Hendrix project shows city rocks: Ground broken for highrise in bustling Oliver


Source: Edmonton Journal Oct 2 2014

Edgar Development Corp.’s head office is in Vancouver’s Gastown district, a stone’s throw from some of the priciest real estate in Canada.

But like Toronto “condo king” Brad Lamb and other prominent developers, the company was drawn to booming Edmonton for its next big highrise project.

It clearly liked what it saw. The city’s lofty average incomes, rapid population growth, rosy employment picture and growing demand for new housing hit all the right buttons.

So on Wednesday, after months of planning, company vice-president Henry Edgar and his colleagues were on hand to formally break ground on The Hendrix, a new 29-storey residential project at 9749 111th St., in the city’s bustling Oliver neighbourhood.

The $68 million, 202-unit complex, which will include 1,300-square-foot  street-level town houses as well as tiny, 417-square-foot apartment units, is aimed at meeting the growing demand for quality downtown rental accommodation in a city where the rental vacancy rate is razor thin.

“Edmonton, specifically the city core, has an extremely tight rental market. Vacancy rates are less than one per cent in the core and just 1.4 per cent in the city as a whole, so the market is demanding this type of product right now,” says Edgar, who grew up in Edmonton with his brother Peter, the company president.

“Edmonton is going through a real renaissance right now and we’re just happy to be a part of it. This is our first Edmonton project and we’re also looking at the redevelopment potential of the Buena Vista Apartments site, where the old Glenora Bed & Breakfast is located. But it’s very early on with that right now.”

Both sites are in mature, walkable neighbourhoods, with easy access to transit, shopping and other amenities, he notes.

“That’s really our thing. We look for top-notch sites, and when we saw that the site (for The Hendrix) was being sold, it ticked all the right boxes for us. It’s right on top of the Grandin LRT station, it’s a stone’s throw from the university, adjacent to the legislature grounds, and two stops from the downtown core.”

The site is also home to the historic, 105-year-old John T. Ross Residence, which Edgar Developments will retain and restore close to its original site, next to the new highrise complex.

“We saw that house as an opportunity to do something unique, by retaining the existing character of the home as part of the street. We think historical elements where they can be retained are more of a benefit than a hindrance. So we spent a lot of time working with the City of Edmonton on how the house is treated.”

Vernon Jones, senior editor of Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine, a Toronto-based publication aimed at real estate investors, says it’s no surprise to him that big residential real estate developers are flocking to Edmonton.

On Monday, the magazine will publish its annual list of the top 100 neighbourhoods for residential real estate investment in Canada, and Edmonton will play a leading role. A total of seven Edmonton-area neighbourhoods — including Oliver and Southgate — made the list, along with suburban St. Albert and Spruce Grove.

The magazine’s rankings, which took more than three months of research to complete, are based on such metrics as population growth, median price, price growth, vacancy rates, cap rates and projected cash flow.

In total, 20 per cent of the top 25 markets for capital growth potential nationwide are in Alberta, a province with less than 12 per cent of the country’s total population. And on the rental side of the equation, Alberta boasts four of the top five rental markets.

“The Edmonton area did exceedingly well (in the rankings), and in terms of attractive areas within Alberta, it seems to be the hottest for investors who are looking to park their money in real estate and grow it,” he says.

“So I would say Edmonton’s day is coming, and there is increasing evidence to suggest that is the case,” says Jones, a former Edmonton Journal reporter who once lived in the Oliver neighbourhood himself.

“There has already been a lot of buzz around the Calgary market. I think Edmonton is perfectly situated to build on what is already impressive momentum in terms of rental demand and demand for individual family home purchases,” he says.

“Edmonton is actually going to benefit from not having a super-heated market like Toronto or Vancouver, or even to a lesser extent Calgary, because it remains a viable option for families looking to relocate to a place where they can better manage their finances and find gainful employment.”