Olympic Village has come a long way since its inception back in 2008. Built by the Millennium Development Group for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic games, our city planned to add a million square feet of condos in order to accommodate nearly 3,000 athletes.
A former industrial area, this development wasn’t taken on without its share of controversy. Besides construction setbacks from building something so ambitious in a short period of time, the much bigger issue was the debt taxpayers had to incur when the 2008 economic crisis hit. This forced the City of Vancouver to take over the development in 2009 after Millennium couldn’t afford to complete the project and went into voluntary receivership.
Post-Olympics, the transition from athlete housing to residential condos was initially unsuccessful, as a lack of sales and empty condos meant those who had bought in would see very little return on their investment, or take a loss if they tried to sell.
Thankfully for them, this would soon prove to become a wise investment. It’s been five years since Vancouver hosted the Games, and since then Olympic Village has turned into one of the city’s most sought-after and fastest growing communities. A large factor in this transformation was in part due to the commercial development, with retailers such as Urban Fare, London Drugs, Terra Breads, and Liberty Wine calling it home. Casual dining restaurants such as Craft and Tap & Barrel have attracted young Vancouverites looking to kick back with a waterfront view.
In more good news, last year the City of Vancouver announced it had officially paid down the entire $630 million debt of the Olympic Village development, as well as recovered an additional $70 million. Working with the receiver, Ernst & Young, the City sold its remaining interest in the last 67 condominium units in the Olympic Village development to the Vancouver-based Aquilini Group (AG) for $91M, ending the City’s involvement in the Olympic Village project.
And this mixed-use community continues to develop, as more than 4,000 condo units will be added around the neighbourhood bordered by Cambie, Main, and 2nd Avenue. The influx of residents has no doubt attracted more prominent retailers who are benefiting from that demographic and density change. The latest is Mountain Equipment Co-op, who will be opening a 45,000-square-foot flagship store at 2nd Avenue and Quebec Street.
Despite its initial controversy, Olympic Village is a reflection of how fast our city is growing, and how the right balance of retail and residential can make this corner one of the city’s key commercial and residential districts.