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East Hastings goes boom: Long-neglected strip shifting from industrial to residential

 

VANCOUVER -- The strip of East Hastings Street between Heatley Avenue and Clark Drive has been a commercial no-man’s land for decades.

But it won’t be for long.

The city has rezoned the area for residential buildings up to 150 feet high (15 storeys). And developers have been moving in to assemble property.

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Wall Financial was first with Strathcona Village, a three-tower, 350-unit complex at 955 East Hastings. All 280 condos in the development sold out when they went on sale last year, at prices ranging from $199,000 to $439,000.

Onni has assembled 259 feet along the south side of Hastings at Clark. Property records show it paid almost $5.6 million for several lots, and entered into a “fee simple” agreement with Claymore Clothes for 1268-to-1278 East Hastings, which is valued at $1.85 million.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson has been investing heavily in the 800-block of East Hastings.

On the north side of the street, Wilson’s companies spent $10.7 million assembling 275 feet of property between 855 and 895 East Hastings. On the south side, his companies purchased 10 lots between 828 and 868 East Hastings for $7.25 million.

That is $17.95 million of real estate purchases in an area right next door to the troubled Downtown Eastside.

“(Former city planner) Larry Beasley and I in 2002 said the city is moving east,” said realtor Bob Rennie, whose company sold the Strathcona Village development.

“Well, it has nowhere else to go,” he laughs. “It wasn’t genius. And it’s happening. It took a while, but it’s moving along. We don’t have the development land downtown, and (when we do) downtown land is so expensive.”

Yashpal Parmar recently purchased several empty lots in the 1000-block East Hastings beside the BNSF railway tracks for $5.2 million.

“It is an up-and-coming area,” he said. “If you go through Strathcona and walk around there, there’s a sense of pride. It’s just an exciting area. (And) it’s so close to downtown, why not live there?”

Parmar said his plan is to build a “mid-rise” with 13 to 14 storeys and 120 units. The zoning states 20 per cent of the units have to be set aside for social housing.

Bruno Wall of Wall Financial admits he was “a bit concerned” about some of the stipulations the city placed on the Strathcona Village development, where Wall had to set aside 70 units for social housing and also provide some light industrial space on the lower floors. But the development quickly sold out.

“There was no push back at all from the buying public,” said Wall.

Part of the reason the area is being developed so quickly is that the city has rezoned Hastings between Carrall and Heatley a no-condo zone as part of the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.

But the city’s assistant director of planning Kevin McNaney said there was a need for some market housing in Strathcona. So what had been an industrial zoning on Hastings between Heatley and Clark was changed to residential. Albeit, residential with a strong social housing component.

“In the planning process with the community, these sites were identified as using market housing and inclusionary zoning to get social housing built, particularly for families,” he said. “So we’re looking for more two-bedroom units in the social housing.”

McNaney said there have been inquiries from developers about the area, but no firm proposals have come in yet. The city has also rezoned a partly industrial area in east Strathcona for residential structures that can go up to 50 or 75 feet high.

Any new developments will take time. Wall Financial purchased the old Alex Gair millworking site at 955 East Hastings for $5 million in 2011. It was launched in the summer of 2014, sold out within six months, and is currently being constructed, with a move-in date of summer 2017.

Many of Chip Wilson’s properties are being renovated instead of torn down. A one-storey building at 895 East Hastings has been rented to a craft brewery, and a small building at 868 East Hastings has been given a spiffy new glass front that makes it look like something you would see on Robson, not Hastings.

“We don’t build condos,” said David Ferguson of Wilson’s company Low Tide Properties. “What we do is buy and own income-producing properties for the long term.”

Ferguson thinks the East Hastings strip is “a cool area” that acts as “the confluence of the Railtown commercial area and the Strathcona residential neighbourhood.”

He sees East Hastings as a natural for creative, independent businesses.

“It’s got character, and maybe a little bit of grit,” he said.

“I think a lot of people like that, personally I do. It makes it more interesting than say Kerrisdale. From an office perspective it tends to (attract) more creative types. From our retail perspective, it’s probably independent-type retailers.”

A good example is Joe Chaput of Les Amis du Fromage cheese shop, which has thrived at 843 East Hastings for several years.

“When we first bought down here, people who didn’t know the area thought we were kind of crazy,” said Chaput. “They thought ‘Why would you buy down there? There’s nothing down there.’ But the store has exceeded expectations.”

Wall thinks part of the success of his development was that it was “priced really competitively.” But he also thinks East Van is developing a cachet among buyers.

“It really has turned into kind of a funky place to live,” said Wall. “Not everybody wants to live in Yaletown. There’s been a fundamental shift in people’s perception of where Vancouver is going, and where they want to live. The whole Strathcona area has completely revitalized over the last 10, 20 years.”

jmackie@vancouversun.com

with research by Carolyn Soltau and Sandra Boutilier

Some of the properties that have been sold on East Hastings between Heatley and Clark:

- The Heatley Block at 696 East Hastings has reportedly just sold for $5.12 million. The 1931 building is in the “no condo” zone the city outlined in its Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan, so it probably won’t be torn down.

- The old Gulf and Fraser Credit Union building at 803 East Hastings was sold for $4.5 million to Copula House Capital in 2015. It is now occupied by AIDs Vancouver, but in a drawing in the city’s Downtown Eastside plan it has been replaced by a glass condo building.

- Companies listing Chip Wilson as a director purchased 10 lots between 828 and 868 East Hastings for $7.25 million in 2012. Wilson’s companies spent another $10.7 million on properties between 855 and 895 East Hastings in 2013. Several buildings are being fixed up and are being leased out, including a craft brewery at 895 East Hastings.

- Wall Financial has sold out a three-tower development, Strathcona Village, that includes 350 units (280 condos, 70 social housing units) at 955 East Hastings. It is being built and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2017.

- Five empty lots beside the railway tracks in the 1000-block of East Hastings recently sold for $5.2 million to Yashpal Parmar, who plans to build a 13- or 14-storey building there with 120 units. He expects it will take three years.

- An old funeral home at 1235 to 1245 East Hastings recently sold for $5.7 million, almost $750,000 above its listing price. It was sold to 1056714 B C LTD, which lists Samuel Yanlin Lu as the sole director.

- Onni purchased 1220 to 1298 East Hastings in 2012 for almost $5.6 million for several lots. Part of the parcel includes a “fee simple” agreement with Claymore Clothes for 1268 to 1278 East Hastings, which is valued at $1.85 million.

- Across Clark Drive, Solterra paid $16.3 million in 2013 for a block that includes the historic Waldorf Hotel. And Millennium sold out its block-long Boheme project at 1588 East Hastings, which included 82 condos that sold for $219,000 to $519,000.

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