Prestige Plaza apartment complex opens

13 of 96 apartments in downtown Vancouver have been leased

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Vancouver's newest downtown apartment complex is now open and offering data transmission at extremely high speeds, in addition to modern kitchens with stainless-steel appliances, granite counters, wood laminate floors and walk-in closets.

The developer of the $16 million Prestige Plaza is billing the two-building project as downtown's first fiber-lit multi-family property, which means residents who sign up for the service can download data 100 times faster than with a typical Internet connection. Offered by CenturyLink, the service is a selling point among tech-savvy tenants, said Elie Kassab, president and owner of Prestige Development, the project's developer. His company has leased 13 apartments in the 96-unit development on Mill Plain Boulevard between C and D streets and a block west of the entrance to Interstate 5.

"We are seeing an influx of people who create, design, program, develop and manage data for a living," said Kassab, who also developed downtown's 46-unit Lewis & Clark Plaza apartments at Sixth Street and Broadway and the City Center 12 movie complex.

In addition to I-5 proximity, the apartments are within walking distance of Clark College, city and county government offices, and downtown offices, which include a growing cluster of knowledge-based tech firms.

Two other downtown apartment projects are in planning stages. Downtown advocates say they are encouraged by Vancouver's recent state designation as an Innovation Partnership Zone, or IPZ, a label that could help the sector become an incubator for tech and software businesses and attract residents to apartment projects like Prestige Plaza.

Kassab expects the complex to appeal to downsizing baby boomers as well. He characterized the project's rents as "market rate." Prestige Plaza's one- and two-bedroom units rent for between $1,150 and $1,500 per month. For another $79.95 per month, renters can have CenturyLink's Internet connection. For a lower price of $49.95 per month, renters can have the company's second-fastest Internet speed, which is 10 times faster than the typical service.

Prestige Plaza also offers Comcast cable Internet and television services. The entire complex is lit with LED lighting, which uses 75 percent less energy than standard lighting.

"It's exciting," Kassab said of his downtown project. He spent years planning the apartment complex, designed with 70 parking spaces tucked between the two buildings. The parking lot's small courtyard is dominated by three dramatic, life-sized bronze figures depicting a small girl stepping into a puddle, a small boy pouring a bucket of water over his head and another girl washing her hair. Kassab commissioned the work from Battle Ground artist Jim Demetro to adorn the project's rain garden, where stormwater from the building percolates back to the earth. Demetro's bronze artwork is a staple in every Kassab development.

Kassab financed the apartment complex with a construction loan that came from a private group of local investors in late 2012.

Prestige Plaza replaced a Burgerville hamburger stand that operated there for nearly a half century. Kassab purchased the site for $750,000 from Vancouver-based owner Holland Inc. He acquired Vancouver's old police headquarters from the city for $200,000 to secure the entire city block that supports the project.

The Vancouver City Council voted in 2011 to limit the property tax assessment on the land beneath Kassab's project through a city property tax abatement program that will add up to about $1 million in savings over the first 12 years of the project.