Queue already forming to buy latest Yaletown condos

Saturday, February 28th, 2004

REAL ESTATE I Project marketer Bob Rennie expects to gross $100 million today, the first day 612 units go on sale

Wyng Chow



Andy Paterson of North Vancouver is the first in line for a chance to buy into some of the $151 million worth of condos for sale in Yaletown Park 1 and 2.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun

An architect’s model (right) shows Peter Wall’s Yaletown Park, 850 units in three towers at Mainland and Homer, as Vancouver’s condo boom continues.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun

Condo-mania has returned to Vancouver, as the lineup awaiting today’s grand opening of two new Yaletown residential towers would attest.

In a scenario resembling a Boxing Day sale, people started queuing up Friday afternoon, eagerly awaiting today’s 11 a.m. launch for Yaletown Park.

Project marketer Bob Rennie said consumer response has been “so phenomenal and unprecedented,” he expects to sell more than 400 of the 612 available units — totalling about $100 million — on the first day.

“I think this will be my fastest-ever sellout,” said Rennie, who sold more than $274 million worth of properties in 2003, a North American record.

“We’re expecting 800 to 1,000 people to come down to the sales presentation centre.”

To ease the anticipated crowd’s hunger pangs, Rennie sent his 21-year-old son, Christopher, and office administrator Jessica Jang to drive down to Seattle early today to bring back 200 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Longshoreman Andy Paterson was first in line Friday at 1:15 p.m., determined to stay all night in front of the sales centre at Granville and West Georgia so that he wouldn’t miss out.

“My wife, Katie, will bring me some extra clothing and relieve me for bathroom breaks,” said Paterson, 54, a North Vancouver resident whose sights were set on a two-bedroom unit on the fourth or fifth floor selling for $269,900.

“If you really want something, you’ve got to go for it.”

Lech Dolecki, a 22-year-old lifeguard and university student, was second in line, along with his mother, Danusia.

The would-be first-time buyer said he was interested in snapping up either a studio or one-bedroom suite — “whatever’s the biggest bang for the buck.”

Asked why they were prepared to camp out overnight, his mother said: “We don’t want to be stuck with the highest-priced units.”

Being built by flamboyant developer Peter Wall, Yaletown Park, on Smithe Street between Homer and Mainland, is being marketed as the “last true Yaletown location,” at the “gateway” to the area roughly bounded by Robson, Richards, Cambie and Davie streets.

Nearby amenities include the Urban Fare and Choices markets, as well as trendy restaurants such as Cioppino, Circolo and Glowbal, and the Opus Hotel.

Wall purchased the building site in fall 2002, beating out four other developers for the coveted 2.26-acre property. The $29 million, or $59 per buildable square foot, that Wall paid was considered astronomical at the time, prompting some of his peers to blame him for driving up land prices.

The $59 price is now considered to be a bargain — Wall later rejected a $50 million offer for the land — since vacant sites downtown are now fetching prices in the $100 to $150 range per buildable foot.

Wall, who in the past eight months has launched construction on more than $400 million worth of condos downtown, said Friday he is passing on some of his lower land cost to Yaletown Park buyers.

“Our approach is to continually supply the market with affordable product,” said Wall, chairman and CEO of Wall Financial Corp.

He plans to offer a total of about 850 condo units in three residential towers on the Yaletown site, with today’s launch involving the first two buildings, currently under construction and scheduled for completion in late 2006.

In the past two months, Rennie built up a waiting list of more than 2,000 potential purchasers.

“In my 30 years of selling real estate, this is the biggest response we’ve ever had from young buyers wanting product under $300,000,” Rennie said.

Prices for studio units range from $159,900 to $199,900; one bedrooms from $195,900 to $299,900; one bedroom and den from $215,900 to $335,900; two bedrooms from $269,900 to $399,900; and townhouses from $359,900 to $499,900.

Each unit includes one underground parking stall, a perk now rarely given in other area projects, with some developers charging an additional $25,000 for on-site parking.

Based on the phone enquiries Rennie’s office and sales team have received, Rennie said he expects the buyer profile at Yaletown Park to comprise about one-third investors and two-thirds end users, or owner-occupiers.

“What’s driving the market is a combination of low interest rates, consumer confidence and a lack of inventory,” Rennie said. “Every crane [residential project] downtown is already 95 per cent sold.

“The banks are willing to guarantee you today’s interest rate for the next 21/2 years.”

At Yaletown Park, both the Bank of Montreal and TD Canada Trust are offering fixed five-year mortgages at 5.45 per cent.

Wall’s latest development is among billions of dollars worth of residential projects currently in various stages of construction in the city’s downtown and waterfront areas as developers try to keep up with a seemingly insatiable demand for new housing.

Multi-family units now account for more than half of all construction in the Lower Mainland.

Multiple Listing Service figures show 14,843 condo units exceeding a total value of $3.2 billion sold in Greater Vancouver in 2003, compared with 11,967 units totalling $2.365 billion the previous year.

Last summer, it took Rennie only 11 weeks to sell all 456 units at Wall’s Electric Avenue condo project in the 900-block of Hornby Street, $104 million worth. In August and September, it took Rennie five weeks to sell all 423 units at the Hudson, at Granville and Dunsmuir, fetching Wall another $101 million.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004


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