First five-storey wood-frame going up in Chilliwack

Mark Perry stands at the site where a five-storey, wood-structure residence will be built on Keith Wilson Road.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Mark Perry stands at the site where a five-storey, wood-structure residence will be built on Keith Wilson Road.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Construction on the first five-storey wood-frame building in Chilliwack is about to start.

Englewood Courtyard will be the sixth and final phase of Englewood Village, a master-planned community on Keith Wilson near Vedder Road in Chilliwack.

Two aspects make the adult-only project wholly unique to the area. One is the choice to go with five storeys of wood-frame construction. Two, it's a leasehold development on Tzeachten First Nation land. That means a condo home buyer is purchasing the leasehold rights, but not the property itself.

Ground was broken on the five-storey building last month, said Mark Perry, Englewood executive director.

It will eventually be flanked by four-storey buildings on either side of it, as phases two and three get underway for the Courtyard project.




The 156 units will range from 879 square feet to 1200 square feet, with lots of windows, and 200-square-foot decks.

"As far as the development landscape stands, things are changing. Now I can opt for a five-storey plan, and the numbers work to make it viable."

The province made changes to the BC Building Code in 2009 that allowed developers to erect five- and six-storey wood-frame structures for the first time.

It was seen as a means to achieve cost-effective housing, as well as an acceptance of wood-based construction as an alternative to concrete and steel, with the use of modern fire protection materials and certain code restrictions.

"If I wanted to go five storeys before, I would've had to go with steel or concrete," Perry noted.

There are strict provisions in the building code around height for these taller buildings, as well as specifications for area, and exterior cladding. They have to take structural wood shrinkage into consideration.

"That means they have to be built to code with less moisture."

It has to fall beneath the 12% moisture mark, due to shrinkage over time.

"When you go into an apartment building for example, you will always notice there's a little bump by the elevator. That's because the wood-frame building has shrunk, but the elevator shaft, which is made out of steel, hasn't."

But the economics just haven't been right before.

"The numbers now work," he said. "In part it's because wood and other building materials had come down so much when we first started looking at this. It's became more economical to do it this way."




The first Courtyard building is being designed like a resort hotel, with a concierge on duty and a bocce court, which is a type of Italian lawn bowling.

They're including all the amenities prospective buyers will be seeking to enjoy their golden years in a charming resort-style village, just minutes from the Vedder River.

"It's going to be very special. The views are going to be absolutely fantastic. At five storeys you'll see all the surrounding mountains."

The penthouses have vaulted ceilings, and there's RV parking.

"What we've tried to do is make it a village atmosphere, where you walk up to the centre."

Demographics play a big role in how they're shaping it.

"We specifically wanted to concentrate on a development for people 45 and over," Perry said.

The demographic trends show downsizing retirees are opting for the more reasonably priced real estate that a community like Chilliwack offers, along with the stunning landscapes, with the nearby lakes, the rivers, and the mountains that abound.

The floor plans are also taking into account the specific needs of aging boomers who will require all the bells and whistles, including a guest suite in each unit, and a terrific clubhouse.




They completed the first five successful phases by building a community of ranchers. Englewood Courtyard, with its three condo complexes, is the final piece of the puzzle.

As of the Valentine's Day Sale launch, they had 12 units on hold for pre-sale of the first 40 units to be built.

The condo prices will start at $184,900 in the Courtyard, and go to $333,000.

There are modern, green-construction details tucked into the interiors, like environmentally friendly paints, or plug-ins for vehicles and a big area for bikes and scooters to be stored.

It's also Safer Home construction, with access for people in wheelchairs, and other details that just make things easier for people.

"It's about enjoying life longer with quality of life."

The development lease for the whole deal was signed with Tzeachten in 2008.

"This was my first foray into First Nations land development. I have two more coming," said Perry.

It's a whole new horizon for developers considering leasing First Nations land for development. B.C. First Nations with capabilities to lease their land, like Tzeachten First Nation for example, or West Bank First Nation, have land code and laws in place that allow them to make decisions quicker and make the process more streamlined.

"I can't overemphasize how harmonious the working relationship has been with Tzeachten. They have been incredible people to do business with.

"They are very receptive to new ideas, and very caring about who our end user is. Given the importance placed on elders in First Nations culture, this is something they've really backed."




In order to show appreciation to the community of Chilliwack, the developers Andrew McDonald and Mark Perry have pledged to donate $500 for every unit sold at Englewood Courtyard, up to a total of $78,000.

Asked how long that might take, Perry said it's completely market-driven, so they won't know until sales have been finalized.

Progress readers are being asked to nominate a deserving registered Chilliwack charity of their choice for Phase I of the Courtyard development, attached with an explanation of why their charity should be selected.

All submissions must be received by email only at by the deadline of May 31, 2013. The developers will announce the selected charity for Phase I on June 30, 2013 through the Progress. As there will be three phases of the Courtyard development, the developers will select a charity for each phase with further submission dates to be announced for Phase II and Phase III.


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