Archive for November, 2004

How peace of mind is being stolen

Sunday, November 21st, 2004

THEFT IN THE CITY: In the first of a two-part series, we look at how property crime affects Vancouver


Glue down the welcome mat: Company’s coming, and it’s not invited.
   InVancouver, famed for exceptional quality of life and world-class scenery, pervasive property crime is stealing security from its citizens and trashing the city’s reputation.
   The three maps generated by the Sunday Province (left) offer a crime-byneighbourhood perspective never available before.
   They show, in living colour, the glowing red hotbed of theft that is downtown
Vancouver. Some thieves travel; the maps show the spread of property crime outward from the Downtown Eastside and Granville mall, across the bridges and along main thoroughfares and SkyTrain routes. Some thieves work closer to home; the maps show neighbourhoods where even a single, embedded, drug-addicted person can wreak havoc.
   Drugs drive the city’s property crime. Heroin, crack, cocaine and crystalmeth addicts live in an endless quest for anything to sell to feed their need.
   Police estimate they spend 95 per cent of their time responding to property crime. The Vancouver Board of Trade says residents and vehicle owners in
Vancouver lose some $108 million a year, or $460 per household, to these kinds of crime. Businesses lose another $20 million, the board says.
The kettle walked off
   For East Vancouver residents Trey Wells and Arwyn Gierak, the problems started with a toilet brush.
   The pair moved from the west side to
East Vancouver last year. Soon after moving in, a used toilet bowl brush disappeared from its drying spot outside their Trout Lake townhouse. Then the front doormat vanished. One day, Wells put an overheated kettle on the front steps to cool.
   “This old guy was taking it away. I was like, ‘Excuse me.’ He actually started bitching at me because the kettle wasn’t in good condition. His justification was anything outside the house was public property. I was like, ‘Oh, great, where do you live?’”
   A thief dug up and absconded with a rhododendron from their front walkway, along with plants belonging to neighbours. Now Wells and Gierak don’t take any chances. Loose items are never left outside. Their welcome mat? They’ve glued it down.
KITSILANO: A break-and-enter bonanza
   Kitsilano, seaside land of trendy yuppies and not-so-starving students, is home to five-dollar lattes, $100 yoga tights and staggering property crime.
   For the drug addicts of downtown
Vancouver and the Downtown Eastside, Kits is a mecca,a pot of gold at the end of the Burrard Street Bridge.
   Kits and neighbouring
Fairview share with Renfrew-Collingwood the distinction of being the three worst non-inner-city neighbourhoods in Vancouver for break-and-enter crimes.
   “We get desperate people on the streets and that’s what drives it,” says Kitsilano Community Association president Robert Haines, who says the homes in Kits are vulnerable.
   “There are not that many buildings over three storeys,” Haines notes.
   Accessing upper floors doesn’t seem to pose much challenge for some of the city’s skilful thieves, says
Vancouver police Const. Tim Fanning. “They can scale up. Some of them are amazing as far as what they’ll do.”
   Just ask
Fairview resident Ian Tootill. He lost a $6,500 mountain bike in a “commando-style” theft from his second-floor False Creek deck.
   “They came up the side of the building . . . I’ve had a car stereo taken worth $3,500. I’ve had all my camping equipment stolen on two occasions out of the back of a car, once in a parking lot and once downstairs in the building.”

Contract protects taxpayers, TransLink, RAVCO says

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

But taxpayers remain liable for ridership levels on the transit line, chief executive Larry Bell says


BILL KEAY/VANCOUVER SUN From Waterfront . . . Waterfront station will be the starting point for the RAV line. The plan is to postpone building walkway from here to the cruise-ship terminal.

IAN LINDSAY/VANCOUVER SUN . . . to YVR SNC-Lavalin’s plan would provide a 24-minute one-way trip between Vancouver and the airport, and Vancouver> and Richmond.

TransLink and the B.C. public will be insulated from more construction cost increases on the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line, RAVCO officials said Friday.
   “This is a fixed-price, date-certain contract,” said RAVCO chairman Larry Bell.
   Bell said the impact of the line will be equivalent to adding 10 lanes of traffic capacity to the busy Vancouver-Richmond corridor.
   It will be one of the few rapid transit systems in the world that will not need operating subsidies once it is built and operating, RAVCO said.
   “The operating revenues exceed the operating costs during the 30-year period,” said RAVCO chief executive Jane Bird.
   The low bid for the RAV Line came in at $1.899 billion, in part because of escalating steel and concrete prices, and the players in the public-private partnership project have been trying to find ways to reduce its cost and find new sources of money.
   The “preferred” bidder for the project, SNC-Lavalin, has agreed to shoulder most of the financial risks, Bird said.
   That means that once a contract is signed, SNC-Lavalin will be responsible for any construction cost overruns, all tunnelling risks, on-time delivery risk and operating performance risk, Bird said.
   If construction costs increase beyond SNC-Lavalin’s projections, “It’s their problem, not ours.”
   The one significant risk that taxpayers remain liable for is ridership. If the line doesn’t achieve the ridership projected by planners, TransLink, the regional transportation authority, is on the hook for 90 per cent of the resulting revenue shortfall.
   Bird said that’s necessary because TransLink does not want to give up control of the three major factors that affect ridership: The right to set fares, the marketing of transit and the level of bus service feeding passengers into the rapid transit line.
   SNC-Lavalin is responsible for 10 per cent of ridership risk because it is responsible for providing and maintaining stations, lighting and washrooms, which could also have an effect on ridership.
   Few financial details of the proposal were made public other than ballpark budget figures.
   Bird said it calls for SNC-Lavalin to receive “an annual operating payment in return for performance specifications” such as travel time and train frequency.
   “If they don’t perform, they don’t get paid.”
   RAVCO said SNC-Lavalin’s plan would provide a 24-minute one-way trip between Vancouver and the airport, and
Vancouver and Richmond.
   Fares would be the same as on the rest of the regional transit system, with one major exception.
   One of the revenue-raising measures in the plan, agreed to by the airport authority, is to charge “a premium fare” of $5 to $6 for passengers and “meeters and greeters” who ride the RAV Line to and from airport terminals. The regular two-zone adult fare between
Vancouver and Richmond is $3.
   Bird argued the premium fare is still a bargain compared to the cost of taking a taxi from downtown Vancouver to the airport or paying for parking at the airport. It is also considerably lower than public transportation charges at many other major cities.
   Airport employees and employees of other companies on Sea Island will pay regular fares, possibly using a swipe-card or fare-card system. Bird said the details remain to be worked out.
   Among other measures to increase revenue or reduce costs in the revised RAV Line plan:
• One of the five stations planned for Richmond will disappear. The proposed
Westminster station will not be built, and the nearby Richmond Centre station will be moved a few hundred metres north of its planned location.
• A proposed walkway for cruiseship passengers between the RAV Line terminus at Waterfront Station in Vancouver and the cruise-ship terminal will not be built for the time being.
TransLink, rather than the builder, will shoulder the cost of moving trolley wires along the RAV Line route.
TransLink will incorporate the cost of operating insurance for the RAV Line into its own global insurance policy to get a better rate.
   The plan calls for a longer tunnel — to 63rd Avenue rather than 47th, as originally planned.
   Tunnelling under downtown Vancouver and False Creek will be done by underground boring equipment; along Cambie, it will be a “cut and cover” tunnel.
   Bird promised there will no net loss of green space along Cambie, and since most of the tunnel will run beneath traffic lanes rather than the boulevard down the centre, few trees will have to be uprooted.

The plan that regional officials will be asked on Dec. 1 to approve
Tentatively dubbed the Canada Line, the fully automated service will whisk commuters and travellers from one end to the other in just 24 minutes. With up to 17 stations (plus four future ones), the system will operate both underground and on an elevated track that does not interfere with ground traffic. Engineers calculate its carrying capacity equals 10 road lanes.

RAV It’s do or die, and the choice is in TransLink’s hands

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

The much-voted-on project goes back for another show of hands because it

Music Download Players – Everything You Wanted To Know

Saturday, November 20th, 2004


When it comes to hard-drive MP3 players, there’s the Apple iPod — with 5.7 million of them in consumers’ hands as of September — and then, trailing badly, there are the rest. The iPod has about 90.9 per cent of the hard-drive MP3 player market in the United States, Rio has 2.8 per cent, Creative has 2.6 per cent and iRiver has 1.5 per cent. Here’s a guide to the most popular hard-drive based models, which are bound to be among the most-wanted items this Christmas:
   Apple iPod
Price: In its various forms including the 20 and 40 gigabyte models ($429 and $559, respectively); the highly popular four gigabyte Mini ($349); the 20-gigabyte U2 special edition ($499) and the latest in the line, the 40-gigabyte Photo model ($679).
These are all designed to work with Apple’s iTunes program that runs on both Windows PCs and on Macs and it’s likely that, — other than the eye candy of its superb design — much of the appeal of the iPod is a result of how easy it is to move music from the computer to the iPod and from there to those sometimes painful little earbuds you see so many people sporting these days. Another attraction soon to be discovered by Canadians is the integration of iTunes, and therefore the iPod, with Apple’s hugely popular iTunes music store. Oh, and the iPod is the only player that can handle Apple’s proprietary AAC format, which gives you better quality sound than MP3s.
   Rio Carbon
Price: 5 gigabyte drive, $350
Designed to compete with the four-gigabyte iPod Mini, the Carbon can pack an extra 200 songs on its hard drive for the same price as you would pay for the Mini. And it weighs a tad less and is slightly smaller — always a consideration for those toting their music from place to place. As well, the Carbon has a battery that lasts 20 hours (the Mini’s is about eight hours) and is compatible with Windows media and the secure WMA music format downloads that you find on some services. The backlit 1.25-inch display provides readable information and, oh yes, you can use a built-in microphone to record voice memos, if that’s something you need.
   Creative Zen Touch
Price: 20 gigabytes, $500
Aimed at the basic iPod model, the Zen Touch is priced higher than the equivalent Apple offering, which starts it at a disadvantage in a market as tough as this one, especially when for another $49 you can get a 40 gigabyte iPod. However, it does have a touch sensitive scroll pad (hence the name, naturally) that allows for easy navigation (it also has alphabetical find feature that allows for quick searching for songs and artists) and it will handle not just MP3 files, but also WMA and WAV files. You can use the bundled MediaSource software for organizing your music, burning tracks and transferring tunes to the Touch or you can use the Windows Media Player to do the same thing.
   RCA Lyra 2854
Price: 40 gigabyte drive, $500
Here’s another competitor with the basic iPod, although again priced slightly higher in
Canada. The Lyra has good sound and will play MP3, and Windows Media files. It also sports a built-in FM radio, which might, for some people, make up for the price difference between it and the iPod. As well, you can record the FM radio broadcasts as MP3 files.
   Sony NWHD1 Network
Price: 20 gigabyte drive, $500
Here we go again, another iPod rival with a higher price than what you pay for the 20-gigabyte Apple music player. With this tiny model that weighs less than four ounces (the claim is that it’s the smallest hard drive-based MP3 player in the world) Sony forgets about its obsession with the MiniDisc. However, the NWHD1 does use the Sony proprietary ATRAC3 format to play back music, so that MP3, WMA and WAV files are converted as they’re ported to the player. As well the NWHD1 only works with the bundled SonicStage software Perhaps its most compelling feature is that it has a 30-hour battery life, which blows all its other competitors out of the water.
   [email protected]

Game makers eye iTunes success against pirating


DOWNLOADS I Last week, Vancouver art director Tavis Dunn used a new program called Steam to download PC gaming’s most anticipated title of the year, Half-Life 2, to his computer’s hard drive.
   This was a week before the official release date of the game which, ironically, had been delayed for year because the first version of its code had been pirated and posted to the Internet.
   So is Dunn, who works for Greedy Productions — producers of such popular gamer-oriented TV shows as Electric Playground — just another over-eager downloader of pirated games?
   Well, no. Steam — unlike Kazaa, Limewire, eDonkey 2000, BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer programs — is a creation of the game’s own developer, Seattle-based Valve Corp.
   And Steam, which allows for complete game downloads and seamless invisible updates, could just be the first sign that an industry that loses some $3 billion US each year to piracy is considering operating its own legal download sites, just like the music industry.
   Greedy Productions’ executive producer Victor Lucas — who noted that two hugely popular games Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were recently pirated to the Net — sees the arrival of Steam as the beginning of a change brought about by peer-to-peer networks.
   “People in any kind of content development are looking at the success of iTunes and Apple’s dominance of the music-playing sector and questioning what the implications are for future media delivery,” said Lucas.
   He said that just as filmmakers are looking at an iTunes-style delivery system, he “wouldn’t doubt that somewhere down the road an iteration of a game service will be out there.”
   Because distributors of the physical version of Half-Life 2 objected to any Net-based pre-release of the game, Dunn had to wait a full week after his download completed, to play it.
   The game was unlocked by Steam at
midnight Monday.
   Even so, Dunn likes the convenience of it all.
   “I don’t have the hassle of going to the store and picking up the box,” said Dunn. “It saves on all the packaging and that kind of thing.”
   No wonder games producers might be thinking about their own download systems.
   The piracy loss figures — in a substantial part attributable to peer-to-peer downloading — put forward by various content providers is staggering, even though some of the figures are considered by analysts to be highly speculative.
   According to a U.S. Justice Department report, the music and movie industries lose $250 billion US annually and the software industry has put its losses for 2003 at $29 billion.
   Whatever the real numbers are, there’s no doubt that there’s a ton of downloading of pirated content going on out there.
   The most recent figures for
Canada — released by Ipsos-Reid in May before a controversial court ruling that peer-to-peer music downloading is legal in Canada — showed that 32 per cent of Canadians adults had downloaded at least one song from the Net.
   And just 15 per cent of those were from fee-paying sites, which means by far the vast majority of music downloads are of pirated content. And the survey didn’t cover teens, who are the most likely to use peer-to-peer systems to download.
   The arrival of pay sites and systems has changed the outlook somewhat, at least in the
United States. There some 20 million have paid for songs in the past six months, a rise of 120 per cent.
   However, the survey shows that, again, teens are not among them, possibly because they lack money and have no credit cards.
   So far, most surveys have concentrated on music, but if you look at most peer-to-peer programs, they carry a wide variety of software and games and, increasingly full length movies.
   A quick search of Limewire, for example, showed that more than a dozen alleged copies of the current hit The Polar Express were said to be available for download. However, without downloading, it would be impossible to know whether these are, in fact, full-length versions and what their quality is.
   Another search, for the software favourite Photoshop CS, turned up more than 250 listings of everything from the full program to serial numbers to activation workarounds.
   In other words, if you build a peer-to-peer system, the pirates will come, bearing software, music and movies.
   The legal situation on this is somewhat confused. In
Canada, the Copyright Review Board has said that downloading music and movies from peer-to-peer networks is legal. And that’s because this country tacks on a levy up to $25 on such devices as MP3 players, with the money to go to content creators to make up for their losses.
   As well there is a levy on blank tapes, CDs and DVDs.
   In the U.S., the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles has ruled that peer-to-peer software developers aren’t liable for any copyright infringement by downloaders if they have no way to stop them from doing it.
   This means that peer-to-peer software developers and distributors are free to continue selling their products. However, file sharing itself has been ruled in lower courts as being against
U.S. copyright laws.
   The music industry in the
U.S. has already moved legally against downloaders.
   In October, the Recording Industry Association of America filed 762 new lawsuits against alleged file traders using peer-to-peer sharing services.
   Since September of 2003 the RIAA has filed more than 5,500 lawsuits.
   And now the movie industry through the Motion Picture Association of America, has also entered the legal battleground.
   The MPAA said in November that it would track down people who distribute movies on peer-topeer networks by identifying them through their Internet Protocol addresses .
   And this week it sued individuals in the
U.S. — 200 according to some news reports although the MPAA isn’t saying exactly how many — who were identified only by their IP addresses.
   Among the movies alleged to have been on offer in September and October were
Troy, Spider-Man 2, White Chicks and The Manchurian Candidate.
   Unlike the music industry, which went after people who offered hundreds of songs, the MPAA is taking on those who may have offered a single movie.
   They face as much as $150,000 in damages.
   John Malcolm, the association’s director of worldwide anti-piracy operations said one copy could easily become tens of thousands of copies available round the world.
   “We do not believe that any amount of illegal use is sanctioned,” said Malcolm.
   One of the more interesting side effects of peer-to-peer downloading, largely a result of programs like Kazaa, is the number of spyware and adware programs — and possibly viruses — that are clogging up PCs around the world.
   The largest such company, Claria, made $35 million US in 2003 for the inclusion of adware in peer-topeer and other free programs offered on the Net.
   [email protected]

GLENN BAGLO/VANCOUVER SUN Game maker Valve Corp. created Steam to allow legal downloads of its much-anticipated Half-Life 2.

Few waterfront properties available

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

NEW DEVELOPMENTS I Industry representatives lament there is very little prime waterfront left in Lower Mainland choice locations




   Six years ago, Marathon Developments couldn’t find any takers to pay a measly $300 million for the entire 33-hectare (82-acre) Coal Harbour waterfront site between Burrard and Cardero.
   Today, Fairmont Developments, the successor company to Marathon, would need to fight off a long lineup of eager developers, including some probably willing to pay up to three or four times more for the property.
   Except now there’s nothing left.
   “I would hate to think I could get that kind of money because people could say I sold the land too cheaply,” said Graeme Stamp, Fairmont’s executive vice-president.
   With the housing boom of the past several years resulting in luxury waterfront-houses and condominiums selling at record prices, water view lots are now definitely a scarce and expensive commodity.
   Even Concord Pacific Group’s inventory of waterfront on the former Expo site on the north shore of >False Creek is rapidly shrinking.
   “It’s inevitable, sooner or later it runs out,” said
Concord sales director Tracie McTavish. “They don’t make water any more.”
   In fact, development industry representatives lament there is very little prime waterfront left around the Lower Mainland, especially in choice locations such as West Vancouver, Coal Harbour, False Creek, or along Point Grey Road in Kitsilano.
   As a sign of the times, the recent asking price was just under $3 million on a 71-year-old “teardown” at
3357 Point Grey Rd., a 10-by-29.5-metre (33-by-97-foot) waterfront lot.
   By comparison, a similar-vintage house across the street (not for sale) with no water view has a 2004 assessed value of $844,000.
West Vancouver, any 18-metre (60-foot) level waterfront property — if available — is now worth $4.5 million to $5 million, having doubled in value during the past several years.
   The acute shortage or prohibitive cost of centrally located waterfront land is forcing developers to seek alternatives in less traditional or glamorous spots, such as sites along the north and south arms of the
Fraser River, in Richmond, east Vancouver, New Westminster and Langley.
   “Waterfront sites have been getting rarer and rarer,” said developer Brent Kerr, who is building 144 residences on property located on the Fraser, near the end of Steveston Highway and No. 6 Road in Richmond, property he purchased in 1996.
   “It turned out to be good timing for me to pick up this [
Fraser River] site in 1996. Now it would be very difficult to acquire, because waterfront has tripled or quadrupled in price in the last six to eight years — if you can find any at all.”
   Downriver, the Onni Group of Companies is nearing completion of its $200-million “Imperial Landing” master-planned community on the 16-hectare (40-acre) former B.C. Packers site in Steveston.
   Onni assembled the development site three years ago.
   Earlier this year, Vancouverbased ParkLane Homes purchased a 28-hectare (69-acre) site on the banks of the
Fraser River, on the Vancouver side between Kerr Street and Boundary Road.
   The land parcel, former home of the Canadian White Pine sawmill that was closed in spring 2002 by its owner, Weyerhaeuser Co., is to undergo $400 million to $500 million worth of redevelopment for commercial and residential uses over the next 10 to 15 years.
   Meanwhile, over in North Vancouver, Pinnacle International is awaiting final approval from the city before undertaking a $400-million, multi-use redevelopment of the old Versatile and Burrard Shipyards property, east of Lonsdale Quay.
   Pinnacle president Michael De Cotiis jumped at snapping up the 107,764-square-metre (1.16 million square foot) site several years ago, noting the property then represented the last major piece of prime waterfront land in the
Vancouver area.
   When construction is completed over the next eight to 10 years, the site will accommodate eight condo towers, office space, a hotel, retail stores and restaurants, as well as public piers, a waterfront walkway and a shipbuilding museum.
   Urban demographer David Baxter says waterfront property will always hold its value.
   “No matter where you go in the world, people will always be willing to pay more to be on water,” said Baxter, executive director of the Urban Futures Institute, in explaining the attraction of waterfront living.
   “People will pay a premium for a waterfront view, just like they would for a nicer car with more features. Water views are particularly attractive because you can see the changing seascape, barges, boats and distance.
   “You can watch storms coming in and such things. It’s kind of like having a home entertainment centre. And, by definition of having a view, other people don’t have a view of you. You don’t have people staring in at you, so there is more privacy.
   “It’s privacy, it’s entertainment, and it’s vista. All of those things tied in simply make [water] a better product, adding value to a piece of real estate.”
   In June, mining promoter Robert Friedland purchased a 3 1/2-year-old, five-bedroom, 887-square-metre (9,545-square-foot) house at 3330 Radcliffe Ave., in West Vancouver, for $17 million, the highest price ever paid for a residential property in B.C.
   Meanwhile, a 530-square-metre (5,700-square-foot) penthouse suite in Coal Harbour sold for $6.02 million. A two-bedroom 171-square-metre (1,838-squarefoot) luxury condo on
Bayshore Drive, purchased during pre-construction marketing a couple of years ago for $838,000, resold after its recent completion for $1.44 million.
   Over in False Creek, values among some of
Concord’s more coveted waterfront units have risen 30 to 50 per cent in the past year, according to Multiple Listing Service figures.
   On the water along
Marinaside Crescent, the stretch between Drake Street to the west, and Nelson to the east, is choked with about a dozen condo towers.
   McTavish said
Concord has two or three years left of waterfront development, although the company still has significant chunks of land away from the water.
   Among projects under construction,
Concord is building King’s Landing, two luxury towers with unobstructed water views, near the foot of Homer Street. The 180 units sold out in early 2004 at an average of $550 per square foot. Their current market value has risen to about $800 a square foot, McTavish said.
   Next up for
Concord is Silver Sea, a nine-storey, 31-unit building close to Granville Bridge.
   Then, in the next two to three months, McTavish said,
Concord plans to market four more waterfront towers, located east of Cambie Street bridge, immediately west of the Plaza of Nations.
Concord recently announced plans to launch its most-exclusive condo project, a 20-storey tower designed by architect Arthur Erickson and slated to be built on the site of its current sales presentation centre on Homer Mews.
   Prices there are to average more than $1,000 per square foot.
   “That’s it for downtown waterfront,” McTavish said. “You can’t redevelop the beachfront in the
West End. There remains a huge demand for rental buildings. You couldn’t knock down all those three-storey walkups. And you couldn’t tear down the Sylvia Hotel to build condos.”
   Over in Kitsilano, realtor Spice Lucks, a waterfront specialist, said properties along the “Golden Mile” of Point Grey Road — on the water side between the 2400 and 3600 blocks — rarely become available.
   When something does come on the market, it is usually an estate sale, she said, adding there are generally “less than five” transactions a year.
   “Ten years ago, if there was a waterfront property put on the market, there would only be one or two buyers interested or had the means to buy,” said Lucks.
   “The same piece of property now, you could have 30 people lining up. There’s only one comment I hear consistently, and that is, ‘I should have bought when I had the chance.’”
   Developer Bruce Langereis is among the many homebuilders lamenting the vanishing inventory of waterfront sites.
   “You follow the shoreline, there’s virtually nothing left,” said Langereis, president of Delta Land Development.
   “Traditionally, we try to focus our attention on
Vancouver, but now we’re forced to look elsewhere, to other parts of the Lower Mainland.”
   In the past three years,
Delta Land, controlled by Singaporean investors, has developed two luxury Coal Harbour condo towers, called Carina and Callisto.
   But when the company tried to purchase three more adjacent waterfront sites from
Marathon, it was outbid for the properties by Aspac Developments, owned by Hong Kong’s wealthy Kwok brothers.
   On one of those sites, Aspac is currently building an upscale condo tower called One Harbour Green, where the 530-squaremetre (5,700 square foot) penthouse has been presold for $6.02 million — the highest price ever paid for a condo in B.C.
   Privately held Aspac reportedly paid about $100 per buildable square foot for the three prime waterfront sites a couple of years ago. Since then, land prices have soared, hitting $140 per foot in some non-water sites in downtown Vancouver and out on the University of B.C. campus.
   Realtors say purchasers of upscale waterfront condos include wealthy Americans, Europeans and Asians, as well as locals downsizing from large homes in Shaughnessy or
West Vancouver.
   The purchaser of the $6.02-million penthouse is described as a business executive from
   Shut out of the coveted front row of Coal Harbour waterfront after building Carina and Callisto, Delta Land acquired a site directly behind those two towers at Hastings and Bute, where it is developing a third project, a $100-million, 30-storey building called Cielo.
   As a indicator that there is strong demand for condos offering what are known as “corridor” water and mountain views behind front-row buildings, Cielo’s 140 units virtually sold out in a matter of a few days in June, at prices ranging from $300,000 for a one-bedroom, to $1.9 million for a penthouse.
   “Anyone who’s building on
Vancouver harbour should consider it a privilege, because you’re helping to put a face on the city as seen from the waterfront,” Langereis said.
   “Think of the hundreds of thousands of people aboard cruise ships and float planes who are seeing what you’re doing. Obviously, we would love to have more land to do more projects.”
   As proof of rising waterfront values, Langereis said a buyer who paid $2 million a year ago for a unit in Callisto recently resold the home before taking occupancy for $2.65 million.
   “The person who bought from us has profited hugely from the very limited supply of waterfront,” Langereis said.
   Stamp said
Fairmont still has about 7.3 hectares (18 acres) of land left on the east side of Canada Place, stretching to Main Street, but there are railway tracks on it still in use.
   Asked if there would be potential for redevelopment, he said: “Probably not in our lifetime.”

WARD PERRIN/VANCOUVER SUN The north side of False Creek in Vancouver is almost completely developed with apartments and few similar sites are available to people wishing to live close to the waterfront.

MARK VAN MANEN/VANCOUVER SUN Westside Vancouver real estate agent Spice Lucks surveys the spectacular view of English Bay from a waterfront home on Point Grey Road.

Condo Centre an ‘automall’ for buyers

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

REAL ESTATE I The facility at 400 Robson can showcase up to seven different projects


   Starting today condo and recreational-property buyers can go onestop shopping in downtown Vancouver. Think of it like an “auto-mall” for condos.
   The City and Country Condo Centre, at 400 Robson, is designed to host seven projects, with the intention of refreshing the centre as one projects sells out and another begins, says condo centre founder Cliff Bowman.
   “If it’s a static exhibit people will say I’ve been there and I’ve seen that. By changing some, every two to three months on average, it will keep it refreshed.”
   Bowman has no idea how many consumers will visit the centre, but he points out 60,000 people live within a 20-minute walk and a nearby office population is also around 50,000.
   “They could come over on their lunch hour and buy a new home,” he said. “It’s one large open house.”
   Bowman believes this is the first time a one-stop condo shopping-centre has been developed in Canada, and certainly a first for B.C.
   Bowman, as president of the Vancouver-based Builders International Real Estate Marketing Corp. (bireM), said his marketing company deals with both urban and recreational properties as well as projects from the U.S. — which he hopes to see eventually showcased in the centre.
   He said developers, particularly those with out-of-town projects, can get the word out about their projects in Vancouver and save the cost of setting up their own presentation centres.
   He noted a centre can cost up to $300,000 and have a life span of only a few months when the project sells out.
   Renting a bay at the condo centre costs $15,000 for three months.
   Bowman said all of the bays have enough room to showcase three big scale project models, wall space to hang floor plans, photographs, or large screen video presentations. They even have a hook-up to allow kitchen and bath display vignettes to be built at the back of each bay.
   Three spaces are currently being rented to one developer, who has constructed a mock-up of the interior of a 1,240 square foot condo planned for
Saltspring Island.
   Jim Rogers, president of Channel Ridge Properties, which is developing the Highbridge project, said he believes consumers will be more likely to visit the mall knowing there are four or five other interesting projects.
   “This allows buyers to experience our new development on Salt Spring Island without the need to leave
Vancouver,” he said.
   The Highbridge project, with condos ranging from $390,000 to $1 million, will be ready for occupancy by mid-2006.
   The project is so new the roads and services have not yet been built so building a presentation centre at the site is impossible at the moment.
   Bill Wright, of Cape Developments, is also featuring an out-of-town condo project at the condo centre. The 157 units project in Nanaimo’s harbour front will be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2006. “We have a display centre in Nanaimo but we felt the condo centre can handle inquiries in the Lower Mainland,” he said.
   The centre will be open seven days a week from
noon to 7 p.m.
   [email protected]

IAN LINDSAY/VANCOUVER SUN Cliff Bowman, president of Builders International Real Estate Marketing Corp. at the firm’s Robson Street showroom.

The view from the kitchen of a condo in the Highlands project where potential buyers of condos and recreational property can check and compare new properties currently available.

The Highlands project model suite living and kitchen area — one of the displays at the Robson Street showroom where homebuyers can see models of many different condo projects.

Downtown bars to remain open until 3 a.m., council votes

Friday, November 19th, 2004

Vote was 8-3 by Vancouver body

Jack Keating and John Bermingham

Vancouver‘s downtown bars will remain open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, city council decided last night.

Council voted 8-3 against turning the clock back to 2 a.m. for closing times at downtown bars and pubs.

Council also retained bar openings until 4 a.m. on most long weekends and certain “special occasions” and has asked city staff to report back on extending the entertainment district to the north end of the Granville Street Bridge and into the so-called Davie Village between Burrard and Bute streets.

Council was following the recommendations of a city staff report on drinking laws and closing times that included liquor policies from cities around the world.

“This puts Vancouver more in step with the rest of the world,” said Coun. Jim Green, who moved a motion on expanding the entertainment zone to the north end of the Granville bridge. “When you’re supporting live entertainment and local bands you’re really helping the economy.”

About 30 downtown bars have been staying open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights — city council in May rolled their weekend hours back from 4 a.m. closings, which began on July 4, 2003, because of policing costs. “It retains the status quo and we’re moving closer to making it permanent,” said John Teti, chairman of Bar Watch.

The B.C. government lets bars stay open from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m, but municipal governments can impose earlier closing times.

“We clearly understand that it’s very, very difficult for the bars in Vancouver to be open until 4 a.m. if all the surrounding communities are only open until 2 a.m.,” said Teti. “We don’t want that migration.”

Staff will also consult with Victoria and report back on the Entertainment District — the 700, 800 and 900 blocks Granville Street — having the right to stay open until 3 a.m. seven nights a week.

“It’s possible that some bars might be open seven days a week until 3 a.m.,” said Teti. “The market place will determine that.”

Barwatch members have put in video cameras, do hand-wanding for weapons at entries, run ID checks and pay policing costs.

Owners have also enforced city guidelines on sidewalk lineups, telling patrons to stand on one side of a white line.

For 100 extra hours of bar-time, Barwatch is paying for 13,000 police hours, at double-time.

© The Vancouver Province 2004

Vancouver prices to keep climbing

Thursday, November 18th, 2004

Eric Beauchesne


The cost of housing in Vancouver, already the highest in Canada, is predicted to climb still higher, an RBC report says today.

Of all the cities surveyed across Canada for affordability, Vancouver earned the financial institution’s most pessimistic forecast. Not only is the city’s housing the least affordable of any major Canadian city, it’s the least affordable it has been in more than five years.

It now takes nearly one-half of the average family’s pre-tax income to cover the costs of owning a bungalow in Vancouver. The average price of a house in Greater Vancouver in October was $407,166, according to the report. (Royal LePage estimated the average price of a standard bungalow on Vancouver‘s west side was $675,000 in the third quarter.)

Overall, housing costs are taking up a greater proportion of household income in all parts of the country and will continue to do so, according to the report.

It’s going to get worse, the report suggests.

“Potential buyers will increasingly have to opt for more affordable housing options, such as smaller condos or even rentals in the downtown core,” says the report. “Other potential buyers will be forced to migrate to more affordable regions outside of the city where possible, and older affluent migrants from out-of-province will make up a greater share of potential buyers in the core.”

In contrast, Toronto — where the average price was $324,278 (or $750,000 for a two-storey in the popular Moore Park area) — will see declines in demand and prices for housing aimed at first-time buyers, such as small condos. However, the report stressed that “this does not mean the entire Toronto condo market will collapse.”

Montreal, meanwhile, will see some deterioration in affordability in housing but the market will remain both healthy and balanced. The average price was $197,296 although a two-storey home in the Cote-St-Luc neighbourhood costs on average $550,000.

Nationally, the report says the pace at which housing is becoming less affordable for Canadian families is modest and will result in the current housing boom merely cooling instead of going bust as happened to the late 1980s boom.

“Slightly lower mortgage rates, combined with softer pricing growth, helped to moderate eroding housing affordability in the third quarter of 2004,” it said in releasing its latest quarterly housing affordability report.

“While housing affordability eroded in every region of the country, the degree was modest and we expect it to continue at the same measured pace thanks to only mildly increasing mortgage rates and softer pricing growth,” said Carl Gomez, RBC economist. “This will help keep the slowdown in housing activity tame compared to previous housing cycles.”

The softer pace of pricing growth is the result of an improving supply of new listings in tandem with a slower pace of house sales.

While slowing sales reflects the recent erosion of affordability, it partly reflects the near-exhaustion of pent-up housing demand in some markets and a shrinking pool of potential first time homebuyers, it said.

The financial institution’s affordability index, which measures the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home, eroded slightly to 31.8 per cent in the summer from 31.5 per cent in the spring. The index is based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow, and includes mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

British Columbia remains the least affordable place to own a home, with a reading of 44.3 per cent, the worst since 1999, while Alberta remains the most affordable at 26.5, thanks to softer price increases and solid income growth.

The largest deterioration in affordability occurred in Manitoba and B.C., resulting from sharp annualized house price increases in both provinces.

The index, which is also compiled for Canada’s largest cities, was 48.6 in Vancouver, a much more affordable 38.4 in Toronto, 31.3 in Montreal, 31 in Ottawa, and 28.3 in Calgary. Calgary prices for a two-story home range from $212,900 in the north east to $310,400 in the north inner city. In Ottawa, a similar home costs $379,000, while the average in the nation’s capital is $237,327.

Regionally, the report says:

– In B.C. the deterioration in housing affordability will continue to slow the pace of first-time home buying, although an improving economy will help keep new construction activity elevated.

Alberta‘s housing markets will remain affordable and healthy, as soaring income growth helps to offset higher borrowing rates but a lack of pent-up demand will dampen new construction activity.

– In Saskatchewan affordability of housing held steady at a relatively low 27.7.

Manitoba‘s affordability was eroded to 30.4 from 29.6 by sharp price increases brought on by a supply squeeze.

Ontario was a little less affordable with a 30.4 rating, and will become a little less affordable in the coming year.

Quebec‘s housing affordability was stable at 31.2 per cent and a slowdown in price increases will moderate any deterioration.

– Atlantic Canada remains the second most affordable region for housing at 26.7.


Vancouver is the least affordable place to own a home in Canada.

Vancouver: 48.6%

Calgary: 28.3%

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Vancouver’s homes least affordable

Thursday, November 18th, 2004



CREDIT: Nick Procaylo, The Province

Condos are the more affordable option.

OTTAWA — A new report says B.C. has the least affordable housing in the country, while Alberta‘s housing is the most affordable. Overall, though, housing costs are taking up a greater proportion of household income in all parts of the country and will continue to do so, according to the report by RBC which is being released today.

The financial institution’s report was especially pessimistic about the outlook for affordability in Vancouver. Not only is the city’s housing the least affordable of any major Canadian city, it’s also the least affordable it has been in over half a decade.

It now takes nearly one-half of the average family’s pre-tax income to cover the costs of owning a bungalow. The average price of a house in Greater Vancouver in October was $407,166, according to the report. (Royal LePage estimated the average price of a standard bungalow on the west side was $675,000 in the third quarter.)

And it’s going to get worse, the report suggests.

“Potential buyers will increasingly have to opt for more affordable housing options, such as smaller condos or even rentals in the downtown core,” says the report. “Other potential buyers will be forced to migrate to more affordable regions outside of the city where possible, and older affluent migrants from out-of-province will make up a greater share of potential buyers in the core.”

In contrast, Toronto — where the average price was $324,278 (or $750,000 for a two-storey in the popular Moore Park area) — will see declines in demand and prices for housing aimed at first-time buyers, such as small condos.

However, the report stressed that “this does not mean the entire Toronto condo market will collapse.”

© The Vancouver Province 2004

Cooper’s Quay rising in False Creek Waterfront

Thursday, November 18th, 2004



Being developed on False Creek’s north shore by Concord Pacific, Cooper’s Quay has one of the last two waterfront sites remaining in the mammoth urban-renewal project that began 16 years ago. The five-building complex, consisting of 600 units mixing highrise and lowrise buildings, is scheduled for completion in 2008.