March 19, 2012

Marine Gateway – At The Gates of Rapid Transit

Development’s easy access to the Canada Line is a major selling point


Bob Rennie and Tracie MacTavish — respectively, principal and president of Rennie Marketing Systems — have been spending a lot of time in recent weeks focusing on how to best address the intense demand for the Marine Gateway project. Some 11,000 people have already registered their interest in the 415 homes at the site at Cambie and Southwest Marine Drive.

There has been a succession of phone calls from a wide variety of potential buyers, and a steady stream of people looking at the show suites in advance viewings. When sales formally open today, it would not be a surprise if there were people lined up outside. That was once a common sight on Vancouver streets for pre-sale projects, but has become increasingly rare in recent years.

Bob Rennie, left, and Tracie MacTavish at the Marine Drive Canada Line station, which will be on the doorstep of the new residential towers.

The number of people taking notice would appear to support Rennie’s take on Marine Gateway as a whole. “It’s 900,000 square feet of space — the largest single-phase development happening right now in the city,” he says. “It’s a game changer.” Rennie is quick to acknowledge that the key to the whole concept is access to non-car transportation methods, particularly the Canada Line.

Marine Gateway consists of a “podium” incorporating retail space and some homes, before dividing into one tower of 29 storeys and another of 38. The first half dozen floors of the building will house a major supermarket, as well as a complex of 11 movie theatres, and shopping and dining options. There will also be services such as banking. The 360-degree views — particularly into Richmond — promise to be unparalleled in the area.

Those views can be enjoyed on the oversized balconies of the homes; the City of Vancouver allowed them to be larger than normal to create more shade for floors below. That feature is part of why the project is built to the equivalent of LEED gold standards, meaning the sleek interiors also have an eco-friendly side.

The refrigerators and dishwashers in the kitchens will be concealed behind subtly grained cabinetry, while the seamless stovetop will be a breeze to clean. Little touches of luxury can be seen in the finely speckled granite of kitchen and bathroom countertops, as well as a deep soaker tub. Wide plank oak laminate flooring sweeps across living room floors. However, it’s the project’s proximity to rapid transit service, a bus loop, and bike lanes that may be its most desirable feature — particularly for younger buyers being driven by the goal of staying out of cars.

“Twenty- and 30-somethings often see car ownership and use as a burden,” Rennie points out. “Baby boomers grew up driving everywhere; this generation is much more aware of what that involves.”

He says residents at Marine Gateway will be within an easy commute to both downtown Vancouver and Richmond, but their homes will have a much lower price tag, certainly compared to homes downtown. Half of the condos are priced at under $350,000, which will likely to be attractive to people who don’t want to pay in the neighbourhood of $1,500 a month in rent. Residents will be able to access the Canada Line without even having to step outside — they can walk directly from their front lobby, pay their fares, and get on the train at the Marine Drive station.

MacTavish says the project would not exist without the arrival of the Canada Line. “This will create a new neighbourhood. It’s a textbook demonstration of putting density together with transportation,” says MacTavish of the project, one of the last to be shaped by Vancouver city planner Brent Toderian before his contract was terminated. “This is what the City of Vancouver has been looking for here.”

Marine Gateway developer PCI Group has found success before in combining housing density with desirable retail outlets and transit access. For instance, its 2009 Crossroads development at West Broadway and Cambie integrated condos with restaurants and downsized versions of big-box stores – creating a new hub just south of downtown Vancouver. Mixed-use neighbourhoods have become increasingly popular in Greater Vancouver as a way to efficiently use expensive land, and usually develop over the course of a few years.

In contrast, Crossroads and Marine Gateway are almost “capsule” communities, their range of amenities neatly bundled together in one package, all at one go. UBC Sociology associate professor Richard Carpiano says that whether such packages create a true feeling of neighbourhood depends on how people respond to them. “I would say a very important factor is whether the amenities promote people getting out there and walking around. There needs to be an opportunity for residents to bump into each other as they do their errands to form a sense of community.”

Up until now, the immediate neighbourhood at Marine and Cambie has not been known as a residential one, but Carpiano notes that the development will certainly provide new residents with a pedestrian-friendly opportunity for people to dine and shop in the immediate vicinity. “There’s no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all model when it comes to developing a sense of neighbourhood,” he explains. “All you can do is bring together groups of ideas and see what happens — and hope that enough planning has been done in advance to anticipate what people need and want.”

Rennie and MacTavish aren’t waiting. They’re already confidently predicting that other developers will follow where Marine Gateway has led – in future years, perhaps offering larger apartments, more luxurious homes, and townhomes for families. For now, the sales team is trying to focus on the long list of people who already seem interested in making Marine Gateway their new neighbourhood.


Project location: 8440 Cambie St., Vancouver
Project size: 415 homes in two joined towers, south tower 29 storeys, north tower 38 storeys Residence size: 1 bed 468 — 561 sq. ft; 1 bed + den 562 – 572 sq. ft; 2 bed 631 — 1,347 sq. ft
Prices: 1 bed from $269,900; 1 bed + den from $342,000; 2 bed from $380,900
Developer: PCI Group
Architect: Perkins + Will
Interior Design: BYU Interiors
Sales centre: 8515 Cambie Street
Hours: noon – 6 p.m., daily
Telephone: 604-322-8831
Occupancy: Summer 2015
Sales begin: March 16, 2012


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