Another downtown building has officially broken ground and joined a lengthy list of active construction sites: The Aria, a six-story apartment tower from Cascadia Development Partners.
The project is situated on what was the parking lot for the Esther Short Building at the corner of West Sixth and Esther streets.
Cascadia Development Partners was founded in 2014, and remodeling the Esther Short Building was the company’s first project. Cascadia purchased the two-story office building from the city of Vancouver in 2014 and put it through an extensive $6.5 million renovation. The building now serves as home to Cascadia, LSW Architects, Davidson Insurance and other tenants.
Cascadia took on several commercial and residential projects in the following five years, including The Uptown Apartments on Main Street, Kiddie Academy in Salmon Creek and The Quinn office building on Main Street.
Now, the company is training its sights back on the area where it first got started. Cascadia purchased the parking lot area from a separate entity not long after it purchased the Esther Short office building from the city, according to president David Copenhaver.
Plans to develop the second parcel have been in the works for several years, he said, but there have been some shake-ups along the way, including a revamp of the design to allow the project to tap into the downtown Vancouver Opportunity Zone, which was announced in 2018. The project also takes advantage of Vancouver’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption program.
The apartment building was originally titled The Esther, he said, but was later updated to the current name of Aria, which can be translated from Latin as “park,” maintaining the reference to nearby Esther Short Park.
“We were looking for something related to the park,” Copenhaver said.
The current plans for the $26 million project call for 122 apartment units and five townhouses, along with 115 parking spaces. The apartments are slated to be a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and studio configurations.
The units are described as market rate on the company’s website, and a linked marketing packet lists the apartment cost as $2.52 per square foot, with an average unit measuring 746 square feet.
The project will include a 6,000-square-foot courtyard and landscaping to separate the two structures, according to Cascadia’s website.
One thing that will set The Aria apart from recent downtown apartment projects, both from Cascadia and others: There’s no planned retail space.
Ground-floor retail is a common feature of modern midrise apartment towers, but Copenhaver said in this case Cascadia concluded that The Aria’s slightly less-central location would pose too much of a challenge for retailers, so the company opted for ground-floor townhomes.
Copenhaver said the apartment tower will appeal to future residents through its proximity to Esther Short Park, the Waterfront Vancouver and the Vancouver Farmers Market.
“We think it’s a really nice bridge between downtown and the waterfront,” he said.
Signs of construction began in early August when a portable office trailer and bulldozer appeared in the lower half of The Columbian’s nearby parking lot, which has been leased to Cascadia to serve as a construction staging area. Work began in earnest in early September, when fences were put up around the perimeter of the property and crews began excavating the existing landscaping.
The Aria is scheduled for a 16-month construction period, with completion targeted for the fourth quarter of 2020.