July 24, 2012
SkyTrain access, affordability spark lineups for Burnaby condo sales
Solo District (short for South of Lougheed)
Project location: Burnaby, at Lougheed and Willingdon
Project size/scope: A four-phase project on a 6.65-acre site with 1,400 suites in four towers, ranging from 39 to 48 storeys. All suites have geo exchange heating/air conditioning, premium appliances, spacious balconies and nine-foot ceilings. On-site amenities include a Whole Foods store, an expansive rooftop garden, fitness facility and social space. Spaces for Modo car co-op vehicles; views of North Shore mountains, downtown Vancouver, Burnaby south slopes and Golden Ears; Steps from SkyTrain and Brentwood shopping mall.
Prices: Junior One-bed (479-489 sq. ft) $229,900 to $243,900; One-bed (587-616 sq. ft) $289,900 to $375,900; Two-bed (907-935 sq. ft) $379,900 to $584,900; 3-bed (1,137-1,164 sq. ft) $679,900 to $764,900; SkyVilla 3-bed, den and loft (1,785 sq. ft) $1.28 to $1.32 million.
Monthly strata fees: Starting from $180 per month, about 35 cents a sq. ft.
Contact: SOLO District Sales Team
Builder and developer: Appia Development Ltd.
Architect: Chris Dikeakos Architects Inc., Burnaby
Interior Design: Cristina Oberti Design, Vancouver
Presentation centre: 2131 Willingdon Ave., Burnaby
Hours: noon to 5 p.m., Sat. to Thurs.
Occupancy: Early 2015
BY MICHAEL BERNARD
Housing sales slump? What slump?
It’s what you would expect the marketers of a 48-storey Burnaby tower to say after more than 2,500 people stood in line for up to an hour on two occasions to get a sneak preview of the presentation centre show suites. Appia Developments anticipates the same crowds today when it officially opens the Solo District sales centre on Willingdon Avenue, just steps from the Brentwood SkyTrain station.
While some realtors have been crying the blues since the new federal mortgage rules came into effect July 9 — increasing down payment and monthly mortgage instalments — Appia’s director of marketing seems unfazed. “I don’t think it will have much of an impact at all what with interest rates being so low,” Dennis Serraglio said. “I think it was just like when the HST came in and there was that one-week slowdown until everybody figured it out.”
Serraglio says the strong turnout was probably triggered by Solo District’s prime location — a 20-minute SkyTrain ride to downtown — as well as the development’s relatively affordable prices. Suites range from $229,000 for a 479-square-foot studio to $389,000 and up for a two-bedroom two-bathroom suite. Those prices are about $65 a square foot cheaper than comparable properties in Metrotown, he said.
At 48 storeys, Solo District’s $78-million Stratus will be the tallest residential building in Metro Vancouver, outside of Vancouver’s city limits. It is the first of four towers to be built on the 6.65-acre site and will be ready for occupancy in early 2015.
Included with the first building is a Whole Foods store, which, if history is prologue, bodes well for Solo District and the surrounding area. In the U.S., they call it the Whole Foods effect: wherever the Texas-based organic food chain locates a store, prices for surrounding real estate jump. The debate continues over whether those prices rise because of Whole Foods’ presence, or because the chain is good at selecting markets where the future is bright. In any case, no one questions that Whole Foods is a desirable amenity.
The space on the store’s roof will be landscaped, providing many of the units with a pleasant lush green area to look down on. Up in the tower, homeowners will enjoy some breathtaking panoramic views. To the west is the city of Vancouver and Vancouver Island; to the north, the North Shore Mountains and the Lions; to the south, Burnaby’s Central Park, and to the east, Golden Ears mountains.
“Vancouver is constantly being rated as one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” project architect Chris Dikeakos said. “Anybody who gets to live up high where you can take in all these vistas has it as good as you can get.“ Dikeakos said he and his team have carefully thought through the private-public space connection in designing the ground level space between the towers.
“Even though we have these big towers on the site which provide the population, we paid particular attention to the pedestrian. The site is an entire city block, which in an urban setting like this, doesn’t come up very often.” The centre of the site is in the shape of a cruciform and will feature a landscaped clock tower, walkways, and retail stores on a people-friendly “high street” where the shop doors open directly onto the street.
Appia’s presentation centre includes a scale model of the entire site and two model suites. The studio unit is 479 square feet, while a two-bedroom, two-bathroom model measures 935 square feet. All 465 suites in the tower have nine-foot ceilings and generous balconies, ranging between 76 to 182 square feet for studios and one-bedroom suites, to 278 square feet wraparound for a three-bedroom plus den SkyVilla.
The studio suites have cabinetry by Italian Armony Cucine, including a panel-fronted New Zealand-made Fisher and Paykel refrigerator and panel-fronted German Blomberg dishwasher. A Bosch gas cooktop and over-the-range microwave and Blomberg apartment-size oven round out the kitchen package. A stacked washer and dryer are discreetly located in a closet adjacent to the bathroom, which is fitted with a tub-shower combo. The studio suite also has a partial height wall that permits outside light through to the bedroom while separating it from the entrance and sitting areas. In addition, see-through shelving in the bedroom wall allows in even more light.
The two-bedroom unit features a kitchen island with quartz countertop, an under-mounted single or double sink, a spacious living and dining area, 12-by-24-inch porcelain tile in the bathrooms, with a tub-shower combo in one and an ensuite glass shower enclosure in the other. The two bedrooms are separated by the kitchen and living space for added privacy. The secondary bedroom has a door opening to the balcony.
All units have basement storage rooms and all but 10 have at least one assigned parking space. In a bid to encourage Stratus’ new residents to use the SkyTrain, Burnaby required the developer to give 15 per cent of unit owners two years of transit passes. Another “green” feature is that Solo District is providing parking spaces to the Modo Car Co-op and plug-in outlets for electric cars.
All units will have economic geo-exchange heating and air conditioning, a simpler system than geothermal in which heat is transferred from the soil at shallower depths. Having air-conditioning is unusual in residential complexes this size and a bonus in these times of climate change. While maintenance-fee-heavy swimming pools are a thing of the past for these large residential complexes, fitness facilities have become huge attractions for buyers, Serraglio said. “We are making ours larger and larger and spending way more money on equipment than we did even three or four years ago.”
Stratus will have a covered rooftop terrace barbecue area with wet bar and outside seating. And for pet lovers: a park where a dog can strut its stuff. Stratus won’t be ready for almost three years, but some people are planning ahead. Gordon Chen and his partner Danielle Ewan just finished buying a home in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. But the two, who grew up within a few kilometres of Solo District, and have parents living in the area, spent part of their Saturday morning checking out the show suites. “Gordon has lived all over the world and I have lived in other parts of B.C., but at the end of the day, we want to come home and be in the area we grew up in,” Ewan said.
Special to The Sun