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October 29, 2015

Canadian group plans high-rise condo tower in Denny Triangle

  • The Burrard Group says it sees a shortage of condos and ‘an incredible opportunity' to develop a new neighborhood.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    Courtesy Weber Thompson [enlarge]
    Preliminary design for Burrard Group’s 41-story tower shows a series of twisting blocks.

    It will have 364 condos, with "penthouse" units between some of the twisting sections.

    As the apartment market keeps booming in Seattle, very few condos are getting built.

    That's why Vancouver B.C.-based Burrard Group is planning its first project in this area: a 41-story tower with 364 condos at 1200 Howell St. It will also have 2,700 square feet of retail and 275 parking spaces.

    Permitting for the tower has just begun, but if all goes well Burrard would like to begin construction next fall, said Jason Wexler, vice president of development.

    The preliminary design shows blocks that twist as the building rises. This creates a variety of unit types and view corridors, Wexler said.

    Between some twisting sections will be “penthouse levels” with large decks that are protected by the floors above. A few of these units will be multi-floor lofts.

    “We're very excited about the design,” Wexler said. “It's very progressive, something I don't think has been done before.”

    Wexler said Burrard likes to find unique sites and put its own stamp on a project. One example is Eugenia Place, an 18-story tower overlooking English Bay in Vancouver. An oak tree sits on the roof of the penthouse, and the tree is at the same height as old growth forests that once stood on the land where downtown Vancouver is today.

    Weber Thompson is the architect for the Seattle tower, working with KPFF Consulting Engineers and Rushing Co.

    The Howell Street site is made for the “live, work, play” buzz that developers today are trying to generate. Wexler said Denny Triangle connects downtown with South Lake Union, and it's a quick trip to Capitol Hill.

    Apartments make up the lion's share of housing being built during this boom. Rents are climbing at a steady clip and developers are getting record prices when they sell, so it makes sense that so many firms are building apartments, Wexler said.

    But as rents continue to rise, Wexler said buying starts to make sense and that could lead to more demand for condos.

    “I think there's a big hole in the market (for condos),” Wexler said. “The area is surrounded by a lot of younger, upwardly mobile, successful people, but there is not a lot of opportunity for them to own something in downtown.”

    Prices for the condos have not been set.

    Burrard is one of several Vancouver-area firms working on projects in Seattle. Wexler said developers are not fleeing Canadian markets; they just see a big opportunity in Seattle.

    Many of the Canadian firms doing projects here — the Bosa brothers, Westbank Projects Corp. and others — are also very active in Vancouver.

    Vancouver's downtown is smaller than Seattle's, Wexler said, but there is a lot more high-rise housing. Wexler said the market for downtown living in Seattle — especially for condos — is still forming.

    Vancouver developers have plenty of experience with urban high rises, which is one reason several of them are doing projects in the Denny Triangle.

    “We think there is an incredible opportunity to develop the urban fabric of that area,” Wexler said.

    Entities related to Burrard have projects in Hawaii, San Francisco and throughout British Columbia including high rises, townhouses and single-family developments around golf courses.

    The firm focuses on sites that are pedestrian-friendly and loads its units with technology to help save energy.

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