Oxford Properties and Intracorp Homes are breaking ground with their joint venture -- called Ashley Mar -- in Vancouver. Figuratively, because it's one of the largest co-op projects in Canada, and literally, because construction began on September 30.

Located at 8495 Cambie Street and 8460 Ash Street, across the street from the Canada Line's Marine Drive Station, the three-building project will include a 16-storey co-op building, as well as 27-storey and 32-storey market rental buildings, all on a 1.5-acre site.

Ashley Mar Housing Cooperative, on 8495 Cambie Street, was originally constructed in 1983 after a bestowment of the site by the Government of Canada, according to a City of Vancouver report. However, its 54 two-storey townhouses were nearing the end of their lifespans, and a team at Colliers, the international real estate services firm, saw an opportunity to add more homes.

Colliers said it planned to exchange surplus land on the site to a developer in return for the construction of a new co-op building that would increase the amount of co-op units at no cost to the members.

This new development project would replace the existing 54 co-op townhouses with a new 125-unit co-op building, and the two market rental buildings would consist of 524 units, including studio units, one-bedroom units, two-bedroom units, and three-bedroom units.

Ashley mar vancouver co op housing project oxford properties intracorp homes 1 1024x600View from Ash Street. (Intracorp Homes / Oxford Properties)

Ashley mar vancouver co op housing project oxford properties intracorp homes 3 1024x629View from Cambie Street. (Intracorp Homes / Oxford Properties)

City of Vancouver documents show that the project has actually had a few roadblocks along the way. The original application filed in July 2019 proposed 125 co-op units and 457 secured market rental units across a 15, 24, and 27-storey building, respectively. A February 2020 "Issues Report" mentioned, however, that the density and height outlined in the proposal exceeded the thresholds set in the Marpole Community Plan.

"Multiple options were explored during the enquiry stage, including the provision of on-site strata housing to assist with funding, but the applicants have indicated that a co-op renewal and expansion project is not economically viable without additional height increases, and/or significant government funding," the City's General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability said.

The Manager recognized, however, that "internal review of earlier proposals confirmed these financial barriers and the risk of setting a precedent for other co-ops exploring their renewal options having to rely on the provision of strata housing."

Regardless, a revised application was filed in December 2020 with the current specifications, which actually include more units and more storeys, with a taller maximum height (267 ft originally vs. 304 ft). The revised application was subsequently approved in November 2021.

Current members of the co-op will be temporarily relocated during the construction phase, with assistance by Oxford and Intracorp, before moving into the new building, which will remain owned and operated by the co-op, once construction completes.

Earlier this year, the Government of Canada allocated $500M in funding and $1B in loans towards a new Co-operative Housing Development Program, but Ashley Mar is not part of that program.

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"The Ashley Mar Co-Op renewal and development project is a perfect example of what can be achieved when public and private sectors collaborate to deliver unique and creative solutions to address the housing challenges we are seeing in Canada’s largest cities," said Tyler Seaman, Senior Vice President, Canada at Oxford Properties. "By working together, we will more than double the amount of people housed within the co-op and add a significant amount of new, sorely needed, and professionally managed rental apartments to the market."

Evan Allegretto, President, BC, at Intracorp Homes, also recognized the project's uniqueness. "The advocacy that the co-op has lent to this undertaking, combined with Oxford’s commitment to delivering high-quality, professionally managed rental homes to Vancouver, is the key that has allowed us to put together such a unique project," he said.

Construction on Ashley Mar is expected to be completed in Summer 2025.

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