Archive for August, 2004

Greater Vancouver Housing Market Hottest in Canada

Tuesday, August 10th, 2004

Wendy McLellan


CREDIT: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

Multi-family developments are the real force behind the growth.

Vancouver‘s housing boom is fuelling the country’s record-breaking increase in building permits, according to a Statistics Canada report released yesterday.

Across the country, the value of building permits issued by municipalities jumped 27.1 per cent in June over the previous month to $5.3 billion, setting a new monthly record as well as exceeding the $5-billion mark for the first time.

In B.C., the value of housing permits issued in June increased nearly 80 per cent, to $796 million, setting a new monthly record for the province.

But the real force behind the explosive growth are multi-family developments across the Lower Mainland where the number of building permits for housing increased by 58 per cent in the first six months of 2004 compared to the same period last year.

At Vancouver City Hall, staff are busy processing the steady stream of permits.

“It is hectic here,” said Rick Scobie, director of development services for the city. “We’re offering overtime to staff just to keep up with the processing, but our timelines have been going up because of the increasing volume.”

Scobie said in June alone, his staff issued building permits worth half a billion dollars — the amount usually processed in six months. “We did half a year’s work in one month and we were already tracking month to month ahead of last year,” he said. “We’re coping, but we’re busy.”

Cameron Muir, senior market analyst for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), said the demand for new housing is expected to remain strong for at least the next few years, and the building-permit numbers indicate construction activity will continue at a good pace this year.

“Building permits are a kind of forward indicator about what will be happening in the new few months,” Muir said.

“They give an indication there’s going to be a significant number of housing starts during the balance of the year.” Muir’s prediction will be confirmed this morning with CMHC’s release of the July housing start numbers.

So far this year, housing starts in the Lower Mainland are up 40 per cent over the first seven months of 2003 and most of the growth is in multi-unit construction.

Starts are down for the month of July, however, mainly due to a big jump in multiple starts during the previous few months.

“Condominium developers are working flat out to satisfy demand,” Muir said.

“The Greater Vancouver market is the hottest in the country.”

Despite the number of new condos under construction, the inventory of completed new units is at a historic low in the Lower Mainland. Last month, there were no new apartments available in downtown Vancouver and only 68 in the entire Lower Mainland.

Five years ago, there were 2,600 new condos available for sale during the same period.

“I don’t remember the last time it was like that,” Muir said yesterday. “Even if demand dropped, all those new units are sold and the ones under construction are mostly pre-sold. If you want a new unit, you’re going to have to wait.”

Last week, CMHC predicted that home-building starts this year will reach their highest level since the late 1980s housing boom, due to the lowest mortgage rates in several decades and continued employment growth.

In B.C., the construction industry is the most powerful element in the province’s economy and has created 10,000 new jobs so far this year.

© The Vancouver Province 2004

Living Large in Small Spaces- Uno

Saturday, August 7th, 2004

UNO I Subtle design makes 536-square-foot unit seem twice the size


   Downtown proximity without downtown prices is attracting artists and those who appreciate the arts to one of Vancouver’s up and coming areas — commonly referred to as SOMA (South Main).
   Uno is a 110-residence development at the corner of 11th and Kingsway that has a range of prices, from onebedroom, 536-square-foot apartments for $174,900 to 1,534-square-foot two bedroom and den townhomes for $479,900. (The project’s three penthouse suites, with their mountain views, were snapped up on the first day when sales opened in April.)
   “The neighbourhood is a cultural mixing pot and that’s indicative of our buyers,” said Uno public relations representative Pamela Groberman, who noted 75 per cent of the buyers are in the 20- to- 45- year-old age range.
   “All are very into design and excited by the newer concepts and layouts. Most are from Vancouver and many are first-time buyers who find it’s cheaper living in SOMA than downtown.”
   Groberman said many buyers grew up in the area but are coming back to Main Street, from about East Second Avenue to East 15th, because of the “cool elements” the area offers.
   “Generally it has a bit more edge to it,” said Groberman, who added many fashion studios, trendy restaurants and cafes are nearby.
   Sales coordinator Darren Hunter agreed noting buyers are typically either in the arts field or very interested in the arts.
   “One buyer designs video games, some are in the film industry, another is a yoga teacher. This is a great space for them.”
   Joelle Ciona and Dina Gonzalez Mascaro are typical of Uno’s buyers. They’re young, involved in the arts and appreciate the area’s diversity. Ciona, 35, is an artist and set designer, whose latest project was Catwoman with Halle Berry. Mascaro, 38, is a sculptor and jewelry artist from Argentina.
   The couple know the SOMA area well. Ciona has lived for the past eight years and Mascaro for three years in a rental house just three blocks away from the Uno project.
   “The first time I saw it I was coming from work and I saw the showroom. I told Joelle we must live there because of the name. It’s Spanish.”
   The couple knew it was definitely for them after visiting the showroom and seeing the simple but highly functional design. Five hours after that visit they signed on the dotted line and in a year — when the project is completed — take possession of a 711 sq. ft. one bedroom with den suite. This will also be home to their friendly, twoyear-old blue heeler, Burana.
   “We had been looking on the Internet for a place but nothing felt like us,” said Ciona, who said they were also delighted Uno also allowed pets.
   “We’d decided we didn’t want a house because a home is so much work with yard maintenance.”
   Mascaro said they were immediately attracted to Uno’s design.
   “Uno is really simple and bright. They have light and use a lot of glass which I like,” said Mascaro.
   Ciona, who also has a degree in architecture, said she also appreciated the work of Uno’s architect Peter Busby, who is known for his environmentally friendly architecture.
   “The exterior of Uno is going to be beautiful,” said Ciona.
   She said her only criticism of the project is there is no communal roof top garden. That space belongs to the penthouse owners. However, she said there is a communal courtyard and anyone above the fourth floor and up, on the north side, will have a mountain view.
   The interior space was designed by Toronto-based designers Anna Simone and Elaine Cecconi, who are known for their work designing for smaller living spaces. They were brought in early so their ideas on how to make the best use of the space could be incorporated into the overall design plan.
   As an example, the design team strongly believe in using perimeter lighting to help expand a space. That’s why the units all have this feature.
   Another feature in the smaller units is the lack of corridors. This was deliberate on the part of the designers, who instead opted to have a small entry vestibule opening into the suites.
   “There’s not one square foot we don’t take into consideration,” said Cecconi.
   “Space is so expensive to buy so it’s really important there’s no wasted space.”
   While some of the units, at only 536 sq. ft., would be considered small the way they are designed makes them equivalent to a 1,000 sq. foot unit, said Simone.
   “Traditionally you would use a corridor to get you from one room to the next but by removing it you still lead from room to room with visual light [available from the one window at the end]. That again helps open the space,” she said.
   The rooms are separated by a clear sliding glass door. Buyers can upgrade to opaque glass for the sliding door partitions.
   The bathroom, however, does have an opaque glass that separates the space. Some of the units have a wall instead of the opaque glass that separates the bathroom from the main living area.
   Simone and Cecconi said they personally liked the area so much they have selected the Uno project as the site of their retail store in Vancouver. The partners already have a 4,000 sq. ft. store called Oni One that opened in Toronto in September, 2002. The space in Vancouver will be over 7,000 sq. ft. and occupy the entire retail area on the ground floor of the Uno project.
   Intracorp. senior vicepresident Don Forsgren said the city requested some type of street-oriented retail use on the Kingsway street frontage.
   “We could have probably got away with total retail space as small as under 2000 sq. ft. [like a coffee shop] but in the end of the day we have over 7200 sq. ft. of dramatic space.
   “The alternatives would have forced townhome type units on to Kingsway, which would have been a poor design.”
   Forsgren said the company decided destination retail would look the best and be the best choice for Uno condo owners.
   “I made finding the retail user a priority before we finalized the development plans. We had a number of interested parties but Oni One was obviously an amazing connection and asset to Uno,” he said.
   Groberman noted Oni One is also a good choice for all the Uno homeowners because it is closed at night and therefore quieter than if a restaurant or convenience store, for example, were occupying the space.

STUART DAVIS/VANCOUVER SUN Joelle Ciona, Dina Gonzalez Mascaro and their dog Burana are all in love with Uno.

Floorplan of the one bedroom and den suite (711 sq. ft.) that Ciona and Mascaro will share.

Two views of the living room in the Uno display suite show the seamless blending of living space, while the bedroom (above) is stylishly functional.

War is hell — and so is chaos of renovations

Friday, August 6th, 2004

Like a bad fashion trend, dust and other irritants that come with renovating just never seem to go away

Karen Gram

CREDIT: Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun Interior designer Rachel Brown helps The Sun’s Karen Gram choose the right combinations to work in her ‘soon-to-be’ new kitchen.

Eighth in a series about Karen Gram’s kitchen renovation. She’s in the zone — the construction zone. Last week, she watched the carpenters demolish everything recognizable in the room. Now, acting as her own contractor, she’s coordinating the reconstruction.

– – –

I hate the chaos, the dust and the realization that I can’t expect the subtrades to be mind-readers, able to do my bidding without clear instructions.

Nuclear annihilation is worse, I am told, but living in a construction zone is way up there in terms of stress. And in ground zero, also known as our kitchen, I’ve already identified a couple of enemy agents.

We have it better than many, however. We have a kitchen in the basement and don’t have to wash the dishes in the bathtub or cook everything on the barbecue. We even managed to move the portable dishwasher downstairs.

But like the evil organization that constantly bested Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 in the 1960s TV classic Get Smart, chaos is getting the better of me. Nothing is where it belongs.

Although we have put some things away in the cupboards downstairs, very little is in a place that makes sense. I can never find anything. And worse, it’s a small kitchen, no match for all the stuff we had crammed in upstairs. It’s far more cluttered than what we had upstairs and that was too much for me. I feel antsy just entering the room.

I also feel great sympathy for our former tenants, who had to live with the terrible lighting system we provided, a sink and faucet that is totally dysfunctional and a stove top that works only half the time. We actually thought it was a pretty good rental space. Now, in their shoes, our feet hurt.

Then there is the dust — ubiquitous hardly describes it. It’s like a bad fashion trend. You can’t believe how ugly it looks, you think it won’t last long and you try to ignore it. But then you start to wear it!

It didn’t take long before I was wearing it in my hair, on my shoes, on big hand prints on my jeans. “This is bad,” I thought to myself. Especially since I wasn’t the only one wearing that dust. We all were leaving our mark wherever we went.

I figured getting away would help, so I packed up the kids and took off for the islands for a week. We had a marvelous time, kibitzing with my siblings, their spouses and kids, my dad and stepmom. We barely mentioned the kitchen, so laid-back were we. My husband Brian was supposed to come, but since we are the contractors, one of us had to wait for the electrician and come three days later.

It was on our return that I realized that, like trucker hats (a fashion trend my daughter Yette has just adopted), ignoring the dust doesn’t work. Sooner or later, it’s going to be in your face.

I became a veritable clean bee, mopping, wiping and vacuuming like mad. I felt super-virtuous, but also defeated. This was an enemy I doubted I could beat. It would always be lurking in the corners waiting for me.

In my hurried rounds before all the holiday gear came back into the house, all I could manage was to clean our regular pathways. So I insisted we stop traipsing through the construction dust on our way to other rooms. The kitchen is out of bounds unless you are a worker or are showing a worker around.

Now we have new pathways, complicated ones that go downstairs just to go upstairs, but it has made a huge difference. Except that the drywaller comes this week. We’ll be washing the walls so the tape holding up the plastic dust barrier holds this time. We will be vigilant. But we will be defeated, I just know it.

Being the general contractor has been interesting. It’s all about keeping the subtrades happy. For example, the electrician — or “Sparky,” as our Kiwi carpenter calls him — doesn’t want to have to cut through any drywall. He doesn’t want to have to go digging for wires and he wants to know exactly where his boxes are supposed to go. The more prepared we are for him, the quicker (and cheaper) he can do his job and the happier both parties are. Nothing ticks off a subtrade more than showing up for a job that isn’t ready for him.

Always ask the subtrade what he or she needs, advised Gerry (our behind-the-scenes contracting expert) before he went on vacation. Then make sure you do it.

General contracting takes a lot of phone calls — bringing in the subtrades to look at the job, hiring them, giving them advance warning that they are soon to be needed, talking to them afterwards, calling back for any missed jobs or repairs. Most seem to want a couple of days’ notice, but I am learning to ask. And I am still in the early stages. I’ve still got the flooring guy, the painter, the tiler and the glazier to work with. I sure hope I can hold up my end.

Brian has been working up a sweat correcting our small and medium-sized miscalculations. So far, he has saved us a bundle and kept us on schedule.

We’re still due to be done, or almost done, by Aug. 27, just five weeks from demolition day. It could be worse.

I am having fun with the interior decoration, thanks to Rachel Brown of Simple, a Main Street interior design shop.

I am a novice when it comes to using the services of an interior designer. Now I know that more than just having good taste, interior designers are great shoppers. They know where the good stuff is and where it costs less. Sometimes they get discounts and sometimes, like at Simple, they pass them on to us.

Brown knew where to go for tiles (we wanted a bit of irregularity, so she got samples of handmade ones from Bullnose Tile and Stone on West Tenth) and lights (Light The Store is a great store with a great name on Cambie, where they have Canadian-made designer lights).

She had good advice about faucets and drawer handles and she had a knack for putting everything together to make it work. But she never imposed a style or a design. She just helped us figure out our own.

Now if I could just get out of this war — I mean, construction — zone so I could concentrate on all those pretty things.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Valley home prices jumping

Friday, August 6th, 2004

Value of average house, townhouse rose faster in July than in Greater Vancouver

Michael McCullough

Homeowners south of the Fraser River should no longer feel like the Lower Mainland’s poor cousins. The price of houses and townhouses is rising faster in the Fraser Valley than in Greater Vancouver, July sales statistics show.

The average price of a detached home in the valley rose 20.9 per cent since July 2003, to $360,488, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reported Wednesday. Townhouses averaged $235,963, up a whopping 27.6 per cent in just a year.

Apartment prices in the valley rose a more modest 14.8 per cent to $137,835 on average.

As in the city, sales activity cooled in July, with 1,553 transactions compared to 1,915 in the same month last year.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board president Moss Maloney put the decline down to the fact July 2003 was extraordinary, breaking the previous record for sales in the month.

“Sales continue to be very strong, higher than what we predicted. Overall, we’re still on track to beat last year,” he said.

Prices were highest in White Rock, where a detached house averages $553,263, up a hefty $120,377 from a year earlier.

“It’s still a seller’s market. Inventory is up only slightly, yet prices are firming up and remaining consistently high,” Moloney said.

The Fraser Valley sales figures echo numbers released this week by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, where July sales slipped by a quarter year over year, to 3,017 units from 4,023 in July 2003 amid rising prices.

The benchmark price of a single-family house — representing a typical home on the market — rose 15.4 per cent to $493,010, the Vancouver board said. The benchmark townhouse rose 19.3 per cent to $324,530, while condos rose 19.6 per cent to $242,470.

The Fraser Valley board covers communities south of the Fraser River from Delta to Abbotsford. The Greater Vancouver numbers reflect sales from Maple Ridge in the east to Richmond in the south and the Sunshine Coast in the west.

So far this year 12,006 homes have changed hands in the Fraser Valley, compared to 10,879 at this time last year. Sales in 2003 set a new volume record for both Lower Mainland real estate boards.

Realtors and homeowners will be watching whether or not sales activity picks up again in the fall. A prolonged slowdown in sales, accompanied by a rise in the number of homes on the market, typically precedes a levelling-off in prices.

“My prediction is that we’re going to have a very strong fall,” Maloney said. He noted that interest rates are rising, but “not running away.”

Given the price increases seen over the past three years, buyers are becoming more selective, however.

“A home that’s priced five, six, seven per cent over market will sit,” Maloney said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

House sales generate a fortune in spinoffs

Thursday, August 5th, 2004

Each move generates about $20,000 in related economic activity, a study has found

Michael McCullough

CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun Sandra and Jack Herrity have spent about $70,000 on new floors, appliances and countertops since moving into their Surrey home last year.

When a realtor friend told Jack Herrity that every home sale generated around $30,000 in economic activity, the Ottawa banker scoffed. So you move house — you pay your lawyer, you pay your taxes, the agents get their commissions. What’s the big deal?

Since then, Herrity and his wife Sandra bought and moved into a luxury townhouse in south Surrey to begin their retirement.

“We spent a little north of $70,000” on renovations, appliances, taxes and professional fees, he figures. “It’s incredible how these things add up. I was running back and forth to Home Depot almost every day.”

The Herritys are not alone. Last year, the Canadian Real Estate Association commissioned a study by Toronto‘s Clayton Research Associates to gauge the economic impact of the buying and selling of existing homes. On average, each sale generated just under $20,000 in spinoffs over the period 2000-2002, the study concluded.

Nationwide, that amounts to $7.5 billion a year.

“The purchase and sale of homes generates fees to professionals such as lawyers, appraisers, real estate agents, surveyors, etc., as well as taxes and fees to government. And when Canadians move house, they typically purchase new appliances or furnishings as well as undertaking renovations that tailor the new home to specific household requirements,” the report said.

On average, buyers spent $9,485 on professional services, $3,550 on renovations, $3,385 on furniture and appliances, $1,315 on general household purchases, and $490 on moving costs.

Although they represented the largest item on the list, fees to agents, lawyers and other professionals have actually declined since 1991-92, the study found.

Not so the other categories. The greatest increase in expenditures came in furniture and appliances, where buyers of resale homes spent 85 per cent more (adjusted for inflation) than they did a decade earlier. Canadians spent 49 per cent more on household items such as bedding, towels, light fixtures and window coverings.

All those spinoffs sustain 101,600 jobs across the country, the survey estimated — about two-thirds directly (realtors, trades, furniture makers and so on) and one third indirectly (workers in the primary, wholesale trade and financial services industries, for example).

“The finance, insurance and real estate industry accounts for almost 35 per cent of the total direct and indirect employment generated by home sales,” the study said.

In the Herritys‘ case, Jack’s former employer, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, paid for the cost of moving back to Canada from his last posting in Barbados. And the couple had more than enough furniture stored away from their old house in Ottawa to furnish their new five-bedroom townhouse in the Morgan Creek neighbourhood.

But other items cost more than the couple anticipated.

“The taxes were quite significant,” Jack Herrity remembers after buying the home in the fall of 2002. And by the time they moved in the next spring, the costs of making the townhouse their home were piling up.

First they ripped out the carpets and laid down a kars (Brazilian red cherry wood) floor, then they installed granite counter tops in the kitchen. They replaced the curtains with blinds, which proved to be expensive in the exact shade approved by the community’s strata bylaws. Though the unit was just four years old, they replaced several appliances too.

“Of course my wife wanted the best in all these things,” Herrity laughs.

[email protected]


So you’ve bought a new home and feel you’ve got a good deal. Brace yourself and hope you’ve got some cash left over. All those extra costs add up and they’ve risen sharply over the last decade.

1990/1992 2000/2002 Change

Moving costs: $385 $490 +27%

General household purchases: $880 $1,315 +49%

Furniture/appliances: $1,830 $3,385 +85%

Renovations: $2,575 $3,550 +38%

Professional services: $9,765 $9,485 -3%

Total: $16,200 $19,760 +22%

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

BC home building growth expected to lead Canada

Thursday, August 5th, 2004

CMHC predicts housing starts will hit 32,400 in ’05

Michael McCullough


CREDIT: Vancouver Sun Graphic

New Homes By Province

British Columbia will lead the country in the growth of new home construction this year and next, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts.

Housing starts will grow 21.1 per cent to 31,700 in 2004 and a further 2.2 per cent to 32,400 in 2005, the federal agency said in its third-quarter Housing Outlook, released Wednesday. That compares with a projected Canada-wide increase of just 3.3 per cent this year and a decline next year. It also represents the highest new home numbers seen on the West Coast in a decade.

B.C. housing starts peaked at 42,807 in 1993, when new arrivals were flocking to the province from Alberta, Ontario and Hong Kong. Since the late 1990s more new homes have been built in Alberta than B.C., but CMHC is predicting that B.C. will once again overtake its neighbour beginning in 2005.

The province is also expected to set a new record of 100,000 sales of existing homes this year — more than one in every five homes sold in Canada — and to lead all provinces in the growth of renovation spending. B.C. residents will spend $4.6 billion on home improvement this year, a 10.3-per-cent increase over 2003.

CMHC’s regional economist, Carol Frketich, attributed B.C.’s leading position to strong employment growth and rising consumer confidence, in addition to the historically low interest rates that are sustaining construction and real estate sales across the country. She also noted that B.C. is playing catch-up.

“We’re still coming off those very low numbers in 2000 and 2001,” she said. B.C. had been underperforming the rest of Canada since the “Asian flu” — the economic downturn in Asia — struck in 1997. As a result, the housing market here had more room to grow than elsewhere in Canada.

“This will be the third straight year of more than 20-per-cent growth” in new home construction, she said.

Though the 2005 projections are still dependent on a number of factors, Frketich said the 2004 forecast is pretty solid.

“For 2004 we’ve got a lot under our belt already,” she said. “It would take a lot to throw that forecast off.”

Greater Vancouver accounts for more than 60 per cent of the new apartments, townhouses and houses being built, but the positive direction is spread around B.C., Frketich said. Victoria is seeing a substantial increase in condominium construction, as is Kelowna. The fastest percentage increase in all housing categories is coming in Kamloops, she added.

Higher interest rates will likely push resale activity down to a still-robust 95,000 transactions next year, CMHC predicts. But prices will keep climbing, faster than the Canadian average. The average price of a home in B.C. will grow 12 per cent to $292,000 this year and another 5.5 per cent to $308,000 in 2005.

Canada-wide, the average price should rise 9.2 per cent to $226,200 this year and 4.6 per cent to $236,500 in 2005.

B.C. will see higher renovation spending again in 2005, growing another 8.9 per cent to $5 billion, CMHC said. That contrasts with six-per-cent growth nationwide, to $38.5 billion.

Across Canada, CMHC expects 225,700 housing starts this year, the most since 1987.

“As mortgage rates continue to rise next year, demand for new homes will cool and starts will slow to 204,200 units,” CHMC chief economist Bob Dugan said in a news release. Ontario and Alberta starts have already begun to decline.

Though B.C.’s housing market indicators appear to be trailing the market trend in the rest of the country, the province won’t necessarily follow other provinces into a downturn in 2006 and beyond, Frketich said.

“B.C.’s in a different cycle,” she said, noting that the approach of the 2010 Olympics and trends in the energy sector bode well for long-term growth in real estate.

Even today’s frenetic pace of new home construction is not keeping pace with the demand, said Michael Ferreira, president of the research and consulting firm Urban Analytics Inc. Just 76 of the 7,420 new multi-family homes put on the market in Greater Vancouver between January and July remained on the market at the end of the period, he noted.

“Most of the stuff that’s being started is already sold,” he said. He added that municipal halls are swamped with development proposals, so many projects are taking longer than expected to go through the approval process.

Like CMHC, Ferreira does not foresee any softening in the market any time soon. Construction activity will increase and prices will rise — both because labour and material costs are rising and because of underlying land values are, too.

“I don’t really see much of a change over the next 18 to 24 months,” he said. “There’s always a fear of the bubble bursting, but I don’t see any letdown in the near future.”

In the Vancouver area, sales volume dropped by a quarter to 3,017 units, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported Wednesday. Single-family houses saw the biggest decline, to 1,211 from 1,819 in July 2003.

Still, year-to-date sales are running nine per cent ahead of 2003 and average home prices continued to increase at a torrid pace, with townhouses at a new all-time high of $324,193 and detached houses and condominiums slightly off their spring peaks at $521,782 and $246,765, respectively.

The average price of 60 houses sold in toney West Vancouver in July reached a stratospheric $978,700. The benchmark price, representing a typical home in the Greater Vancouver marketplace, rose 15.4 for houses, 19.3 per cent for townhouses and 19.6 per cent for apartment properties, year over year, the board said.

[email protected]


B.C. is expected to be the only province in Canada to record increases in housing starts both this year and in 2005.

Estimated change in number of new housing starts in (brackets).

Source: CMHC

2003 2004 2005

Actual Forecast Forecast

31,700 32,400

B.C. 26,174 (+5,526) (+700)

33,900 30,000

Alberta 36,171 (-2,271) (-3,900)

84,500 76,500

Ontario 85,180 (-680) (-8,000)

56,000 47,000

Quebec 50,289 (+5,711) (-9,000)

4,100 3,875

Nova Scotia 5,096 (-996) (-225)


© The Vancouver Sun 2004


SOMA – Mount Pleasant Community Condos

Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Ashley Ford

Downtown may be hot, but “Uptown” is arguably hotter. “Uptown” Vancouver — a.k.a. Mt. Pleasant, South Main or SoMa — is the area roughly bounded by East 6th on the north, Ontario to the west, St. George to the east and East 16th to the south. Officially known as the Mt. Pleasant Business Improvement Area (MPBIA), it officially owns and has trademarked the “uptown” name — and as one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods it’s in the throes of an exciting, eclectic renaissance. Condominium developments are shooting up, restaurants, bistros, galleries, antique stores and a trendy array of local fashion designers and their funky shopfronts have turned the once dowdy, down-at-the-heel area into one of the trendiest and most sought-after areas in the city to live and work. A perfect economic indicator of the renewal is that the Kingsgate Mall is expanding from its existing 150,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet and attracting new retailers. Martha Welsh, general manager of the MPBIA, says there is no doubt the area is back as one of the city’s most magnetic neighbourhoods. “It’s a real neighbourhood again. It’s a place where people are coming back to live, work and shop. There is no doubt the renaissance of Uptown is happening,” she says. This renewal is being led by small business, especially in the fashion sector, and rental rates are still quite reasonable, she says. Unsurprisingly, the area’s huge potential has caught the eye of residential developers. Welsh said there are currently 200 condo units under construction, and the city will soon start construction of an exciting multi-million-dollar community-residential centre to be known as 1 Kingsway at Kings-way and Seventh Ave. The project will include a community centre, library, child-care centre, rental housing and underground parking. It is due to open in 2006. The city says the project fully reflects its vision of developing “neighbourhood centres” that bring together multiple civic services. One of the area’s biggest draws is cost, both from a residential and retail perspective. Building costs are $125-per-square-foot cheaper than downtown for starters and retail rents are also far more reasonable. Lawrence Sampson, fashion designer and owner of Motherland Clothing Co. at 2539 Main, is typical of the younger retailers and designers who have moved from downtown or have hung out their shingle in the area. “I moved up here five years ago because many of my friends were moving here and also because the costs are far more reasonable. It’s a really exciting and alive area,” says Sampson who has been in the clothing business for 16 years. He designs and creates his clothing line in-store and sells to a very wide audience from film industry people to local residents. “You might say we are cheap and cheerful with something for everyone,” Sampson says. The area has caught the eye of developers and that in turn is bringing in at least one new major retailer from Toronto. Intracorp Developments of Vancouver is now building UNO, a 109-unit condominium on the corner of 11th and Kingsway. The units cost $337 a square foot, which compares to downtown costs of $450 a square foot and up. When it opens in September next year, the 7,300-square-foot ground floor will be occupied by avant-garde lifestyle designer Oni One of Toronto. Not only will it be owners Elaine Ceccone and Anna Simone’s first venture in Western Canada, but the pair have also helped design the UNO condo units that include such innovations as movable urban fireplaces, kitchen counters and interior glass walls. Right across the street, Bognar Developments Group Ltd. is in the ground with its 110-unit Soma building. These units boast 10- to 18-foot ceilings and again are priced for the area with units starting at $189,000. Despite all this new construction, Welsh says the heritage of Vancouver’s first suburb is cherished and mixes perfectly with new developments. She says the area has a long and honourable business history that started with the establishment of breweries in the 1880’s. Buildings such as the Lee Building, the first “highrise” built outside of the downtown in 1912, stands as solidly as the day it was built. So does Post Office C at 16th and Main, built in 1915 now known as Heritage Hall, and the original Doering & Marstrand Brewery (Vancouver Brewery) at 280 East 6th and the Thomas Clark house at 243 East 5th, the oldest home in the area. [email protected] © The Vancouver Province 2004

Shaw Tower – Highest For Now

Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Ashley Ford


Where: 1077 Cordova.

What: Shaw Tower, a 40-storey office/live work tower on the Vancouver waterfront.

When: Opens 2004.

Who: Consortium led by Westbank Project Inc. of Vancouver.

How much: $150 million.

Designer: James K.M. Cheng Architects Inc.

For a brief period the 146-metre-high Shaw Tower, now nearing completion on Vancouver‘s inner waterfront, will hold the distinction of being the highest building in the city.

It will soon lose its crown to a new 60-storey tower at the corner of Georgia and Thurlow, also being developed by Ian Gillespie of Westbank.

The 40-storey residential-commercial tower is unique in the sense that the first 18 storeys –298,000 square feet — will be taken up 80 per cent by Shaw Cablesystems, which gets its name attached to the distinctive, triangular building that will dominate the waterfront and is perfectly situated next to the new Vancouver Convention Centre.

Construction giant Ledcor will take up another 13 per cent and Westbank seven per cent. The upper floors, designed for those who wish to live where they work, will have views of the waterfront and the city.

The live/work units vary from 780 square feet to 6,000 square feet and cost between $350,000 and $5.5 million

The suites include commercial curtain wall construction — rarely used in residential construction — overheight ceilings, air conditioning and 24-hour concierge service.

Architect James Cheng says the design will be a shimmering tower on the water that will be visible from every direction. The building will also contain a 4,300-foot daycare centre, fitness centre and meeting and community rooms.

The tower holds one other distinction has well. Its foundation slab gobbled up 3,000 cubic metres of concrete, the largest single continuous pour in the city’s construction history.

© The Vancouver Province 2004