Cordova's condo cash cluster: Most of B.C.'s 10 most expensive apartments in a 600-metre stretch

… And the Fairmont Pacific Rim rules this roost!

by JOANNE LEE-YOUNG, Updated: January 29, 2019

Eight of B.C.’s 10 most expensive condos per square foot — with a combined value of $187.4 million — are along 620-metre stretch of Cordova Street. Hover over the dots on the map for details on these luxury condos. 

In Vancouver’s Kitsilano, Point Grey Road is known as the “golden mile” for its collection of the city’s priciest single-family homes. In Coal Harbour, the equivalent for strata properties is West Cordova Street where eight of the city’s 10 most expensive condos, by square foot, are packed onto a tight stretch of road that is only about 620 metres in length.

The clustering gets even cozier at the very top of the list with three of the four most expensive condos, by square foot, all on the highest floors of one building, the Fairmont Pacific Rim Residences at 1011 West Cordova St.

Put together, these 10 condo properties, with their glorious, uninterrupted views and access to exclusive amenities, are valued at $187.4 million, according to the latest provincial assessment.

In recent years, the ability of these luxury condos to hold and appreciate in price has been such a given they have famously been touted as investments for the ultra rich that are on par with or better than gold bars.

Lawrence Fink, CEO of the world’s biggest asset manager BlackRock Inc., quipped in April 2015 that while gold and financial instruments were losing their lustre, “contemporary art” and “apartments in Manhattan, apartments in Vancouver, in London” were a “serious asset class” and “store of wealth.”

But the days of sale prices constantly being exceeded and setting new records has turned in these rarefied circles where luxury condos in Vancouver, New York and London have more in common with each other than they do with their local markets because of the prices they command.

The New York Times recently declared that in Manhattan, “re-pricing luxury apartments has become the new normal.” It also described the rebranding and repurposing of luxury condos that are sitting on the market into yoga studios and film locations.

Michael Ferreira of Urban Analytics, who advises developers, says the same thing hasn’t been seen in Vancouver because fewer new luxury condo projects have been launched here recently compared to in New York. Westbank Corp.’s The Butterfly, a 57-storey luxury condo tower in the West End, sold well, says Ferreira. Asia Standard America’s Landmark on Robson project “has not been as successful … (but) all indications are that the developer has deep enough pockets to self-finance and they don’t need to meet pre-sale requirements.”

Meanwhile, other developers with plans for luxury projects still in the works are “more cautious” in proceeding. From their view, Ferreira said, they need to charge high prices to cover costs such as community amenity charges and construction, which haven’t come down. So they are delaying things to possibly adjust their plans.

The big question, said Ferreira: “Will they need to charge high prices and is the market still here?”

Like others, Brad Henderson, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, said the luxury condo market in Vancouver faces the slowing seen in other cities, plus it is also still digesting “the additional (provincial government) policy measures,” including an increase in the foreign buyers tax from 15 to 20 per cent, a widening of the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 to two per cent for foreign owners and satellite families and an additional school tax of 0.4 per cent on high-valued properties over $4 million.

But at the ultra end of these luxury markets, the one-offs can defy everything. Even as the Manhattan luxury condo market has been waning, billionaire Ken Griffin last week bought a 24,000-square-foot apartment there for US $238 million, more than double the last record price for a residential property, which was US $100.5 million for a Manhattan penthouse in 2014.

In Vancouver, the “penthouse-two residence” at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, which sits at the top of the five-star hotel of the same name on Cordova Street, is a local version of this stratosphere.

It happens to be the only one of B.C.’s top 25 most expensive condos by price per square foot to be currently listed for sale and is the most valuable of them all at at $4,610 per square foot, according to B.C. Assessment.

The listing went up in early January for $29.9 million, just under its most recent assessment of $30.197 million. But, in fact, the property was first listed in January 2018 for $38 million and then re-listed again this month with a fresh price that is down 20 per cent or $8 million.

West Vancouver-based agent Malcolm Hasman of Angell Hasman & Associates (Malcolm Hasman) Realty Ltd., which holds the listing, said when you have “the most prized, super high-end trophy property, you start off at an optimistic price level and adjust the level to reflect the current situation. This is how it’s done in big cities around the world. You bring it out at a high level … and look for that one single buyer for whom money is no object and who wants the most prized penthouse in Vancouver.”

He argues that with the new price “it hasn’t really been reduced because at about $4,600 (a square foot), we are trying to set a new record price.”

The other penthouse unit in the Fairmont Pacific Rim drew some attention back in 2013 when it was purchased by a Dubai-registered company, Leemar Investments Fze, which paid $25 million and also bought the condo right below it, Unit 4601, for $15 million.

At the time, the purchase of these two units put together was described by Hasman to Bloomberg News as the biggest condo deal in Canada.

Leemar still owns both properties, which, at $28.5 million and $15.66 million are the second and fourth most expensive condos, respectively, by price per square foot, according to the latest assessment.


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