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Reliance, Quadreal JV gets OK for 130 West Broadway towers

After 9-year process, litany of revisions, mixed-use development to go ahead in Vancouver's Broadway Plan district

130 West Broadway is a two-tower plus podium Vancouver development by Reliance Properties and Quadreal. (Courtesy Reliance)
130 West Broadway is a two-tower plus podium Vancouver development by Reliance Properties and Quadreal. (Courtesy Reliance)

The co-developer of a multi-tower mixed-use apartment project on Vancouver’s West Broadway is happy to see his project moving forward, but cautions that more expedited approvals are needed to bring other similar projects within the Broadway Plan to fruition. 

Jon Stovell, whose Reliance Properties is developing 130 West Broadway with QuadReal Properties, told RENX the two-tower development that will add 514 secure market rentals, a child care centre, public plaza/green space, and about 40,000 square feet of commercial space has been finally approved by the city.

It’s one of the first major redevelopments within the plan, which will focus on facilitating new housing, jobs and amenities around the new Broadway Subway in parts of Kitsilano, Fairview and Mount Pleasant over the next 30 years. 

The rezoning application for the former MEC store site was approved, after revisions, by council on May 30. 

Q1 2024 sees four rezoning approvals

According to a city staff memo to council this spring, activity in first quarter of this year in the Broadway Plan area has produced 94 letters of enquiry (down 12 from Q4 2023); 46 rezoning applications (up 17 from the Q4 2023); four rezoning approvals (up two); two development permits (up from zero); three building permits (no change) and one occupancy permit (no change). 

Stovell says those stats shouldn't be taken to mean the Broadway Plan is prompting sweeping approvals and construction activity, at least not yet. 

"I think what we need to be cautious about is how many of these actual letters of enquiries and rezonings are going to go to actual construction," he said. 

Most of these projects have significant rental components, but getting them approved and built offers many challenges including timely city approvals, relocating existing residential tenants and managing elevated construction costs. Many of the ongoing proposals might not complete, Stovell said. 

At 130 West Broadway, the developers are demolishing the vacant former MEC store. One major advantage is that this site doesn't require residential tenant management.

But the entire process included significant redesigns to the buildings to accommodate view corridors, which eventually resulted in shorter towers and fewer homes in a project that has taken nearly a decade to get to this stage, Stovell said (the Broadway Plan was approved in 2022). 

The project will include:

  • a 21-storey east tower and 28-storey west tower with 514 total rental units;
  • commercial space at grade and on the second level;
  • a 37-space child care facility;
  • a rooftop public plaza/park on the podium space between the towers;
  • underground parking to accommodate 195 vehicles and 1,165 bikes.

"When you stand back and look at this . . . (there were) basically policy obstacles at every step of the way over a nine-year period," Stovell said. "These rental units could have been built . . . when construction was 60 per cent of what it is today, and rents were 70 per cent of what they are today."

‘Decent’ deal activity in Broadway Plan area

"There has also been pretty decent deal activity over the last couple of years," said Michael Buchan, principal, Capital Markets at Avison Young in Vancouver, noting his team has done nine transactions within the Broadway Plan so far.  

"I would say the most active groups in the Broadway Plan are seasoned developers who have strong balance sheets,” he told RENX. “They have experience taking these projects through the process and delivering them to the market."

He said there are a few other major housing tower projects in the proposal stage that provide some optimism and scale, noting his review of the list of current rezoning applications includes three or four projects with more than 300 homes.

The biggest test will be economic viability, Buchan said.

"I think the City of Vancouver is really doing their best as possible right now to take these projects through in a timely manner. Each one, I think, has its own nuances and challenges."

QuadReal partnership provides equity boost

130 West Broadway is a two-tower plus podium Vancouver development which has received the go-ahead from council. (Courtesy Reliance)
130 West Broadway is a two-tower plus podium Vancouver development which has received the go-ahead from council. (Courtesy Reliance)

Reliance initially launched the project on its own but is now partnering with QuadReal Property Group. 

"These projects are in the hundreds of millions of dollars to develop,” Stovell said. “They require a lot of equity, and so we'd like to partner and share that equity contribution and share that risk and share that financial burden."

Stovell said all of the rental homes at 130 West Broadway will be available at market price and will include a mix of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom homes. 

He said the building will attract a mix of tenants, but will probably attract plenty of tech workers, due to its proximity to the Mount Pleasant tech cluster.

The location is a 5-10 minute walk from the intersection of Cambie St. and Broadway, which provides station access to the existing Canada Line and the new Broadway Subway extension, which is expected to open in 2027. 

On the commercial side, Stovell hopes to see a boutique grocery store in the building, and also sees a coffee shop, cafe or restaurant doing well at the location, noting that some of the retail space "spills out" onto the rooftop park. He said a gym could also be part of the mix. "I think the earliest we could likely… see demolition...starting (is) within a year," Stovell said. 

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