Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that The Bristol was the first purpose-built rental building to be built in Surrey in 30 years. In fact, a purpose-built rental apartment building was completed in South Surrey in August 2016.
Townline Homes held the grand opening of The Bristol Tuesday morning, inviting Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak to the launch of the four-storey mixed-use apartment building in downtown Cloverdale.
The Bristol has 97 residential units and just over 10,000 square feet of commercial space. It is the first purpose-built rental apartment building constructed in Cloverdale in more than 30 years.
“I want to ensure that everyone [understands] the difference between purpose-built and the secondary market,” said David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC.
“This is secure, long-term rental housing. This building, until it falls, will remain rental housing. And that’s critical for folks who are looking for homes in this community,” he said.
“We need many, many more of them,” said Hutniak.
“Affordable housing has been a significant issue throughout the Lower Mainland,” said Mayor Hepner. “[The lack of] rental housing has only exacerbated that problem. This today is part of the solution. When I see nearly 100 new families joining the community of Cloverdale, it speaks to the number [of people] seeking to be part of this project and in this building as their home.”
“That is astonishing to me,” she said. “The need for rental accommodation.”
The availability of rental units in Cloverdale has made headlines recently, following the city’s crackdown on illegal suites in Surrey’s East Clayton. Notices were sent to 175 suites in August, and the owners were given six months to “eliminate” the illegal suites.
“This in fact is Surrey’s very first rental project in almost three decades, so the need for rental accommodation throughout the Lower Mainland, but particularly here in Surrey, is acute,” said Hepner.
While The Bristol is the first of its kind to be built in Cloverdale in more than 30 years, a purpose-built rental project was completed in South Surrey in August 2016. The building is an inclusive rental-housing development planned by the Semiahmoo House Society. It has 71 units, 20 of which are made available to tenants with developmental disabilities as rentals or long-term leases, and the remaining 51 units are offered to the general public at below-market rates.
The need for rental units in Cloverdale quickly made itself known after The Bristol opened for tenant registration.
Chris Colbeck, vice-president of sales and marketing for developer Townline Homes, said that the response so far has been “overwhelming.”
Colbeck explained that they had received more than 1,900 registrations for the 97 available units.
“And that continues today,” he said. “With over 100 registrations coming in every week.”
The new tenants will begin to move in this October, said Colbeck.
“We have intentionally designed The Bristol to have a variety of home types and sizes to appeal to a wide demographic, including our live-work residences at grade,” said Colbeck.
Later, after the media scrum and the tour of the building, Colbeck said that if he did it again, he might not take that diversified approach. In order to keep rent prices down and to respond to the biggest consumer market, that of one bedroom homes, he said he would lean towards a development with more one and two-bedroom suites with a smaller footprint.
“The most popular [unit] is the one bedrooms,” said Colbeck during the tour. “Everybody wants the larger size, but expectations change when the numbers don’t work for them.”
New tenants will include businesses as well
In January of this year, Townline Homes announced that they would halve the originally planned commercial space after they experienced challenges with leasing the ground floor commercial retail space.
The proposed changes to the apartment building increased the residential units from 86 to 97 and halved the commercial space, going from 20,990 square feet to 10,301.
When The Reporter spoke to Develoment Manager Ross Moore in January, he said, “The proposed change is a response to retail market conditions,” and that, “As much as Townline would like to continue with the approved design, it is simply not good business for us.”
Limiting factors, at that point, were limited residential development and a lack of public transit near Cloverdale’s town centre.
Although new bus routes have since been added to the Cloverdale area, they have been added to the neighbourhoods of Clayton, not the downtown centre.
Colbeck said that Townline has had six or seven businesses express interest in leasing the commercial space, but that there was a selection process underway, as they wished to balance the businesses with what already exists in the town centre.
“We want to make sure the tenants that we put into the retail spaces complement the downtown core and complement the existing [businesses].
On the list of potential candidates, a naturopath, financial institutions, and Colbeck said “a coffee shop would be awesome.”