Archive for March, 2005

BC’s hot real estate market ‘not a bubble ready to burst’

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Derrick Penner
Sun

B.C.’s hot real estate market is no bubble about to burst, panellists at the Vancouver Board of Trade’s economic forum said Wednesday. But the prospect of rising interest rates in the fight against inflation could take the steam out of the sector, one member warned.

Gordon Maroney, president of the B.C. Real Estate Association, said sales across B.C. in the first three months of 2005 are close to the record pace set in 2004, when realtors broke all previous sales records — racking up 96,300 transactions worth some $28 billion.

Georges Pahud, incoming president of the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board, said consumer confidence in B.C. remains very high and the factors that drive home sales — employment growth, income growth, and positive inmigration — show no signs of slowing down either.

He added that planned investment for the province, such as the 2010 Olympics, Vancouver‘s RAV rapid transit line and Sea-to-Sky highway improvements, also bode well for maintaining the level of confidence that the province has seen.

As well, Pahud said that while Vancouver‘s prices might seem high, they are still only the seventh highest in North America and have not risen as quickly as cities such as Sydney, Australia.

Low interest rates, he added, have helped keep housing affordable despite rising prices.

Ozzie Jurrock, a publisher and real estate adviser, said he is bullish on B.C. and sees market conditions holding stable for the next 18-months to two years.

However, he warned that real estate is cyclical, “nothing goes up forever, and there are no soft landings.”

Jurrock said inflation in housing costs is one of the biggest under-reported stories in business with the most potential to hurt markets.

He noted that most jurisdictions don’t count rising housing costs in the “basket of goods” used to determine inflation rates. This helps keep official inflation rates low, and central banks less inclined to raise interest rates.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Vancouver landmark: Evergreen Building: slated for demolition

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Arthur Erickson upset over decision

John Bermingham
Province

CREDIT: Les Bazso, The Province The Evergreen building was one of the first ‘green’ buildings. It will be replaced by a highrise tower.

The city’s most famous architect, Arthur Erickson, is upset that one of his buildings is facing the wrecking ball.

It’s the first time one of his signature buildings is to be pulled down.

The Evergreen building, at 1285 West Pender, has been marked for demolition by owner, and ex-B.C. Hydro chairman, John Laxton.

Laxton intends to replace it with a highrise tower, with condos, retail and townhouses next to the Coal Harbour development.

“This building has been my baby,” Laxton told Vancouver City Council yesterday.

“I put the whole of my heart into saving the building and a good part of my wallet. We have had to reach a very painful decision. The saving of the building is not economically feasible or technically possible.”

Erickson told The Province he was “very disturbed,” adding: “It’s greed, purely and simply.”

He said Laxton was trying to take advantage of spiralling real-estate values downtown.

“It’s one of the few unique buildings in the city,” Erickson said.

“It’s one of the few structures that is green all over, which is going to be demanded in the future, the greening of the city.”

Erickson hopes the building can still be saved, but doubts he will participate in designing a new building for the site.

“I wouldn’t want to be part of taking it down,” he said.

Last year, Laxton proposed adding four storeys to the building, but it was rejected by the city.

Since then, he said, he’s incurred $2 million in extra costs.

“My staff were telling me don’t do it,” he added. “But I ignored them because of my love for this building, and my decision to get it saved.”

Cheryl Cooper of the Vancouver Heritage Commission said Erickson was ahead of his time in the greening of public buildings.

“It is tragic that a building of Evergreen’s significance should be at risk,” said Cooper.

Susan Boissonneault of Heritage Vancouver, which placed Evergreen No. 3 on its top 10 most endangered list this year, said it should be saved.

“The building should be preserved as a significant Vancouver landmark,” she said.

Laxton hired Erickson to design the building in 1980, and Laxton has occupied it ever since. Laxton also had Erickson design his home 40 years ago in Gleneagles.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

SXIP offers new digital-identity paradigm

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Jim Jamieson
Province

With incidents of identity theft on the rise and concerns about safeguarding personal data online at an all-time high, a Vancouver technology entrepreneur is developing a new paradigm of a universal digital identity.

One of the keynote speakers at yesterday’s Techvibes Massive 2005 technology conference, Dick Hardt said the current model is in dire need of an update both for security and ease of use reasons.

“Right now you have online identity, but it’s in a one-on-one relationship,” Hardt said.

“There’s a lot of software out on the web where you have to fill in things to identify yourself over and over again. We want a user-centric model.”

Hardt founded software company Active State in 1997 but, after it was sold two years ago to U.K. security vendor Sophos for $23 million US, he has concentrated on a new project, called Sxip Networks [www.sxip.com].

Sxip (pronounced “Skip”) is a service that will provide a single sign-on for users and will release as much or as little information as the user wants.

The Sxip network carries data between the user, the website that asks for personal information and a trusted “homesite” –which would be hosted, for example, by a major portal such as Yahoo! or a bank.

Several companies are on the trail of such a service — including tech giant Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Hardt has been in conversations with all of them.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Royally riverside: Water’s Edge apartments command attention

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

Michael Sasges
Sun

CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun Diana Brown of the Water’s Edge sales staff takes in the model of the buildings, the design of which is the result of an international collaboration.

CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun Decisions, decisions, decisions! In a Water’s Edge kitchen, the Eggersmann cabinetry from Germany or the Varenna cabinetry from Italy (above) are the choices. The kitchen sink that Bob Rennie wants everybody to see is a Blanco rectilinear undermount in stainless steel. The faucets are from Dornbracht. The stainless steel appliance package includes a Miele dishwasher, gas cooktop, wall oven and hood fan; a Sub Zero refrigerator/freez-er; and a Panasonic microwave.

By my Oxford dictionary, Bob Rennie is not boasting when he says of his latest West Vancouver foray: ”Water’s Edge has everything a waterfront location demands, 10-foot ceilings, Italian and German designer kitchens, hardwood, granite, Sub Zero, Miele and you really have to see the kitchen sink!”

Sure, the comment is illustrative of the top-dollar real-estate agent’s pride of project, but surely it is not illustrative of excessive pride because it is grounded in some certainties.

Paramountly, the Water’s Edge homes (”79 suites in three small buildings:” Bob Rennie) will be up to the task of claiming a landmark location, along the Capilano River and on the site of the old Park Royal Hotel, meaning thousands of people (commuters) will pass by daily.

Their designers are Vancouver’s Lawrence Doyle and Robert A.M. Stern, a much-honored and much-commissioned New York architect and Yale University professor and administrator.

Their builder is a Millennium Group company, a two-continent developer and builder with more than 50 years of experience.

Certainly the designer-developer collaboration helped persuade airline pilot Ron Sturgess to pay $835,000 plus GST for a third-floor, two-bedroom-plus-solarium apartment facing the river.

”I felt a certain degree of confidence knowing the builder to be Millennium, a company of solid reputation and known for quality construction,” the 46-year-old Ambleside renter reports.

”Having an architect of Robert Stern’s fine reputation design the residences certainly didn’t hurt, either.”

“I have great confidence that the final product will be of outstanding quality and will be a residence that I will be very happy with over the years to come.”

Creation of “site specific” buildings is a corporate goal on every development, Millennium’s Shahram Malek says, and the first step in that getting there is the architect.

”Similar to our previous waterfront development in West Vancouver, the Edgewater, we engaged New York architect Robert A.M. Stern in collaboration with our local architect, Lawrence Doyle to create a community that respects and embraces the environment,” Malek says.

”Whether we are developing in Paris or West Vancouver, we acknowledge that the buyer respects innovative architecture and interior design . . .”

Millennium’s local developments include the seven-tower City-in-the-Park project in Burnaby and Brownstone and L’hermitage en Ville in Vancouver.

Its French projects include two in Paris, an apartment building and an office building for the French postal service.

Robert A.M. Stern has been dean of Yale’s architecture school since 1998. Before that he was a professor of architecture at Columbia. In his 35-year career, he has designed homes and hotels and museums around the world. He coordinated the Times Square renovation in New York City. The Walt Disney Company has been a big patron.

Like the Water’s Edge developer and co-designer, buyer Sturgess works locally and internationally.

”As an airline pilot for an overseas airline, I am away for a week at a time and the security offered by a condominium like Water’s Edge will give me a sense of ease when I am away that I do not currently experience living in a house.”

After he and his wife separated, he bought a two-bedroom apartment in a Coal Harbour development scheduled for completion in December. ”However, with my kids attending school in West Vancouver, and with a very good circle of friends here in West Van, I came to realize that I would prefer to remain living here.”

”Here,” of course, means different things to different folks. For Ron Sturgess, “here” is the Capilano as it enters Burrard Inlet.

”I was familiar with the area as I used to own a house in Cedardale.

”The proximity to the Capilano River was a definite positive as I enjoy the trail that follows the river up to the Cleveland Dam.

”This area has the advantage of being close to restaurants and shopping while having the feel of living next to nature being right on the river.”

Bob Rennie, too, likes the cross-country possibilities at Water’s Edge. “West Vancouver is undersupplied when it comes to condominiums, particularly in a walk-to-Park-Royal location.”

Haneef Virani, another buyer at Water’s Edge, shares their location enthusiam, although with a twist.

He bought a two bedroom for $600,000 as an investment that he and his wife may eventually occupy. Water views were not, accordingly, important.

”The short supply in Park Royal . . . did play a role in my decision-making process,” the 29-year-old real estate consultant reports.

”The size of the project and the fact that there were relatively few homes and that the buildings are low profile did play a part in my decision making process. The water, however, did not play a part in the decision.”

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WATER’S EDGE

Showroom address: 1846 Marine Drive, West Vancouver

Showroom telephone: 604-974-0059

Hours: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., daily except Friday

Website: www.at-watersedge.com

On offer: 79 apartments, one – three bedrooms, from about 725 sq. ft. – about 3,150 sq. ft.

Prices: From $505,000 to $3.16 million

Warranty: National Home one-year material and labour; two-year major systems, exterior cladding and Building Code; five-year building envelope; 10-year structural

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Doubly blessed up Howe Sound – Furry Creek

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

At Furry Creek, residents enjoy living in a mountainside paradise that’s an easy drive from Vancouver and Whistler

Bob Brant
Sun

Furry Creek is a doubly blessed location, a collection of single-family residences above Howe Sound an easy drive from Vancouver and Whistler.

It is also about to grow, with the release by Parklane Homes and the original developer, Tanac Development, of another 12 building lots. Currently 127 families live in the mountainside location.

”The limited home sites at Furry Creek are large and spacious, averaging 9,000 square feet. They take full advantage of the views and pristine natural setting in which they are located,” Parklane’s Gary Marshall comments.

“Once built, they will express an architectural vision that will complement the natural beauty of the area. Design guidelines are in place to ensure a consistent look and to maintain the integrity of the community.”

For eight-year residents Tom Davis and Anita Schmitt those restrictions are an important attribute of Furry Creek.

”Because the development has a house-design-plan covenant, the quality of home design is consistent and of good quality,” Tom says. ”The result is that a poor development is not allowed. We see it in the variety of beautiful homes now in Furry Creek — custom built, post and beam, making the best use of the land, maximizing views, while minimizing the impact on the land.”

Anita notes that the site, too, places special demands on owners. “Choosing the right architect is an important decision.

”Choosing an architect who is experienced in working with and building on the mountainside land of Furry Creek can save you both money and building problems. They know how to read the land of your lot and develop the most efficient plan for it. They work with the personality of your property.”

Fabulous views, the beauty of the area and its great location between Vancouver and Whistler attracted the two North Shore real estate agents to Furry Creek. (They had family in both areas at that time.) Their neighbours help keep them there.

“If you were trying to define the word ‘community.’ it would be Furry Creek,” Tom says.

”We are an eclectic, diverse collection of people. We have owners from all walks of life. Everybody gets along. We have a lot of social activity: We golf together, many jog together, we even have a book club among the residents.”

Comments Anita: “When people buy in Furry Creek they are looking for a special place that is not ‘in town.’

“They don’t necessarily want all the amenities. Usually they have lived in an urban setting and wanted to move beyond it. They want to live in more natural surroundings and yet have access to the city features. Furry Creek offers this and more. It truly is the best of both worlds.”

Dave and Edie Hildreth have lived in Furry Creek for 8 1/2 years. When they moved in there were only three other homes in Furry Creek at the time. “. . . we were the pioneers,” Dave notes.

They too were attracted by the beauty and feel of Furry Creek. To them, it seemed “like being on a holiday.”

Dave, a financial advier, is president of the Furry Creek Community Association, a registered society.

Due to its size and population Furry Creek cannot yet be an officially incorporated community. It is under the jurisdiction of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. The regional district is responsible for the civic services like water and sewerage.

Dave, too, observes that people from all walks of life resides in Furry Creek.

”We have a lot of businesses out here in Furry. We have a lot of people who have chosen to leave Vancouver, West Vancouver or whatever and bring their business out here like we have.

”There is a lot of home-based business here. There are a lot of people who still drive to Vancouver everyday. But when you talk to them they laugh about it, because they say they’ve lived the 401. . . for two hours each way, sometimes not moving at all…so this [Furry Creek to Vancouver] is much better, no question”.

Dave has many Lower Mainland clients who ask to come up to him for business meetings because of the relaxed way of life at Furry Creek. He sees the relationship and proximity to the Furry Creek Golf Club as a tremendous asset. ” . . . from the point of view clients coming out and going for meals up here, they can’t get over the quality, the quantity or the price compared to the city.”

At the gold club Residents get 20 per cent off green fees, 15 per cent off merchandise in the pro shop and 10 per cent off food and beverages. Further, Kia Chappell, the Furry Creek functions manager, is helpful at putting together events for the residents, like a dinner-theatre evening earlier this month. Sunday Brunch and Mexican Mondays also keep residents close to home.

Tom Davis observes that, in the time they’ve lived there, most of the homeowners have remained Furry Creek residents. There’s not a lot of turnover.

As Dave Hildreth puts it, “It’s a choice of lifestyle . . . as we said earlier, it’s like a holiday, it’s a retreat. This is where we retreat from the stress of the city, the traffic…”

Edie adds: “If somebody’s considering moving out here and thinking, ‘oh, it’s too far out’ or ‘the traveling.’ Honestly it’s not that bad a drive. It’s a beautiful drive.

”I wouldn’t let the drive or a feeling of being isolated stop them, because you definitely aren’t isolated and yet you’re far enough away to relax.”

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FURRY CREEK

Project Address: Furry Creek – Sea to Sky Highway between Lions Bay and Squamish

Developer: Parklane Homes

Web: www.furrycreek.ca or www.parklane.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

 

Granville’s changing look not likely to kill its ‘street-with-edge image – doc.

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

‘It’s important that diversity and eclectic uses remain,’ developer Kerry Bonnis says

Frances Bula
Sun

 

CREDIT: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

Downtown Granville is expected to keep its edgy side during redevelopment of three of its key blocks by D. Bonnis & Sons Ltd.

CREDIT: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

The Lennox pub is one of Granville Street’s new businesses.

CREDIT: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

Next to be developed is Bonnis-owned land next to its Commodore site.

CREDIT: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

Panhandlers are regular presences along Granville Street even as redevelopment brings new business into some blocks.

 

VANCOUVER – Is downtown Granville Street — once the commercial heart of the city and, for the past 40 years, its grungy, alternative sore spot — about to transform itself into another Robson Street?

The reigning King of Granville says no.

Yes, the street is changing, says Kerry Bonnis, whose family company, D. Bonnis & Sons Ltd., owns more than half of the east side of three key blocks and who has recently doubled the rents for some properties.

But, says the man driving much of the change, he wants Granville to hold on to the personality it has now: The street with an edge, where the shops stay open after others lock their doors, and there’s a mix of everyone from pierced-nose skateboarders to clubgoers to families out for a movie.

“Robson is more or less a shopping mall with traffic running through it,” says Bonnis, who owns, with his brother Dino, a total of 221 metres in the 700, 800 and 900 blocks of Granville.

“For us, it’s important that diversity and eclectic uses remain, provided they adapt to the changing needs of consumers. We want to keep some of the edge.”

Granville’s future is what everyone is wondering about these days, as longtime businesses are shutting down or struggling, while newcomers flourish, and rumours swirl about the billion-dollar retailers that Bonnis says are about to move in.

Bonnis won’t say yet who they are, but he stressed he’s looking for businesses that complement what is already on the street.

The street started to change five years ago when the Bonnises, defying conventional wisdom that Granville had been ruined by its 1970s transformation into a mall and wasn’t worth investing in until cars were allowed back in, bought more than half of the 700 block. They constructed a building that now holds a wildly successful Future Shop and Winners.

Now the company has started construction on its 900-block property and is about to redevelop another chunk of land, next to its Commodore site, on the 800 block.

The momentum picked up recently with the announcement that the Capitol 6 theatre will be transformed into a residential tower on the Seymour side and a new retail space on its Granville front.

Longtime retailers like the Leather Shop and Cheap Thrills are gone or shutting down, while the venerable Granville Books — where late-night moviegoers have for the past 20 years been able to pick up the latest in science fiction or high-end literature until 11 p.m. – is hanging on until its lease expires next year.

Granville Books co-owner Bob Cole says the bookstore was hit hard by the bus strike in 2001 and then by the gradual disappearance of movie theatres, which brought all-day crowds to the street. They were replaced by clubs that don’t pull people on to the street until late evening.

He doesn’t see how it could survive the kind of rent hikes others are facing.

At Cheap Thrills, which specializes in funky, offbeat clothes and novelties, the increase was 100 per cent, to $14,000 from just under $7,000.

“We could probably make it at $8,000. We’re not big enough to pay $14,000 and we just can’t find another street that will work,” says owner Shellina Visram. So she decided to close and sell through the Web instead.

But others who have moved in say they see nothing but a glowing future for Granville.

Underworld, a Montreal-based company that sells skateboard-style shoes and clothes, opened in November and its owner has been amazed by its success.

“I’m a huge fan of Granville over Robson,” says Alex Bastide. “And we’re going to be way more edgy.”

Stores like Golden Age Collectibles, David Gordon Shoes and Fluevog Shoes are all planning to stay.

Retail consultant Blake Hudema says he sees Granville becoming more like West Broadway, which serves residents and regional destination shoppers more than tourists, the way Robson does.

That’s feasible now because of the huge residential boom that Vancouver encouraged on the side streets around Granville, said Hudema.

“The Bonnises’s brilliance was recognizing early on that there was that residential market in the area.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

University town at UBC’s Hawthorne Lane – new development

Sunday, March 20th, 2005

JEANI READ
Province

University Town at UBC makes the west side more affordable for UBC staff and students — and gives them an interest in developments. WAYNE LEIDENFROST— THE PROVINCE

Above, Mike Feeny, Linda Quamme with kids Liam and Katie outside their townhome at University Town. Below left, map shows layout of UBC and Endowment Lands. Below right, one of the new developments in University Town. WAYNE LEIDENFROST PHOTOS— THE PROVINCE

With all the development on the UBC campus, it’s tempting to steal an old lick from Joni Mitchell and accuse the board of governors of paving paradise to put up a parking lot.

But no. In this case, they dug up the parking lot.

Notorious old Lot B, to which so much of the student body slogged every day, is gone. And in its place, quickly growing, is University Town, a cool, modern, high-density urban landscape with homes, apartments, shops, daycares, community centres, greenbelts, gardens and parks.

Paradise? For people like Mike Feeley and his wife Linda Quamme, happy owners of a brand new townhouse in the Hawthorn Place neighbourhood at Marine Drive and West Mall, it comes close. Especially since only a few years ago, Feeley, on the computer science faculty, says he thought they might have to leave.

Like so many others at UBC, he and Quamme didn’t want a long commute, couldn’t afford the west-side prices outside the gates, and ended up renting in various places on campus. Without a better solution, says Feeley, “There’s a 50-50 chance we might not be here now.”

Presto change-o, courtesy of a unique scheme called co-development. Co-development is enabling people lsuch as Feeley and Quamme to afford housing on campus by becoming, in effect, co-developers.

The UBC Property Trust, which traditionally oversees the construction of institutional buildings, has gone into residential housing. All the property in University Town, which will be composed of eight new and planned neighbourhoods, is 99-year-lease property — although UBC once sold some of its endowment lands in the 1950s, it no longer sells or transfers title.

On chosen tracts of this land, the Trust builds partnerships between developers and future homeowners like Feeley and Quamme. In ordinary market housing, sales commissions and other fees can add up to 15 to 20 per cent of a new home, says the trust’s Matthew Carter. But in these special arrangements, the Trust charges only a nominal fee of three per cent, making a big difference in affordability.

Feeley and Quamme paid $630,000 for their lovely townhouse in the little 10-unit flagship co-development called Hawthorn Green in the heart of Hawthorn Place. Comparable properties nearby are selling in the mid $800,000s, says Carter.

The co-development idea initially took a while to take hold, especially since owners do have to invest some risk capital in order to start the construction — the money that would ordinarily be a downpayment. However, it’s viewed as being fairly safe as the university has a big vested interest in making this work. By the time Hawthorn Green was set to start up, 20 families had their names down for the 10 homes. A lottery was held and Feeley and Quamme moved in last October. A second co-development, Logan Lane, sold out its 61 homes quickly, and will be finished in August. Co-developments like these — plus increased rental space — will meet the ambitious mandate of University Town for 50 per cent of its homes to be “work-study” space that is earmarked for faculty, students and staff.

All this means a real turnaround for UBC, arguably the most expensive campus in North America when you compare salaries to cost of housing. Feeley’s time on the faculty recruiting committee taught him virtually all teaching candidates considered affordable housing their “No. 1 challenge”. But now UBC stands a better chance of luring prestigious faculty and more students plus enriching the endowment fund itself. The monies paid for the University Town leases go back into the fund for bursaries, scholarships and core academic programs. University Town media rep Brad Foster calls it “symbiotic,” meaning a win-win situation, right down to the self-contained rental suite in the basement of Hawthorn Green and in many of the suites at Logan Lane. These create more student housing to help with the 50-per-cent “study-work” mandate and are mortgage helpers built right in, along with the nice finishings such as Feeley and Quamme’s hardwood laminate, granite counters and two gas fireplaces.

Oh, and that parking lot thing? The traffic jam that UBC became over the 20th century is scheduled to defer to a much more sustainable model. Give somebody an “A.”

UBC’s high end Somerset project has only 5 out of 18 homes left

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

High-end Somerset selling out

Sun

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun Somerset’s University of B.C. location is a big draw, says new home advisor Barbara Manning.

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun Sales representative Barbara Manning checks out progress on the vaulted ceiling in one of the Somerset development units at UBC.

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun The display kitchen at the Somerset gated community at UBC includes an island and commercial appliances such as this Wolf gas stove.

Celebrating 100 years as a business, Ledingham McAllister this year is busy marketing it’s most recent project — 18 homes, each going for more than $1 million, at the University of B.C.

The company was initially a road-building and underground utilities company, beginning in 1905 in a Mount Pleasant backyard when horse-drawn trailers pulled owner George Ledingham’s excavation equipment throughout the city.

The company, working out of a garden shed for an office, built everything from sidewalks and roads to some of the city’s first buildings, including the Hudson Bay Building. At the turn of the century the company was known as Ledingham Construction and is credited with importing the first concrete mixers used for street paving, and designing B.C.’s first ready-mix concrete truck. In the 1960s, the focus switched from underground utilities to above-ground structures in the commercial and industrial fields.

In the early 1970s, the company specialized in shopping centres, office towers and warehouses (their portfolio includes Sears, Costco, Canadian Tire and Home Depot.) The company also underwent a name change to Ledingham McAllister when Ward McAllister joined in 1983.

McAllister, who worked on framing and construction crews throughout high school and university, oversaw a new direction for the company that began in the early 1990s — constructing multi-family residential projects. He joined the company directly after receiving his commerce degree and found his experience in construction has helped him as a developer.

“I love the smell of wood and the creative side of it. I love taking a site and with a team creating a vision for that site,” he said.

He said the UBC project called Somerset is a higher-end project that has particular appeal to empty-nesters who can age in place.

“It appeals to people who would sell their big homes with the big lawns on the west side but still want a big place they can move all their heirlooms into. They want to be able to lock it and leave it and know their homes are secure while they’re away enjoying their holidays,” said McAllister.

The gated community of Somerset is situated at Hawthorn Place, one of UBC’s most recently created neighbourhoods. The homes, ranging in price from $1.2 million to $1.48 million, are all attached with the exception of one detached home, already sold, in the centre of the complex.

“People buy out here because they like the location, the air quality and a lot have children who go to school here. All of the schools nearby are very good,” said sales representative Barbara Manning.

She agreed the project is particularly appealing to empty-nesters who appreciate fine craftsmanship.

She noted the homes have steeply sloped roofs which are a big asset to aid rain run-off in B.C.’s climate and architectural details like large baseboards throughout, wood mouldings, built-in bookcases, nine-foot ceilings and curved doorway entrances.

“Those kinds of things cost more but they do make the home more beautiful and interesting,” said Manning.

All 18 homes feature a vaulted ceiling in the main living room, creating a sense of spaciousness. Since the 18 homes went on the market in early fall all but five have been sold.

The remaining homes also have two master bedrooms, one on the main floor and one upstairs to allow homeowners to “age in place.” There are also two other bedrooms and the basement is half-finished.

“The other half could be turned into more bedrooms,” added Manning.

She said the homes’ designs are flexible owners, and a master on the main is particularly useful for seniors who may have difficulties with stairs.

All of the homes have a legal studio apartment, approximately 350 sq. ft., that Manning believes can fetch as much as $1,500 a month in rent given the location near the university.

She noted Somerset, which is expected to be completed in approximately one year from now, is being built adjacent to the park known as Hawthorne Woods and is right next door to another recent Ledingham McAllister project called Westchester, where units sold for $750,000 to $1 million setting the benchmark for high end multi-home projects in the area.

Manning said homeowners can personalize their own spaces and receive 10 hours of design consultation with interior designer Sandy Varley. Even at this stage of construction, Manning said there is still time for buyers to choose their finishes. The company is offering two colour schemes which are both traditional — a dark walnut or mahogany red theme. The hardwood floors in the family room-kitchen are either Sapele flooring, which is a dark African wood, or Ipe (ironwood), another dark wood this time from Latin America.

Other features include a soaker tub, limestone flooring in the bathroom and a “chef’s kitchen” with granite countertops.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

 

Housing sales surge ahead in February

Friday, March 18th, 2005

Michael McCullough
Sun

Home sales across B.C. picked up in February after a slow January, returning to last year’s record-setting pace.

Though the number of units sold declined slightly from February 2004, to 7,404, dollar volume increased a healthy 8.3 per cent to $2.3 billion, the B.C. Real Estate Association said Thursday.

The totals represent an increase of 2,800 units and $1 billion from January, which was affected by inclement weather in addition to the usual seasonal slowdown.

“Sales are keeping pace with last year’s record levels and consumers are confident that now is a good time to buy a home,” association president Gordon Maroney declared in a release. “This is going to be another strong year for home sales in B.C.”

Although 10 of the province’s 12 real estate boards increased dollar sales year-over-year, some regions fared better than others.

Boards in the central and northern Okanagan, Kamloops, Powell River and Vancouver Island (excluding Victoria) all managed to boost both the number of transactions and dollar totals.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, which accounts for roughly half the home sales in B.C., essentially matched last year’s transaction pace with 3,150 resale homes changing hands.

Cash flow, however, increased 8.6 per cent, reflecting the year-to-year rise in home prices.

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VALUE OF SALES UP AT A HIGHER RATE

The number of B.C. home sales slipped slightly in February compared to the same month a year earlier, but the value of the sales increased at a greater rate.

B.C. home sales, volume

Feb. ’05 – 7,404

Feb. ’04 – 7,566

Change: -2.14%

B.C. home sales, value

Feb. ’05 – $2.3 billion

Feb. ’04 – $2.1 billion

Change: +8.3%

Source: B.C. Real Estate Association

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Tower rejected for falling sort of ‘architectural excellence’

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

A design for the city’s second-highest tower does not meet public standards, panel finds

Frances Bula
Sun

VANCOUVER - Developer Simon Lim’s dream of building Vancouver‘s second-highest tower — a 167-metre building with a forest garden encased in glass on its roof — suffered a surprising setback Tuesday.

One of the two international experts brought in to help evaluate the design said the tower proposed for 1133 West Georgia did not give the public enough benefits for the doubling of density Lim was seeking. The second said its aim of being a “green” skyscraper was flawed because the architectural team from Musson Cattell Mackey appeared to be planning to try to add sustainability at the end of the project instead of building it in from the start.

At the end of the morning’s discussion the city’s urban-design panel, comprised of local people and experts from abroad, voted unanimously not to support the design that would rise 550 feet.

“I don’t believe the 100-per-cent density increase is balanced by public amenities and architectural excellence,” said Peter Ellis of the prominent Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, in an unusually blunt assessment.

He pointed to the 195-metre Shangri-La tower across the street, the city’s tallest, as a building that did give Vancouver citizens a lot back for the extra height it received: an outdoor public art gallery, excellent design, heritage restoration of a neighbouring church, a roof garden, and a series of public spaces.

“To me, that satisfies the equation of exchanging density for meaningful long-lasting public good,” he said.

Lim’s tower, if approved, would have become the most dense building in downtown Vancouver, with floor space 17.5 times the size of the lot, almost double the normal rate.

Most buildings in downtown Vancouver are allowed floor space at nine times the size of the lot. The Shangri-La received the right to build at 13.5 times the size of the lot.

Matthias Sauerbruch, an expert in “green” buildings from the Berlin firm of Sauerbruch-Hutton, said he didn’t get a sense that sustainability had been a part of the fundamental design concept. As a result, it was hard for him to tell how green the building really was, since important design elements like the amount of glass — which can have a huge impact on a building’s energy use — hadn’t been decided.

In general, many of those on the panel said the overall design still needed significant improvement.

The building’s architect, Mark Whitehead, described the concept as a vase-like podium at the base that cradled a crystal form, and he said it was designed to be “deferential” to the dominant Shangri-La tower across the street.

But Vancouver architect James Hancock, who was another special guest invited to the urban-design panel just to review this building, said the base of the building was “disappointing — it seems to Vancouver, so ordinary.”

The decision and remarks came as a disappointment and even a shock to Lim, who paid for the evaluation, including the cost of the bringing in the international experts.

He said he had hoped for a more positive response and that he does not know what his next step will be.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005