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Favourite Fairview apartment building for sale

March 30, 2016
The 3200 block Heather Street side of 711 West 17th Avenue.

The 3200 block Heather Street side of 711 West 17th Avenue.

The large 51-year-old, 20-unit, three-storey walk-up apartment building at 711 West 17th Avenue is on the market for $9,800,000.

The price tag represents a 29.7 percent markup on the current total value of the property, which is $7,553,900.

In the last year, according to City of Vancouver property tax information, the value of the building itself has increased $700 to $27,900. While in the same period, the land under the building has increased in value a whipping 29.5 percent, from $5,809,000 to $7,526,000.

A boomer building nears its retirement age


From the alley. Note: bike and trailer shown are not included in the purchase price.

The L-shaped building, which has dominated the northwest corner of 17th Avenue and Heather Street since it was built in 1965, has its main address on 17th Avenue and includes two ground floor retail spaces in the 3200 block of Heather Street, one of which is currently occupied by a meditation centre.

Around back it features an 18-stall parking lot and and a motel-style outside stairwell on the backside of the wing that fronts onto Heather Street.

There is, honestly, nothing especially attractive about the shape or plan of the building, beyond the fact that it looks modest, doesn’t loom and after five decades fits the neighbourhood like a comfortable old shoe.

The tile- and stone-work facade of the West 17th side looking east.

The tile- and stone-work facade of the building on West 17th, looking east.

What does distinguish 711 West 17th Avenue, however, is the way that its first storey street sides are faced with variegated patterns made up of millions of tiny cemented ceramic tiles and stones.

A closeup of the random-patterned tile and stone.

A closeup of some of the random-patterned mosaic work.

I’ve been admiring the mosaic work of 711 West 17th Avenue on a nearly daily basis for at least a decade now. It is one of a shrinking cohort of such buildings. When (not if) it is finally demolished to make way for a new glass, steel and concrete box, it will be a keenly felt loss. And I’m not just referring to the 20 units of irreplaceable affordable housing that it represents.

Mosaic tile and plaster is one of humankind’s oldest mediums of decorative expression. It is also one of the most durable. Applied properly, ceramic tile is nearly imperishable and it creates an exceedingly friendly and pleasing exterior that offers endlessly changing eye-appeal based on light, shadow and distance.

They don’t build them like they used to

This could be from ancient Sumer, Egypt, Rome or Greece but it'sfrom ancient Fairview.

Could be from ancient Sumer, Egypt or Greece but it’s from ancient Fairview.

Unfortunately, external mosaic tile work is out of favour now in modern residential construction, to say the least. In fact, a building like 711 West 17th Avenue, with its expensively tiled outsides and inexpensively finished insides is all backwards, by today’s standards.

Any modern developer, I think, would see it as a waste to devote such a high percentage of effort and expense to the outside of a new building, where the results will largely only benefit the neighbourhood.

The outside, non-structural, curtain wall skin of the modern multi-unit building is virtually its least expensive part. And the money saved on the skin is spend instead where developers believe it should be—where the paying customer will see the value—in the functionality and fittings of the living areas.

Everything else just has to work. If a neighbourhood wants real beauty, it can buy a painting or something. It certainly shouldn’t expect to see it in the form of new multi-unit developments.

What the future holds for 711 West 17th Avenue

According to PDF sales brochure on the property, produced by Macdonald Commercial Real Estate Services Ltd., the current owners of the building (identified elsewhere as RPQG Holdings Ltd.)  are currently generating an annual gross income of $267,812 on the property, against expenses of $96,956.

Thus, it can be said that at the property’s current net operating income of $170,856-a-year, it would take over 57 years to recoup the listed purchase price of $9.8 million. I would therefore expect that any prospective new owners would be looking to change up things, return on investment-wise.

As it stands now, the 11,484 square-foot lot is zoned as C-2, which permits a combined floor space ratio (FSR) of 2.50 times the site area and a maximum building height of 13.8 metres. Click  the images to enlarge them.

From → Art, Development, Fairview

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