In this VREP ‘exclusive’ episode, Adam & Matt sit down with developer, Derek DiMartile, & Project Marketer, Ehsan Sharenejad (Propel Project Marketing Group), to talk about their exciting new 6-storey, 81-unit project Popolo! Located steps from Commercial Drive & the Commercial-Broadway Skytrain Station, Popolo is one of the first new developments after the Grandview-Woodland Official Community Plan. Derek & Ehsan talk the future of ‘The Drive,’ the best opportunities in Vancouver & why Covid could potentially lead to even higher property prices in our region and beyond. You heard it here first & the VREP community is first in line. Get in touch if you want the earliest access to this project. From two good Popolo to a community full of good Popolo!
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Who is Derek DiMartile?
Derek DiMartile is the President of EPIX Developments. I’m originally from the Niagara area but have lived in Vancouver for the past 14 years. I live in the Mount Pleasant area with my wife. After university, I worked in real estate banking. After the 2008/2009 financial collapse, I was laid off as the fund I was working for shut down. I then worked as an independent mortgage broker and founded a small boutique firm, which I’m still active with today. Around that same time, I got into real estate development and branched out to create EPIX Developments.
Who is Ehsan Sharenejad?
Ehsan Sharenejad is a Principal at Propel Project Marketing Group. I immigrated from Iran in 1987 and landed in Lethbridge, Alberta. I then made my way to Vancouver. Fast forward to today, I’ve been a licenced realtor for the last 16 years and I’m leading a specialty project marketing group. We typically work with developers, like Derek, who are looking for a personalized experience.
Derek, what excites you about real estate?
I’ve always loved real estate. It’s the one profession I knew I could leave a lasting impression for decades. You’re shaping the city with each project.
How do you see the community plan changing Grandview-Woodlands?
Slowly. It’s a very vocal community. Just the planning process took five years, so every project going forward will need to conform to that plan. The residents do not want that area changed dramatically.
What were some of the key factors that helped you choose this development site?
For the project in Grandview-Woodlands, we like the residential nature of the area. We like that it is close to parks, mass transportation, schools, grocery stores and close to Commercial Drive. Since it’s on the east side of Commercial, it’ll be a much quieter experience than the west side as the skytrain gets started.
In general, when picking sites, we do our due diligence on the backend. We also look at who is developing around us and what the costs look like. We identify the risks and learn about the drawbacks. The key factors are a fantastic location, good acquisition price and a great team who can execute.
Who is the target market for the Grandview-Woodlands project?
It’s a unique mix of one, two and three bedrooms. Given the location, brand and feel of the project, we want to be owner-occupier friendly. We’re looking at some investment opportunities in the one bedrooms, as well as entry-level purchasers. We’re not trying to change Grandview-Woodlands; we’re just providing a product that is lacking. So, we’ll have lateral movers who are already in the area but looking for something new.
There will be upsizers who come from all over the city. This area is becoming more attractive and well known to the rest of the city.
In the three bedrooms, you’ll get the young families. We’ll also see downsizers who don’t want to leave the area but no longer need a 2500 square foot home with all the maintenance that requires.
Does the project have a name?
We’ve named it Popolo, which means people or folk in Italian. It references a people group in the 13th century in Italy who rose up to defend merchants against the nobility. We like the parallel of that story to the Grandview-Woodlands area where we are crafting our development to fit with the current culture – we want to expand it, not detract from it. Everything from the materials used to our marketing photos connects to that culture.
We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously, which is the spirit of Commercial Drive. So, we wanted a name that was fun. It was the first name we brainstormed.
Outside of Grandview-Woodlands, what other areas of Vancouver are you excited about?
Definitely Mount Pleasant, especially with the new hospital that will be coming up the street. Kensington-Cedar Cottage is somewhere I would like to work again. Trout Lake is a hidden gem. There’s a beach and a farmer’s market. It’s a real family community.
Is there a reason you’re almost entirely East Van focused?
I always gravitate towards the more affordable areas. It’s where you can make a greater positive contribution when the area is up and coming. It allows us to be more creative and bring some interesting features in.
While we do love East Van, we’ve done a project in Coquitlam and are finishing up one in Squamish. But our big focus is Vancouver.
Are you surprised about how resilient the market has been over the last few months?
I’m convinced we’re looking at a K-shape recovery for the pandemic. We’re seeing repricing of assets all around the world – some are going up; some are going down and some are staying the same. How that plays out will depend on how the market was doing before COVID. I think the residential for-sale market for locals will fare quite well.
What is a K-shape recovery?
It’s what we’re seeing now. Certain subsects, like technology, healthcare and food providers (grocery stores not restaurants), are doing very well. And a lot of that is because of the pandemic. But then there are areas, like hospitality and travel, that are doing very poorly. I don’t think we’ll have to wait for everything to get back on its feet before the real estate market does.
What are the timelines for Popolo?
They’re ever evolving, of course. We had been planning to introduce it to the market in 2021, but then COVID hit. As we’ve had more conversations with our network, it didn’t feel like people wanted to wait until 2021. So, we’re looking to introduce some units in fall 2020 with the official kick-off in 2021.
How did you weather the storm of COVID?
It’s not easy. Everything has gotten more difficult. But it’s about believing in the projects you have and not stretching when you buy. A lot can change when you get into these 5-6-year projects.
You make all of your money on a good buy. As developers, we all build and sell for around the same price. So, it’s all about the initial buy.
We saw a lot of volatility in the stock market when COVID first hit, which impacts investors. April was a very different market than what we’re seeing now. When you start to see governments printing money and you have a tight market like Vancouver, you don’t have the ingredients for a huge down-turn. Almost everyone pulled their units on the resale side in the spring, which is a testament to how much money is in this market. Interest rates are low, and inflation is high, which presents a good investment opportunity. The rental market here is still quite tight.
Do you have any thoughts on how the CMHC seems to be missing the mark by predicting a downturn in the market?
They have a more pessimistic outlook in general. The Canadian government is printing an unprecedented amount of money. Interests rate won’t go up in a year or two. With the massive amount of debt and liability they have, the government has two ways to pay it off: huge taxes or increased assets. So, inflation could go up significantly.
Favourite neighbourhood: Derek – Grandview-Woodlands or Mt. Pleasant; Ehsan – Yaletown
Favourite bar or restaurant: Derek – Marcello’s; Ehsan – La Bodega
Book you would recommend everyone read: Derek – Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises by Ray Dalio; Ehsan – Atomic Habits by James Clear
One piece of advice you would give your 18-year-old self: Derek – Spend as much time as you can with the people you love; Ehsan – the definition of success is evolving and make sure how you identify yourself aligns with that definition of success
Something you have purchased for under $1,000 that has changed your life: Derek – Dual sided heated mattress pad; Ehsan – Insight timer app for your phone (meditation app)
If you are interested in learning more about Popolo, email: email@example.com