Friday, June 2, 2023

Portland's Ritz-Carlton is nearing completion

The Ritz Carlton, Portland
I had the pleasure of attending a special broker event at the Ritz-Carlton construction site on Wednesday. The tower is nearly complete with the hotel portion expected to open this summer and the first units for the residential portion shortly thereafter. This is Portland's 2nd tallest residential tower with 35 floors and standing 460' tall, technically behind the 502' Park West Tower, but the two buildings have the exact same roof height of 460'. It is the 5th tallest building in the city. For comparative size Smith Tower is the tallest residential tower in Vancouver it has 15 floors and stands 158' tall and Kirkland Tower has 13 floors above ground and stands 146' tall. Needless to say the Ritz-Carlton in Portland is very tall. 

Although I do focus on urban condos, I tend to stay north of the Columbia River. But this project is offering new condos and as a licensed broker and can participate in sales. I have been very interested in this project as I feel it will be good not only for Portland but also Vancouver as well. Portland needs a shot in the arm to help boost its sagging reputation. It was not that long ago our southern neighbor was the national favorite for coolest city. But my things have changed haven't they? 

Vancouver has definitely done the opposite lately, with our previous reputation for a dingy Downtown, we have come screaming back with a vengeance and are actually the cool kid in the metro area right now. Although Portland's recent woes have translated into positive growth in Vancouver, its woes still affect all of us in negative ways and we all benefit from a better Portland. The Ritz-Carlton could ignite a new wave of positive change in Portland and that will radiate out to other areas in the region including us. This is an extremely high end real estate development with an estimated build cost of more than $600 million. The 138 condominiums will be priced well above the reach of even some affluent buyers, with prices starting at $1.6m and making their way towards $10m. The hotel however, will draw affluent guests to the region and some of the amenities in the tower, like the bar and restaurants will be open to the public. This is the second lifestyle condominium tower in the region, after the first, our own Kirkland Tower. 

Comparisons to Kirkland are inevitable but the two are as different as they are similar. The Ritz-Carlton hotel is about as good as it gets for luxury lodging. The Indigo Hotel attached to Kirkland is quite nice and the open atrium interior design is spectacular, but the Ritz-Carlton is top drawer. I'd give the hotel portion edge to the Ritz-Carlton. The overall owners amenities at the Ritz-Carlton are impressive edging out Kirkland but only just so. Kirkland's rooftop community penthouse, and patio area sits on the defacto 13th floor and is higher than the 8th floor "owners lounge" and patio at the Ritz Carlton.

The developer doing the Ritz-Carlton had one fully complete and furnished unit to show us along with several others in varying states of completion. The completed model was a two bed 1600 SF unit on the 21st floor. The unit was very nice and frankly I felt it was on par with Kirkland in terms of decor and quality, but not better. Quality of build is a tie between the two. One note however in favor of the Ritz Carlton is that the penthouses on the upper two floors are owner customizable. That is pretty cool.

View looking north towards Vancouver from 34th floor at Ritz Carlton, 5/31/23
An advantage to the Ritz Carlton is that all of the residential condo units are up top. Floors 21-35 are condominiums. The hotel occupies floors 8-20 including the flagship restaurant on floor 20. The lower floors are parking and commercial office space as well as restaurants on the ground level. Every single unit at the Ritz Carlton is high enough to see over the local buildings around it. So everyone gets a view. 

The higher floors at the Ritz Carlton soar above the city. Comparatively, Kirkland's units are effectively on floors 3-12. Now officially it's 2-11 but the first floor is a double height floor with a full mezzanine. Semantics, right? Kirkland units on the top four floors all sit high enough to see over neighboring buildings. It should be noted that Block 5 is not built out yet and a future tower there could potentially be as tall as Kirkland. All of the units facing the Columbia River regardless of floor have a view since the building sits on the Waterfront. But north facing units on the lower floors will have a classic urban view of the building(s) across the street. 

Kirkland in my opinion has the better location. This isn't a Vancouver vs. Portland thing, but just the fact the Kirkland sits on the Waterfront right in the middle of the hottest neighborhood in the metro area. Although the Ritz-Carlton is in a nice location in the West End neighborhood, it is not on the waterfront. Advantage Kirkland. Both locations offer connectivity to exciting attractions and things to do. Portland holds an advantage on music venues, sports franchises and such, but Vancouver's Waterfront is more walkable and park-like.

View from Kirkland Tower roof north towards Downtown Vancouver, 2021
I mentioned above that essentially all of the units in the Ritz Carlton "soar" above the city and that is true. The Ritz Carlton is the 5th tallest building in Portland and Kirkland is the 4th tallest in Downtown Vancouver. Relativistically they are in a similar position. But Vancouver's Downtown including the Waterfront is filled with mid-rise structures of 6-8 floors. Even on the rooftop at Kirkland you are not exactly "soaring" over the city but more like peeking out over the city. In fact I find that east facing units at Viewpoint have more of a soaring over the city feels since there are no tall structures on the Main Street corridor. That being mentioned, the airplane like view is more detached from the city. Sometimes its a bit more exciting being just a few floors above the fray and more connected to the urban space. It's a matter of preference really. 

Studies on the subject have shown that the best floors to live on are between 5-10. Why? Well the higher you go the less noise you have to deal with. The less pests (rodents, insects) and the more security and privacy. Let's not forget those views also. But above the 10th floor you are typically out of reach of local hook and ladder trucks so emergencies like fire, earthquake etc will require a manual descent. Also some people are height adverse so above the tenth floor can be uncomfortable for them.

So overall the metro area now has two premier lifestyle high-rise condominium developments to choose from. Kirkland has fewer than a dozen units remaining and I have little doubt the the Ritz Carlton will be successful as well. If I had to choose, I would of course stay here in Vancouver and go with the Kirkland Tower, but for the Portland fans, the Ritz Carlton is your new flagship residential high-rise tower.

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