May 26, 2014

The New Market and a New Look for Condos

Tried of green-glass condo towers?  Aren’t we all.

So how about this:




The Artemisia is at Hornby and Helmcken, the meeting point of two bikeways, not previously a neighbourhood associated with top-end product.

The distinctly eccentric architecture, with over-the-top luxuriousness, clearly shows the influence of James Schouw, though the developer of record is Boffo.  It’s attracted some press, but not because of its architecture.  It’s because of who’s moving in, as reported by Kerry Gold in The Globe.

The buyers are overwhelmingly local mom-and-dad boomers and older who’ve cashed out of their west side homes to live in a flashy downtown pad. They are the generation that reaped the biggest rewards from Vancouver’s global real estate economy …  As boomers age, they are downsizing in upscale fashion, taking their equity from a modest west-side home and splurging on a low-maintenance condo not far from what they know.  …

They are the new buyer demographic for luxury condos and they are unlike any that has come before. Unlike offshore buyers, they are not in it for an investment, but for the lifestyle. …

Bob Rennie spoke about the new market in his annual Urban Development Institute speech last week. He said people 55 and older have real estate equity in Greater Vancouver valued at $163.4 billion. That’s a gold mine for marketers, which is why there is a sudden flurry in the development of more spacious two and three bedroom condos instead of the usual cramped spaces.

So far all those complaining about tiny unlivable units, cookie-cutter highrises, foreign wealth and empty condos, you now have something new to complain about.  Your parents moving into the neighbourhood.


The Atlantic CityLab also asks: What Does ‘Livable’ Mean to Older Americans?  The answer apparently is much the same as what Millennials want:

 … the needs of an aging population dovetail with many of the trends seen among millennials, who are interested in living less auto-centric lifestyles. “We want policymakers to understand that we need to make communities that meet those needs,” Harrell says. “We need to start planning for all ages. A community that works for older people works for everyone.”


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  1. While I applaud Boffo for daring to be different, when one gets up close and personal with this building there are just too many things that seem out of scale. Also, If you were looking to spend so much a condo, why that location? Very little to recommend that street corner.

    1. “Also, If you were looking to spend so much a condo, why that location?”

      The bike lanes, I’m guessing. Skytrain has been a development booster for a generation now, and maybe separated bike lanes will play the same role in the future.

  2. My first thought on seeing this photo – given the pseudo Georgian first floor facade treatment – was that this was a new downtown funeral home.

  3. It is indeed amazing how few large 1500 sqft + or 3BR+ condos are being built that are not high end, or on the top floors only. Not everyone likes highrises, but many older folks do love less yard work, a lock-and-go convenience when they travel or visit their kids but also some space, as opposed to the “sustainable” 850 2BR+den shoeboxes.

  4. We looked at this building in 2009 when we were moving downtown. It wasn’t built yet, but we had copies of the plans, and liked the interior space if not the neighbourhood. We also looked at The Grace, Schouw’s earlier building and another that is not green glass. The proximity to future bike lanes and the greenway was front and centre in the marketing materials.

  5. I thought the James Schouw company went bankrupt, so Boffo took over Artemesia using Schouw’s designs.
    Another casualty was Schouw’s highrise project at Smither and Cambie called Thalia.

    All in all, the project does look underbuilt for a prime downtown site.

  6. One architectural impression I get from this rendering is a desire to express individual units in a fairly dense form, not unlike row houses, something the target market presumably seeks. If this is a correct observation, it reminds me of something architect Bruno Freschi said many years ago, that he envisioned “a city of rooms”. That statement conjures up a wholly different approach to city building than does, say, green glass condo towers.

  7. I applaud the use of a more human scale/building proportions and the varied setbacks. The pseudo-greek column aesthetic looks a bit tacky in my option, but still a refreshing outcome.

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