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False Creek Flats Get Fashionable

Susan M Boyce
July 4, 2014

After many years of waiting in the wings, False Creek Flats is now enthusiastically kicking off its wallflower image and emerging centre-stage as an up-and-coming Vancouver neighbourhood with style, verve and artistry. Many thousands of people are anticipated to ultimately call The Flats home driven by people who love the unique vibe that comes from a combination of art, education and city amenities. And Nic Jensen, sales and market manager at Onni Group, is delighted with the change.

Q: This area, Great Northern Way between Main and Clark, hasn't seen any significant activity for years, if not decades and its past reputation could be considered somewhat unsavoury. Why now?

A: It's true that The Flats used to have some stigma attached to it, but not so long ago so did Main Street. And Yaletown used to be a rundown warehouse district now it's one of the most desirable highrise neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver and look how property values have appreciated over time.

I believe that five or six years from now, The Flats is going to be another very lively, dynamic and sought-after neighbourhood. Students and faculty will be attending the schools, there will be pubs and eateries Red Truck Brewery is just one that's open this summer and the influx of high-end art galleries has already started with Monte Clarke and Equinox.

Q: For people who want to live here, how does accessibility factor into The Flats' growth?

A: With urban living being so very popular, homeowners are definitely looking for a way to live close to where they work in a neighbourhood they can afford. And a lot of people are getting tired of the downtown buzz and expensive prices.

Here, you're just a couple of blocks to Main and less than 10 minutes to the Seawall. There are bike routes all around, plus an existing SkyTrain station is about a seven-minute walk. There's also a proposed underground SkyTrain station [as part of the Broadway transportation corridor] that would be right across the street meaning convenience is going to be even better.

Another bonus, and one that surprises a lot of people, is that when you look north, you've got some amazing views.

Q: Let's talk bottom line. How much is it going to cost to live here?

A: Because this is still an emerging area, for now The Flats is very well priced. There's already some live-work on the west side of the site, but Canvas will be the first exclusively residential development in this neighbourhood. Onni bought the land in 2012, and we're currently selling one-bedroom homes from the mid $200,000s, with 136 homes priced below $350,000. Response has been amazing, which speaks to market demand. Onni has always been known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to trends, this is just the latest example.

I also anticipate that, for investors, buying in the area will offer solid potential. Vacancy rates in the surrounding area is virtually nil, and there will always be a need for housing for people associated with the schools here.

Q: How did this neighbourhood come to be reinvented like this and what's ahead?

A: In 2001, Finning donated 18 acres of land to Emily Carr University of Art + Design, BCIT, Simon Fraser University, and UBC the equivalent of a $40 million donation. The GNW Trust was formed to oversee development on the land, and one of the first things it did was to build the Centre for Digital Media which is the only place in Canada where you can get masters degree in digital media.

Coming up, Emily Carr will be moving into their new building here in 2017. . There will be some 1,800 students and faculty at Emily Carr. And when Mountain Equipment Co-Op opens its 112,000-sqaure-foot headquarters, it's not only going to create a buzz, it will bring an anticipated 300 employees here every day. The first phase of Canvas will bring 209 new homes, but we anticipate that at a minimum there will be 700 more in future phases.

More information about Canvas and The Flats can be found at www.onni.com/canvas.

Susan M Boyce
Susan M Boyce is a Vancouver-based freelance writer specializing in real estate and residential development. She has co-authored four books on writing and business and is a regular contributor to REW.ca and Real Estate Weekly newspaper.