Views of soaring mountain peaks, pristine sandy beaches and proximity to the natural beauty of Stanley Park undoubtedly make the West End one of Vancouver’s most desirable neighborhoods. Densely populated with low-rise buildings, it has a traditional character and is home to a culturally diverse community.
Situated on an ocean-fronted peninsular, in downtown Vancouver, the district is bordered by English Bay to the west, West Georgia Street to the east, Stanley Park to the north and Burrard Street to the south.
One-bedroom apartments start from around C$550,000 (US$412,770) and two-bedroom homes start from C$700,000 (US$522,000), according to real estate agent Nicolas Blachette of Condo in Vancouver.
Expect to pay more for renovated properties —one-bedroom condominiums cost about C$600,000 (US$444,000) and those with two bedrooms cost between C$850,000 and C$1 million (US$629,000-$740,000), according to Gregg Baker of Engel & Volkers in Vancouver.
Mr. Blacette added: “The average price per square foot for an older home costs C$800 (US$597). Newer homes, unsurprisingly, are more expensive. "The average price per square foot for newer buildings range from C$1,000 to C$1,500 (US$746-US$1,120),” he said.A two-bedrooms penthouse apartment at the Flagship, a boutique apartment building by Concord Pacific, is currently listed for sale at about $1.9 million.
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“Homes in premier buildings, with uninterrupted views of the city or water or both, cost approximately between C$1,800 and C$2,000 (US$1,332-$1,480) per square foot,” Mr. Baker added.
The West End has traditionally had a huge supply of rental properties. In fact, around 80% of the homes are privately rented, according to Mr. Blachette.
The neighborhood is apartments-only. The oldest homes are two-stories, from the turn of the-20th century and have been converted into multi-unit dwellings.
The area also has many low-rise apartment blocks, which were mainly constructed during the mid-20th century. Typically of wood-frame construction, they come with parking, outside space and elevators.
However, the appearance of the district is likely to change over the next few years. The Jervis, a 19-story, 58-condominium building by Intracorp and Inform Interiors, is the first major large residential project for decades.
Launched to the market in 2015, the development sold out off plan and broke price records for the area. Prices range between C$1 million and C$4.3 million (US$740,000-US$3.2 million) and sizes range from just under 1,000 square feet to about 2,500 square feet, according to Mr. Baker.
“Prices at The Jervis have increased quite considerably since the pre-sale marketing in 2015,” he added. “It shows there is a real demand for boutique, high-end developments. People want contemporary, high-spec homes with good amenities.”
Mr. Blachette continued: “Developers are purchasing existing buildings, demolishing them and constructing high-rise blocks on the land.”
“Every home that is demolished has to be replaced with a home of the same tenure, so developers are building taller blocks so they can deliver a larger number of homes” on the same size plot, he said.
What makes it unique?
The combination of being right in downtown Vancouver and having access to beaches and the green spaces of Stanley Park is unique. The views are impressive, too. “You can see the mountains and sea, which is quintessential Vancouver,” Mr. Baker said.
“The downtown peninsula has a similar feel to Manhattan,” Mr. Blachette said. “It feels like an island because you’ve got water on three sides.”
It’s got old-world charm, too. “The streets are quiet and lined with trees, some of which are more than 100 years old.”
Extending to 1,000 acres and featuring dense forest and beautiful beaches, Stanley Park is almost completely surrounded by the waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay and is larger than New York City’s Central Park.
The West End is also home to Davie Village, a hub for the city's gay community, which centers around Davie Street and Denman Street.
Robson Street is the West End’s main thoroughfare and the city’s most famous shopping street. A wide street with a European vibe, it is home to many international, mid-priced shops such as Zara and Banana Republic.
Close to Robson Street are department stores Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew. Alberni Street, located one block north of Robson Street, has high-end luxury brands such as Gucci and Christian Dior.
Denman Street, just off the northern end of Robson Street, has lots of eateries and boutique shops, including Fast Frames, an art gallery and framing shop and True Confections, a dessert shop.
The neighborhood is also home to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Located in the former main courthouse for Vancouver, a neo-classical building, it features the works of Marc Chagall and many more.
The Cactus Club Café, a casual-dining restaurant chain, has an outpost on Beach Avenue. Located on the beach overlooking English Bay, it serves contemporary global-inspired cuisine.
Who lives there?
Families, young professionals, older people, international buyers—really everyone. Because the area has a good range of high-end and affordable private and rental homes, the area attracts a socially diverse community.
Mr. Blachette said: “Young people can afford to live here because there are affordable rental studio apartments. It also attracts people who have moved to the city from overseas for work.”
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson reportedly owns a penthouse apartment south of Davie Street, near Alexandra Park, a small green space with an original 1910s bandstand and big views of English Bay.
It has been reported that Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, rented a three-bedroom penthouse apartment on Beach Avenue while he was in the city filming “The Tooth Fairy” Jeff Bridges also made the apartment his home while he was filming “Tron: Legacy.”
The English poet and novelist Malcolm Lowry lived in several locations in the neighborhood in the early part of the 20th century.
“Demand will continue to rise because Vancouver is receiving an influx of people from overseas,” Mr. Blachette said. “Prices look set to increase over the coming year as demand is outstripping supply.”
As mentioned before, bigger buildings are on their way, which could help at least in terms of inventory.
Up next: 1550 Alberni, a 40-story curved glass tower with 180 condos, set to become a landmark of the Vancouver skyline. Designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the building is expected to complete in 2020.
“High-rise development will transform the district, but it is going to happen over the long term,” Mr. Baker said.
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