February 23, 2023 — RENX

PC Urban, Fiera Fund JV to Build Esquimalt Rental Buildings

By: Mario Toneguzzi

February 23, 2023

Vancouver-based developer PC Urban Properties, in partnership with the Fiera Real Estate CORE Fund, is continuing to expand its purpose-built rental portfolio in British Columbia with a new mixed-used project in Esquimalt which includes 198 apartments.

“There’s been a very short supply (of rental) for many years across Canada and the Greater Victoria Area is no stranger to the same situation, of one-per-cent-or-below vacancy. So there’s just no supply. This will be a much-needed (addition) of new stock into the rental market,” Steve Forrest, the executive vice-president of PC Urban, told RENX.

The development is at the former Cask and Keg liquor store, at 8589 Esquimalt Rd., and will include 8,400 square feet of retail at the ground level. The liquor store will return to the site when the project is completed, occupying about 7,200 square feet of space.

Forrest said the development consists of two buildings, each five storeys, with an “abundance” of on-site amenities. It will be dog-friendly and include high-sustainability features such as EV chargers.

“It will be very attractive for young families and professionals to look for new space that’s in close proximity to downtown Victoria.”

PC Urban and the multi residential market

The project has broken ground, Forrest said, and should take about 20 months to complete. Occupancy could begin by late 2025.

Units will range from one-to three- bedrooms and from about 650 square feet to 950 or 1,000 square feet.

Forrest said PC Urban, which has also been known over the years for its commercial and industrial real estate projects, has 1,200 units of purpose-built rental in the development process.

“We work with many equity and pension fund partners to build and retain purpose-built rentals in their portfolios, some of the biggest groups across Canada,” he said.

“So we’ve been doing that actively probably for about seven years now. We’ve also do the built-up and stacked light industrial and office and office buildings.”

Forrest said real estate developers need governments to step up to provide incentives for more purpose-built rentals.

“We can’t compete against market condos and with interest rates and construction costs it makes it very difficult to bring this product to market… All the jurisdictions need to get creative if they want to have new purpose-built rental built in order to accommodate the 500,000-plus-a-year population growth we’re having.”

Other PC Urban Apartment Developments

Forrest said PC Urban has about 800 rental units under construction and another 400 units in the design/approvals stage with the intent to bring them to market in 2024-2025.

PC Urban has focused on the Greater Vancouver Area in locales such as New Westminster, Richmond, Burnaby and Coquitlam. The company also works in the Victoria area and in Kelowna.

It has a 200- unit project in Kelowna going to city council for final approval next month.

PC Urban also has a 338-unit high-rise tower in New Westminster for which construction is to being in March. It should be ready for occupancy in about 34 months.

The residential vacancy rate in British Columbia’s Capital Region around Victoria hovers around one per cent, having declined from 2.1 per cent in 2021.

“Basically there’s been no purpose-built rental built in 30 years… with the market buoyant and a lot of people getting into investments or just buying their first homes as condos, the condo supply has set the rental market,” Forrest said.

“Now just as a natural evolution with appreciation and inflation and all these prices getting so high and interest rates going up, market condos have almost come, not to a stop, but it’s definitely slowed down.”

This is creating more demand for purpose-built rentals.

“We’ve seen rents increase probably 20-25 per cent over the past year in most urban areas so there is a high need for more units. I don’t think we can, even in 30 years if we were building at an extra pace, could we even catch up with what the actual demand is.

“A normal market would probably be somewhere around a five per cent vacancy and most of these urban markets are under one per cent.”

More about the Esquimalt property

The Esquimalt development will include bicycle parking stalls for every home; it’s near the E&N Rail Trail with connections to a network of bike trails throughout the region.

A car-share program will also be facilitated on site for residents and the public.

the outdoor public realm will be upgraded with street beautification along Esquimalt Road, including a widened boulevard, landscaping, street trees and sidewalk improvements. PC Urban will also install a public art piece on-site.

“This is a key area of Esquimalt and an opportunity for us to work with Fiera to provide a new community hub and enhance the supply of purpose-built homes in the region,” Brent Sawchyn, CEO of PC Urban, said in a release announcing the project.

“This development will provide much-needed homes for families and individuals who want to be close to the city centre and brand-new retail for the whole community to enjoy.”

Each unit will have outdoor living space, access to common health and wellness facilities, rooftop gardens, work and leisure areas.

“The Fiera Real Estate CORE Fund is pleased to undertake its second residential development in Victoria,” William Secnik, senior vice-president and fund manager, Fiera Real Estate, said in the release.

“This project not only adds to the housing stock in British Columbia, but enables Fiera Real Estate to apply its environmental, social and governance strategy directly into its investment management activities.”

PC Urban has developed over $2.4 billion of projects across all asset classes. It currently has 5.2 million square feet of space under development.

Fiera Real Estate is an investment management company with office in North America and Europe and a team of over 80 employees.

The firm globally manages over $8 billion of commercial real estate through a range of investment funds and accounts as of Dec. 31, 2022.

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