITE". The Best Build Option: 6 storeys with 99' frontage & corner lot > 3.5 FSR. *ACT NOW MOTIVATION: *COV approved development applications (7/2020) for 2 sites around corner on Renfrew St. NEW DEVELOPMENTS PLANNED NEARBY. Request information to validate investment in this project. CREATE A LEGACY OF INCOME FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. We know you're ready to profit from your experience. GET ALL THE EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: call now.
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I have listed a new property at 2876 BROADWAY E in Vancouver.
DEVELOPER ALERT: BUY 1 Whole City Block: 13 lots or Section From A Corner. PRIME LOCATION: Broadway & Renfrew. SKYTRAIN STATION. Investment: "SECURED MARKET RENTAL DEVELOPMENT SITE". The Best Build Option: 6 storeys with 99' frontage & corner lot > 3.5 FSR. *ACT NOW MOTIVATION: *COV approved development applications (7/2020) for 2 sites around corner on Renfrew St. NEW DEVELOPMENTS PLANNED NEARBY. Request information to validate investment in this project. CREATE A LEGACY OF INCOME FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. We know you're ready to profit from your experience. GET ALL THE EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: call now.
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I have listed a new property at 2870 BROADWAY E in Vancouver.
DEVELOPER ALERT: 1 Whole City Block For Sale: 13 lots. PRIME LOCATION: Broadway & Renfrew. SKYTRAIN STATION NEARBY: only 2 blocks away. "SECURED MARKET RENTAL DEVELOPMENT SITE". Best Build Option: 6 storeys with 99' frontage & corner lot > 3.5 FSR. ACT NOW MOTIVATION: *COV approved development applications (7/2020) for 2 sites around the corner on Renfrew St. SEVERAL NEW DEVELOPMENTS PLANNED NEARBY. Purchase a section from a corner. CALL NOW FOR EXCLUSIVE DETAILS. Are you ready to profit from your experience? CREATE A LEGACY OF INCOME FOR THE NEXT GENERATION.
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I have listed a new property at 301 989 NELSON ST in Vancouver.
Located in the heart of Downtown, situated on the quiet SE corner of the Electra, Class A heritage building built to commercial standards! This bright & efficient suite overlooks the Law Courts and Sheraton Wall Centre garden. Nearby amenities include the new YMCA, IGA Marketplace, Scotiabank theatres, Sutton Hotel, and posh Robson St. This 1 bdrm, 1 bath suite 9' ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, and a bdrm that has a large organized closet, and BI shelving area which can be used as a mini-office. Added bonuses: FREE laundry on each floor, central, A/C (yes, air conditioning, one of the few buildings in Vancouver!), guest suites, private 50 sf storage rm 1 door down, and rentals allowed. Great for investment or living!
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I have listed a new property at 1709 602 CITADEL PARADE in Vancouver.
South-East facing 1 bdrm & den, granite kitchen & bathroom countertops,glass kitchen backsplash. Generous sized den for home office feats flr to ceiling windows looking South-East towards Science World & False Creek. Outdoor balcony has views in 2 different directions with direct access from living room. Concierge service. Deluxe amenities incl 80' indoor pool, whirlpool, steam room & sauna, fully equipped gym, Hollywood style theatre, party room with kitchen + meeting rooms.
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