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Gracorp, Minto partner to build Vancouver Oakridge multires

427-449 West 39th Ave, Vancouver, is a new apartment project proposed by Gracorp and Minto. (Courtesy Minto)
427-449 West 39th Ave. in Vancouver is a new apartment project proposed by Gracorp and Minto. (Courtesy Minto)

Thirteen years after the completion of BC Transit’s Canada Line connecting downtown Vancouver to the international airport along Cambie Street, the third phase of the Cambie Corridor Plan will reshape a neighbourhood that contains nine per cent of the city’s land mass.

At its very centre lies Oakridge Park, once the site of a high-end shopping centre (and acres of free parking) that will eventually be home to over a dozen high-rise condominium, rental and office towers, a brand-new shopping and entertainment centre, and a 15-acre rooftop green space that will augment the many parks within the community.

Unlike the industrial and warehouse properties that were bulldozed to create both the Olympic Village and False Creek North, the Oakridge redevelopment will see significant rezoning of single-family homes in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Under the Cambie Corridor Plan that was adopted in 2018, up to 1,700 single-family properties could potentially be rezoned for multiresidential.

In response to Vancouver’s ever-worsening housing crisis, city council unanimously amended Phase 3 of the plan to fast-track the construction of rental buildings.

Gracorp, Minto partner on 18-storey tower

Phase 3 of the Cambie Corridor Plan aims to transform existing single-family neighbourhoods into walkable communities where more people will be able to live, work, shop, learn and play. 

Derek Steven, vice-president of capital markets for Gracorp, describes what’s happening at Oakridge as creating “Vancouver’s second downtown.”

In reimagining a cityscape that, like most of Vancouver, is a gridwork of streets and avenues zoned for single-family housing, city planners have attracted Gracorp and its partner Minto Group to help revitalize Vancouver’s disappearing stock of affordable rental buildings.

Gracorp Properties and Minto Group’s apartments division propose to redevelop three existing single-family homes at 427 – 449 West 39th Ave. into an 18-storey rental community.

Gracorp – the development arm of the Graham Construction group of companies  – submitted a rezoning application in March 2022 which includes a provision for 20 per cent of the net residential area to be below-market housing in perpetuity.

The project would add a net gain of approximately 142 market rental units plus 34 below-market rental units – 35 per cent of which are family units – to the City of Vancouver’s much-needed secured rental stock. 

“For these units, below-market rents are calculated as 10 per cent below the average city-wide market rents for all units in the City of Vancouver as published by CMHC," Steven explained.

"To qualify, household income cannot exceed four times the annual rent for the unit (i.e., at least 25 per cent of the gross income is spent on rent).

Gracorp, Graham and western markets

“We enter these projects on the basis that ‘If the numbers add up now, then they are likely to as inflation settles,' ” he said. “Graham is Canada’s third-largest construction company with verticals in industrial, infrastructure, water, development and buildings.

"We track the construction market closely ensuring the success of our projects. Pricing has been settling in the previous months in line with macro inflation, but we don’t see a re-trace of prices on the horizon."

The company also has experience in several Western markets in both Canada and the U.S.

"Gracorp has several similar multifamily purpose-built rental projects in Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle," Steven said. "These markets are in immediate need of rental solutions, each with its own unique set of policies.

"Two recently built Gracorp examples, both winning NAIOP’s best mixed-use project in their respective cities, are Aria (Calgary) and Waterfront Place Apartments in Everett, Washington."

The character of the building will reflect a health and wellness theme.

It will incorporate a low-carbon energy system for heating and domestic hot water while providing air conditioning to all units. In addition, it will provide a diverse amenity package on both the ground floor and rooftop.

Steven expects the rentals will attract a demographically diverse mix of occupants.

“This project might potentially include furnished studio apartments for students attending nearby Langara College. There is always a large percentage of health-care workers employed in and around Vancouver General Hospital who prefer to rent as well," he said.

“Our exit will come once the building is completed and sold to our partner, Minto, who will manage the property through its real estate investment trust (Minto Apartment REIT)."

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