Vancouver West End’s four Beach Towers sold for over $300 million

Apr 17 2020, 4:17 pm

A residential real estate deal on downtown Vancouver’s English Bay waterfront has been deemed the largest single-asset multi-family transaction in Canadian history.

Goodman Commercial announced today the Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street in the West End neighbourhood have been sold, with the deal worth $305 million.

The significant deal was made in 2019, but limitations on an announcement have only been lifted now.

Beach Towers entails four rental apartment towers ranging in height between 19 and 21 storeys, completed in 1965 and 1968. There are 601 rental homes, with a unit mix of 562 one-bedroom units, 23 two-bedroom units, and 16 two-bedroom penthouse units.

The 2.7-acre property spans two sites and, of course, boasts panoramic views of Burrard Inlet and the Vancouver Westside portion of the Burrard Peninsula.

The property’s latest assessed value is $296 million, with $152.3 million for the land and $143.7 million for the structures.

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Existing condition of Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (Goodman Commercial)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Existing condition of Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (Goodman Commercial)

According to the City of Vancouver, the complex is not listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register, but it is identified in the municipal government’s Recent Landmarks inventory in the “A” evaluation category. Designed by acclaimed local architect CBK Van Norman and built by Block Brothers, they are an example of the brutalism style of architecture, where concrete is an integral part of the composition.

“Beach Towers is of heritage value for its contribution to the development of the West End, as a cultural landscape, and for its architectural design,” reads a city staff report.

“The influence of Le Corbusier’s planned cities and British post-war experiments in high-density residential communities can be seen at Beach Towers.”

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Existing condition of Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (Goodman Commercial)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Existing condition of Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (Goodman Commercial)

Expansive open plaza spaces and landscaping cover the footprint of the two sites, which provides the property with immense infill development and improvement potential, as indicated by the value of the deal. These aging buildings will likely be in need of reinvestment within the medium term.

There was an unsuccessful attempt to add density and perform significant renovations over the past decade.

In 2010, the property owner submitted a rezoning application designed by IBI Group to increase the allowable floor area on the Beach Avenue site from 298,959 sq. ft. to 388,054 sq. ft. for 118 additional secured market rental units, and the Harwood Street site from 55,398 sq. ft. to 96,304 sq. ft. for 15 additional secured market rental units.

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Site plan of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Site plan of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

On the Beach Avenue site, the development would have added a four-storey building with townhouses along the property’s Beach Avenue frontage, and a nine-storey building and a one-storey amenity building at the property’s corner with the intersection of Harwood Street and Cardero Street.

Across the street on the Harwood Street site, the additions would have created two three-storey buildings fronting Harwood Street and two two-storey townhouse buildings along the laneway.

The design of the new buildings were conceived as a contemporary addition that is distinctive but complementary with the brutalist architecture of the existing towers.

The controversial proposal was approved by city council, but in 2015 the property owner made a decision to not proceed with construction, effectively shelving the project.

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)

Beach Towers 1600 Beach Avenue 1651 Harwood Street

Artistic rendering of the cancelled 2015 development for Beach Towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street, Vancouver. (IBI Group / Devonshire Properties)