VERNON - From luxury retirement resorts to shiny new apartment buildings, a number of large-scale housing projects are fuelling strong development activity in Vernon.
The City of Vernon’s economic development manager Kevin Poole says things started to take off last year with an upswing in building permits, and the pace has remained brisk into 2017.
“Our planners always have a pile on their desks. There are a lot of permits coming through the system,” Poole says.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, 221 permits were issued with a combined building permit value of just over $68 million. Single family residential construction continued to show solid growth with 103 units created, up from 74 during the same time period in 2016, Poole says.
Some of the biggest projects underway include The Commonage at Predator Ridge, which will eventually see 200 new single and multi-family homes built, Regency Parkwood Retirement Resort with 150 units, and the BX Crossing, a purpose-built rental complex on 48 Avenue with 86 units in all, 44 of which were just finished.
Murray Weeks, with Vernon-based N&T Properties, the corporation behind BX Crossing, says the philosophy going into that project was “build it and they will come.” If the line up of interested tenants is any indication, the old adage rang true. The 44 recently completed units are all already spoken for, and excited new tenants could be seen moving belongings in this week. One new tenant, Kristina Smith, says she’s thrilled to see a new apartment building in Vernon.
“We were living in Coldstream in a basement suite. We wanted to have our own place,” she says.
Finding home sweet home was a challenge, Smith says, due to a low inventory of rentals and high prices for what is out there.
“We looked online a lot, but they would (soon) be gone or so expensive,” she says.
When she and her husband found BX Crossing, they jumped at the opportunity but tried not to get their hopes up until it was a done deal.
“This is a little higher than what we wanted to pay, but it’s brand new. It’s awesome,” she says.
Vernon’s rental vacancy rate was just 1.9 per cent in October 2016, down from roughly four per cent in April 2014. Few purpose built rental complexes have gone up in Vernon in the last several years, and BX Crossing, which boasts a condo-quality experience, is a unique product in the city.
Andrew Kurbis, with N&T Properties, says that building offers a convenient location where tenants can walk to most amenities, plus the sense of community that comes from sharing a building with other people. The building has several common areas that expand the living space for renters, as well as courtesy barbecues and a putting green.
“I think it’s an opportunity within Vernon that hasn’t been presented before, which is new rental. We feel like there was a lot of positive feedback on that. It seems like the only stuff you can get in Vernon is basement suites,” Kurbis says.
With the remaining units slated for completion in September — they already have a list of interested tenants — Weeks has positive reviews when it comes to working with the City of Vernon.
“I’d like to give a plug to the City for supporting our rezoning, and permit applications, as well as to the local trades and suppliers,” Weeks says. “They (city) were behind the project from the beginning.”
Several other housing projects are in the works, including a 57-unit complex called The Hub on 28 Avenue, a 70-unit complex at the former Vernon Legion property, a 60-unit apartment called The Terraces on Centennial Drive, and a 37-unit affordable apartment building on 27 Avenue initiated by the Vernon Native Housing Society.
Vernon’s population climbed about 1.6 per cent last year, to 41,671 in 2016 compared to 41,008 in 2015, Poole says.
“That’s a lot of new people coming into the community. They all need places to live,” he says. “There is a lot of demand on the housing side.”
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