Vancouver-based firm to develop 2,300 apartments

Projects in Seattle; Hillsboro, Ore.; L.A.; Denver worth $600 million

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

A Vancouver-based development company has teamed up with Japan's largest homebuilder to develop $600 million worth of apartments in urban centers from Seattle to Los Angeles, all geared for the bike-riding, walking and public-transit-riding "Y" generation.

The developments would add a total of 2,330 apartments in Seattle; Hillsboro, Ore.; Denver; and Los Angeles, said Clyde Holland, chief executive officer and chairman of Vancouver-based Holland Partner Group. The five sites share common location attributes such as being within light-rail commute or walking distance of high-paying office, professional and tech-sector jobs, said Holland.

The developer joined up with investor North America Sekisui House LLC. The Arlington, Va.-based company is the U.S. arm of Osaka, Japan-based Sekisui House, which also operates in Australia and China.

"We are investment partners in these projects and we'll be working hand in hand in how the projects are designed," said Holland, who founded Holland Partner Group in 2001 to build multifamily housing in high-demand rental markets.

Publicly traded Sekisui House, founded in 1960, appears to have wised up early on to the current business adage that what's good for the planet is also good for the company. Sekisui House announced its environmental future plan in 1999 and 2001, and the company launched an award-winning landscape concept to promote biodiversity. Sekisui is also a leader in energy-saving designs aimed at producing zero emissions and was awarded in 2006 for its response to global warming by the Japanese Minister of Environment, according to the company's website.

Holland expects elements similar to those used by Sekisui to be incorporated into the projects the companies will jointly develop.

"We both share a significant commitment to sustainability," he said.

The five developments all fit a model Holland called "core urban infill" and will be rental housing primarily marketed to Generation Y, those born between 1977 and 1998. The 20- and 30-somethings are now part of a major shift in green attitudes and behavior, having grown up as eco-consciousness was becoming the norm and raised by baby boomer parents who founded the environmental movement.

Holland expects the projects to include green roofs and landscaping designed to attract birds and other wildlife. Development locations within walking distance of a mass transit ride to major employers also gives the projects high marks for reducing and eliminating emissions from commuters driving fossil fuel-burning vehicles, Holland said.

"That's absolutely green and enables residents to significantly reduce their auto allowance or get by without an automobile," he said.

The five projects and locations and timelines are:

• A 370-unit, two-building apartment complex with 19,000 square feet of retail space in Hillsboro, Ore., at Orenco Station along TriMet's light-rail line. The project is under construction and expected to open one year from now. The area is considered Portland's primary suburban growth corridor and is located near Intel, Nike, Kaiser Permanente, Yahoo, Oracle, TriQuint Semiconductor and FEI Microscopes.

• A site in Seattle's South Lake Union business district is planned for the 370-unit 810 Dexter, expected to break ground next year within walking distance of Gates Foundation headquarters and the Seattle Center. Other nearby employers include Amazon, Microsoft, Novo Nordisk and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center.

• Seventeen Wewatta is proposed to add 500 units to Denver's Union Station redevelopment area, the central hub of Denver's $7.2 billion transit system now under construction. The site is close to offices that house more than 110,000 jobs, according to Holland Partner Group.

• Belleview Station Block B is another Denver proposal for 300 units and 39,000 square feet of retail space in that city's Southeast Business Corridor, where more than 300,000 workers report to employers such as Charles Schwab, Great West Life, Newmont Mining and DISH Network.

• Sixth & Bixel in Los Angeles is the largest of the five developments with more than 640 units and 21,000 square feet of retail space to be built in two phases. The downtown L.A. site is walking distance from thousands of jobs and dining and entertainment options, according to Holland Partner Group.

Upon completion, units in all five jointly developed projects will be offered for rent and marketed to investors for sale as the units become profitable. Holland declined to give a range of expected rents for the units, which will carry distinct designs to be marketed in the different areas. Holland said all five sites were initially tied up by the Holland Partner Group, which brought North America Sekisui House in later as an investor.

"They made the decision to invest with us," he said. "It was our shared belief in building sustainable communities that really helped cement the bond that led to these projects.