Archive for April, 2005

Villas on 8th offer great flexibility through unique design, expansive living spaces

Saturday, April 30th, 2005


INSIDE, OUTSIDE, TOPSIDE: That’s agent Stephanie Corcoran in the Villas showhome. Developers Paolo Trasoline and Rob Chetner in the courtyard illustrate the distance between rooftop and grade. Chetner makes the most of the rooftop deck (below).

Villas on 8th offer great flexibility through unique design, expansive living spaces


Address: 1017 – 1021 West Eighth, Vancouver

Telephone: 604-263-2823


Open house: 1-4 and Sunday

Project size: Four residences

Residence size: Three bedrooms, family room + den, 2,195 sq.ft.; three bedrooms + family room, 1,849 sq.ft.; three-bedrooms + family room, 1,982 sq.ft.; two bedrooms, media room + family room

Price: $799,000 — $849,000

Developer: Trasolini Chetner Construction Corp.

Architect: Gomberoff Bell Lyon

Warranty: National New Home 2/5 /10

Real estate agent Stephanie Corcoran describes the four Villa residences around a courtyard as an ”intimate cluster.”

There’s nothing intimate about the Fairview residences, however. ”Our homes offer generous living space,” Corcoran comments.

”Several plans offer a little more separation or getaway room if you need it! The third- floor media room makes an ideal home office, family room or guest bedroom.”

The largest of the four consists of three bedrooms, a family room and a top-storey den ”which opens out to a fabulous roof deck with outstanding views of the city and False Creek.”

Two of the homes are detached residences. Each of the homes comes with two parking spots — increasingly rare in new-home projects.

”Each home in the Villas offers a unique design, well thought out and expansive living spaces that give the owner a great deal of flexibility with their home,” Corcoran reports.

”Open plans are ideal for entertaining, especially when flooded with natural light and these are. All the homes have a north and south exposure.”

Common to the homes are the kitchen and en suite packages.

The kitchen cabinetry is finished in white oak, with the upper cabinets behind glass doors.

Jenn-Air was the source of the stainless steel appliances in the kitchens, a three-door fridge with a water dispenser and ice-maker; a four-burner cook top; a built-in wall oven and under-counter microwave; and a dishwasher and garburator.

The counters are topped with composite stone slab; the backsplashes finished with glass tiles. The sink, too, is stainless, a double bowl under-mount.

The cabinetry in the master en suites is also finished in white oak. The counters are topped with marble; the flooring is tile. The tub and shower are separate.

One of the attributes of neighbourhood living is the opportunity to do your business in the neighbourhood — butcher, baker, grocer and real estate agent. Corcoran is a long-time Fairview resident.

”I love the area,” the former president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says. ”First, the views are the best offered in the city. The downtown, and all the new development in False Creek, is framed by the waters of False Creek, the North Shore mountains, English Bay and beyond. The residences in this neighbourhood have the feel that they are sitting on top of the city.”

A second reason for her attachment to Fairview is also grounded in location.

”The convenience of Fairview is fantastic! You can enjoy easy access to the ‘busyness’ of the downtown and yet live in (total quiet) tranquility just five minutes away.

”Leaving town for points south or north is quick and easy along Granville or Oak streets. But the neighbourhood is quiet, as I say, with street noise at a minimum. The False Creek trails and Granville Island, Kits and South Granville shopping are all within walking distance.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Architect links design with human rights

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Kim Pemberton

One may not necessarily view architecture as possessing a human rights dimension, but Vancouver architect Graeme Bristol is on a mission to show there are indeed architectural solutions to humanitarian problems.

The 55-year-old Bristol, a professor at the School of Architecture and Design in Bangkok, is speaking this weekend at the Architectural Institute of B.C.’s annual conference, entitled Architecture and Humanity.

The very fact the conference has humanity as a focus indicates a shift that is happening in the field — many of today’s architects care deeply about social responsibility and believe good design is more than just creating aesthetically pleasing buildings.

These are architects, particularly a younger breed, who are not interested in designing the next beautiful building for a wealthy client but rather having their designs make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged.

Bristol certainly is one of a handful of architects worldwide making a name for themselves not through signature designs, but from their skills at helping others help themselves when rebuilding devastated communities.

“Design is a pretty powerful tool,” says Bristol in an interview at the AIBC offices in Vancouver.

“Most architectural schools are basically divorced from reality. They’re focussed on high design — the Frank Gehry’s and Zaha Hadids of the world. When you look at what wins architectural awards what are you seeing? Not people but pretty buildings.”

Bristol, who founded the Centre for Architecture and Human Rights last year, is trying to get the message out, particularly to young architects, that there is another way.

He believes in working in communities and letting the people who will live in the buildings guide the process instead of imposing a design that was “created in the backroom of an architect’s office.”

“People must be more in control of their environment,” he says.

“Typically, when architectural students go into slums they want to tell everyone what to do. It takes a lot to change that attitude. But what they really need is to learn how to listen.”

These days, Bristol is leading a volunteer effort to help rebuild communities in Thailand after last December’s losses from the tsunami. He returns to Thailand early next month to continue this work with student architect volunteers.

What makes Bristol‘s work stand out is his insistence that architects not go into communities in need thinking they have all the answers but rather to work with the communities to come up with solutions.

This is exactly what happened in Pom Mahakan, a community of about 300 people who city officials wanted to evict in order to turn their neighbourhood into a park. The reason for the eviction was city official’s desires to provide better views of historic sites in the area for tourists, says Bristol.

“The city was defining history a certain way, through temples and palaces and the people — who had always been there — weren’t considered part of that history.”

Bristol and a team of students from the Bangkok School of Architecture were already in Pom Mahakan at the time working on a development project.

But with the threat of eviction their design work became even more significant, proving Bristol‘s point that architecture can impact human rights.

“The people thought a park was a great idea but they didn’t want to leave,” says Bristol.

The design solution the community and student architects arrived was creating a park that allowed for housing within its borders.

Eight weeks ago, the city finally offered the residents a 30-year lease that would create a park with housing provided.

Right now Bristol and students he teaches are working on four specific projects as part of the tsunami recovery program.

One of the projects is called the Morgan Project, providing 75 houses for “sea gypsies” — people who have lived hundreds of years on the islands off Thailand.

Working so directly in the field clearly holds value for Bristol, who doesn’t hold out any promise of ever returning to Canada to work.

“I have been having a lot of fun, despite the fact you are working in slums. I’ve learned so much in the last eight years I’ve been there I don’t want to stop,” says Bristol.

And while he continues his agenda to encourage students of architecture to consider human rights in their work, he’s under no illusion that others will be quick to follow in his path.

“I know most of these students won’t get involved in a lifetime of working in the slums, but I do hope that when they are working for the developers and the developers say this land is empty they will say ‘well, no it’s not. There are people here.’ “

© The Vancouver Sun 2005


East Fraserlands’ fate down to 5 plans

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

URBANISM I Residents respond to architect ‘shaking the box’

Kim Pemberton

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun Architect Richard Hulbert (from left), group leader Marina Khouri, and Andres Duany, Miami-based new urbanism designer credited with reviving the classic American small town, worked together on plans for the East Fraserlands.

Miami new urbanism guru Andres Duany is gone now, after helping to create five potential community plans for one of the last large chunks of industrial land left in Vancouver to be re-developed.

But the general public will have to wait a bit before these five master plans for the southeast corner of Vancouver, known as East Fraserlands, are made public, and months before the final one is selected.

What is known for certain is the height of proposed residential towers — dropped to 14 storeys from 28, a “town centre” will be included, mixing residential and retail, and a nature walk will connect the shoreline from the West Fraserlands, through the site and into Burnaby.

WesGroup and Parklane, the developers who own the 126 acres known as East Fraserlands, say they are reviewing the five plans before seeking wider public input.

“We’re fine-tuning all five plans with the intent of going out to the public with the pros and cons of all five hopefully by early June,” says WesGroup president Gino Nonni, adding once a final plan is selected they will begin an economic feasibility study before seeking city council approval.

“We have to get everyone, all the stakeholders — the community, the city, parks, to all agree on one plan that serves everyone best.”

He expects the process will go relatively quickly with a final ratification decision by the summer of 2006. When completed in 15 to 20 years, the site will be home to about 10,000 people.

Chief city planner Larry Beasley says he was very impressed with the recent design process which generated “five excellent schemes — any one of which would be worth pursuing.”

“That’s unusual, to have all five with high merits,” he says.

Beasley says he was also pleased the nearby residents were able to play a significant role in ensuring East Fraserlands will “be a model for creating a green neighbourhood.”

“They did influence the results,” he says, noting another example of the community’s input concerned tower heights.

“At the end of the day Andres [Duany] indicated to the community he would look to them to help identify where the (14-storey) towers should be. That is a real compliment to them to have an architect of his calibre feel they would know best.”

Nonni says that while the developers’ first plan called for towers 28 storeys high and they are now only 14, it is still to be determined where they will be located in the final plan, taking into consideration the city’s view corridor guidelines.

Duany, a Princeton- and Yale-educated architect best known for reviving the classic American small town, was in Vancouver recently to help lead an intensive consultation process known as a “design charrette” that involved members of the nearby communities of Champlain Heights, Collingwood and Fraserview.

Twelve of his staff, including urban planners and landscape architects, worked with the community; and local support people from the city and the Vancouver-based architectural firm the Hulbert Group to come up with what likely will be the master plan for the site.

“I have the highest opinion of Vancouver,” Duany said in a interview last week in Vancouver, on the final day of the charrette. “It’s done two things. It has incorporated traditional urbanism with modernist architecture. We love new buildings in older cities. This makes it an extremely harmonious city.”

Duany says of the five plans created two are highly detailed, but he says neither of these two “top contenders” is his favourite plan.

“It’s not what I think or prefer,” says Duany, who refused to say which plan he liked best, adding “it’s nothing you haven’t done before.”

Duany says he will now become less involved in the project, with local architect Richard Hulbert assuming the full reins.

Hulbert says Duany’s group and the charrette provided an opportunity for all of the major stakeholders to come together to voice concerns and be part of the design process.

“His group is forcing everyone to consider ideas that wouldn’t be considered.

“Their role is to shake the box,” says Hulbert, who says it is still too early in the process to eliminate some of the ideas generated during the charrette.

But Hulbert, whose 30-year-old firm specializing in waterfront developments created Concord Pacific Place, Coal Harbour and the original New Westminster Quay development, says his own objective is to help create a “diverse public realm [in East Fraserlands] that is a true benefit to the citizens of Vancouver.

“My interest is to make some of the public realm not only benefit the people who live there but everyone.”

He adds that the south-facing, working riverfront site is ideal for creating a “walkable” community that will have many ground-oriented residential units, schools, a community centre and town centre focus.

“It’s a significant piece of land — one of the biggest remaining parcels. Some people say it’s just the edge of Vancouver but edges are important. It’s part of the city’s frame. It’s one of the city gateways,” says Hulbert.

“The magic of this is combining best urban living with resort living. You could come home at night and feel like you are on holiday. . . . If you were to describe the perfect lifestyle it would be tough to come up with something better than this.”

Sharon Saunders, chair of the East Fraserlands committee, which represents residents from the nearby area, says the community wants a focus on family housing and ensuring the project is environmentally sustainable.

“I don’t know what the developers will come back with,” Saunders says of the five plans being fine-tuned.

“Is this plan going to match our community concerns and be something the developers can deliver?”

Saunders also wondered whether it is fair to ask one developer to “take on the burden of creating a town centre.”

“Is it buildable under these current economic realities?”

But Nonni says the town centre proposal, which is included in all five plans, is one aspect the developers are “extremely excited about.”

“This is Duany’s theory of successful urbanism — a place where people can live, work and play. People want a sense of place where they can meet for exercise, dinner, coffee . . . We’re planning on doing it [creating the town centre] in the first phase. It’s a wonderful feature to attract both commercial and residential [buyers].

“We wouldn’t be going forward if we didn’t feel it was a positive economic horizon.”

Beasley says that while it’s important to create a commercial high street in the area, giving residents such key services as grocery and drug stores for instance, he wouldn’t want the neighbourhood to necessarily become a draw for people outside the area.

“You don’t want to create a traffic problem,” he says.

“We would want to be careful not to set it up as a city-wide destination.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

City planning ace makes case for Urban Vancouver

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Bob Ransford

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun Examining part of the old sawmill water access on the East Fraser site are (left to right) Norm Shearing, vice-president of development for Fraser Lands with ParkLane; Gino Nonni, president of WesGroup Income Properties; and Andres Duany, Miami-based new urbanism guru.

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun Andres Duany, Marina Khouri, Milt Bowling (vice chair of East Fraser Lands Committee), Gino Nonni, Norm Shearing (vice-president of development for Fraser Lands) and Steve Lloyd (vice chair of the East Fraser Lands Committee) all had input at the seven-day exercise into community building.

Creating better cities requires challenging, even troubling, trade-offs, not the least of which is the transformation of the natural environment by the built.

In Vancouver, where environmentalism is almost an evangelical religion, accepting these trade-offs is a challenge. Overcoming the challenge will allow us to move to the next level in our pursuit of a truly sustainable environment.

These were the observations of a rock star of city planning and the Godfather of the world-wide New Urbanism movement, architect and planner Andres Duany, who recently descended on Vancouver from Miami.

This key Duany observation formed the main theme behind a fascinating seven-day exercise in community-building that he led in a tent on an abandoned sawmill site on the banks of the Fraser in southeast Vancouver.

At the outset of the exercise, Duany lauded Vancouver as the best city of the second half of the 20th century, pointing to our obvious success in building one of the world’s best urban communities downtown.

But he also challenged Vancouverites to “simultaneously preserve Eden and create the New Jerusalem” by reconciling the contradiction between urbanism and the environment.

He argued that cities should be highly urban, containing a mix of commercial uses, a diversity of high density housing types and open space configured for a range of users. He argued against recreating nature in the city and suggested in restoring natural features, like riverfronts, attention needs to be paid to the quality of the experience that is created for humans.

“There is nothing more vulgar than nature restored badly.”

His thesis is that by concentrating people in urban areas, we allow nature to be preserved where it belongs–in the wilderness.

The future redevelopment of the East Fraserlands will be the test case in which this thesis is tested.

Duany and his 12-member design team worked hand-in-hand with neighbourhood residents, literally day and night in what is called a design charrette, to draft a master plan for the 126 acres.

They didn’t just spend an hour or two at public meetings. They exhausted each other in about 25 hours of focused meetings where concepts and ideas were intensively explored and passionately debated while real-time drawing took place at the back of the room.

Countless additional hours were spent in side discussions and design collaborations critiquing hastily but carefully drawn design proposals.

In the end, five master plan options were detailed for the future redevelopment of the last large tract of former industrial land in Vancouver.

Parklane Homes and the Wesgroup, owners and developers of the site, took a huge risk recruiting Duany and in sponsoring his exercise. They tried something that has never been tried before in British Columbia, let alone Vancouver, by bringing ordinary citizens from the surrounding neighbourhood to the table, along with city hall officials and giving them and Duany carte blanche to create a truly sustainable community.

The process could have been a disaster.

Duany could have simply given in to all of the demands of the neighbourhood–many founded on high ideals but untested and likely uneconomical.

He could have allowed the debate to degenerate to nit-picking on design details and questions about absolutes, like numerical measures of population density, open space, height and other on-the-ground development concerns. But he didn’t.

Instead, Duany attempted to keep the debate at a higher level and encouraged open-mindedness.

Much of the discussion was quite spirited with residents making clear that their ideas were rooted in a values system that, at times, seemed a little foreign to Duany.

“A lot has to go on in this city to accommodate growth,” Duany said, pointing to Vancouver‘s rate of growth at 6,000 people per year. “There is nothing dishonourable about growth. It is a measure of your success.”

He spoke passionately in favour of an urbanism that often trades green space for highly developed spaces like urban plazas and civic squares. He demonstrated how high density residential encourages a walkable community.

Duany argued diversity is the key to a good urban environment–whether it’s a diversity in housing types, a diversity in population or a diversity in open space configuration. He resisted notions like yielding the entire Fraser River foreshore to environmental preservation, arguing that people have as many rights as fish.

Duany’s design options embraced both environmental preservation and an urban fabric typical of a city.

Whether or not any of the design options for the East Fraserlands are ever implemented depends in large part on whether or not the citizens who participated in the charrette and the wider community understand Duany’s logical arguments.

Bob Ransford is a public affairs consultant with COUNTERPOINT Communications Inc. He is a former real estate developer and a Director of the Urban Development Institute- Pacific Region.

Email: [email protected]

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

UBC Campus gets a heart of glass

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Design for a gigantic public atrium selected as a showpiece of the university’s $100 million ‘town’

Trevor Boddy

Artist’s rendering of an aerial view of the winning entry in UBC’s University Boulevard design competition. Centrepiece of the design is an all-weather public gathering place at the heart of the campus and includes an underground transportation hub.

The University of B.C. has chosen a huge, glass space-frame design that will create a round-the-clock, all-weather public gathering place at the heart of its $100-million University Boulevard mixed-use neighbourhood.

The design, by the California firm Moore Ruble Yudell, in association with Hughes Condon Marler of Vancouver, was supported by 79 per cent of the votes cast by students, faculty and alumni in a non-binding poll considered by the competition jury.

“We wanted a 24-7 animation of the [UBC] campus,” design team member Karen Marler said of the plaza, near East Mall and University Boulevard. Designers dubbed it the “day-night atrium.”

The plaza is similar to that created by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson for Simon Fraser University in his 1963 design, which also won an architectural competition similar to this one.

Dennis Pavlich, UBC vice-president for legal and external affairs said the construction budget for the entire University Boulevard project, which includes the atrium, is $100 million. Another $20 million cost for an underground transit hub will be shared with TransLink.

There also will be 326 units of rental housing arrayed in a series of six buildings linked by a continuous arcade along University Boulevard, the main road into the university from West 10th Avenue.

Under the wide-open terms of its University Town planning policy, the campus is — after Concord Pacific — Greater Vancouver’s largest development site, with private condo buildings jammed into every under-used parking lot and surplus lane throughout the campus.

By 2020, more than 8,000 new, non-student, non-faculty residents will call the core campus home.

The winning design was picked by a competition jury over two other finalist schemes. All three firms were paid $250,000 each for their design services. A competing design by UBC architecture professor Patricia Patkau and her husband John received six per cent of the 1,496 online votes, while a design by London‘s Allies Morrison with Vancouver‘s Proscenium Architecture received 11 per cent support. Four per cent of the poll respondents expressed no preference.

Both the losing schemes carried on themes from what many architects regard as UBC’s boldest epoch of campus building — the 1950s and ’60s –proposing strongly-edged, open-to-the-skies approaches to a new University Square, but the winning design is very different.

UBC physics PhD candidate Darren Peets says he is “delighted that they picked the scheme students supported, but I also hope this design evolves — they have too much planned, and they are turning the entrance to the campus into Kitsilano.”

One of the more controversial aspects of their design is the removal of some trees in the “bosque” along East Mall next to the Student Union Building to make way for a gallery and tea house pavilion.

“We liked the bosque as a feature,” said winning team architect Darryl Condon, “but we also wanted to add some activity.”

UBC students were no doubt impressed by their significant addition to the SUB building itself — what the architects call a “laminate” around its southern and western edges — which will provide badly-needed lounges and an addition to the Pendulum Restaurant.

These constructions over and above those mandated in the contest rules makes the winner the most expensive of the three finalists.

Architecturally, UBC’s campus has become a hodge-podge of forms and styles — towers looming over laboratories, fake Tudor half-timbering set next to gleaming high-tech, timid post modernist period revivals rammed up against the aggressive angularities of recent design movements.

The winning design takes this hodge-podge strategy to UBC’s very core, and for this reason, it may be perversely appropriate to what the campus has now become.

The design is busy, even dizzying, but clearly exemplifies B.C.’s largest university’s open-for-business, anything-goes approach to campus planning, adopted over the past decade.

Competition winners Moore Ruble Yudell enjoy a reputation as California‘s leading academic design specialists. Inspired by the poetic whimsy of late founding partner and influential postmodernist Charles Moore, their buildings always feature a rich smorgasbord of styles, scales and public spaces.

Design partners Hughes Condon Marler of Vancouver should do much to temper excesses of their California colleagues.

Founded by Roger Hughes, the Vancouver firm has a reputation for coherent, socially generous public buildings like the award-winning Renfrew Branch Library on East 22nd Avenue and the Eileen Dailly Pool in Burnaby. Their winning design will no doubt evolve before construction and a June, 2008 planned opening, the centenary of UBC’s founding by an act of the provincial legislature.

The competition jury included Erickson, “New Urbanism” guru Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Library Square designer Moshe Safdie, and Mississauga city hall co-designer Edward Jones, plus a number of senior UBC officials led by Pavlich.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Apple set to unleash the Tiger on PC users

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

MICROSOFT I New operating system delivers built-in rapid search system

Peter Wilson

Tiger is on the prowl today in Vancouver, and that could be the initial sign that things might be about to change in personal computing habits forever.

At 6 p.m. on Friday, in stores across the Lower Mainland, Apple unleashed the latest version of its OS X operating system — really just plain old 10.4, but called Tiger because, well, that’s a heck of a lot sexier than just using a number.

Inside Tiger is a feature that Microsoft has been promising Windows users for years in its long-delayed new operating system, Longhorn: a built-in rapid and almost universal search system called Spotlight.

Spotlight is search on steroids, somewhat akin to Google for the PC.

What Apple’s Spotlight does is take the search term you’ve given it and then poke its nose into such things as address books, e-mail, photos, documents (including Word, Excel and Powerpoint files), tunes and the like.

Then it coughs up everything relevant (and neatly categorized) including that obscure file about raising chinchillas you last remember seeing in the summer of 2002.

Because it looks at content, not just the name of the file, users won’t have to be so careful — if they ever were — about what they call things when they save them. And they won’t have to waste time muddling around in folders hoping to find what they want.

“The ability to search within documents and PDF Files, that’s going to be a huge time saver for people in a business environment,” said Michael Carman, manager of Mac Station’s Vancouver store in Yaletown.

Both Mac Station and another major Apple retailer, Simply Computing, have geared up for the launch.

Two live tigers will be on hand at the Yaletown Mac Station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today — a bit of an upgrade from the single panther on hand the last time Apple launched an OS upgrade.

At Simply Computing stores they’re giving away gifts with copies of Tiger, along with chances to win an iPod Shuffle.

Simply Computing’s Langley store had, as of Friday, advance orders for almost all the 50 copies of Tiger they had on hand at $149 a pop. In Vancouver they have 200 copies to meet the demand.

Now, all this hype should mean nothing to Windows users, who outnumber Mac computer afficionados by a margin of something more than 10 to one, except that Spotlight could be a vision of things to come in computing when Microsoft finally delivers its new operating system sometime in 2006.

Along with Spotlight, both Carman and Tony Barker, manager of administrative services at Simply Computing, believe the Dashboard — featuring mini-programs, called widgets, that pop up, either singly or together at a keystroke — will be a well-used feature.

The widgets do things like show users the weather and provide stock tickers and flight schedules. Dashboard was preceded on the Mac and on Windows by a similar program called Konfabulator.

We couldn’t end this without just a tiny bit of Windows and Microsoft bashing from Carman, who said: “Panther was so far ahead of what they have and Tiger just pushes that to the forefront even more.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Pounding sound means progress – Convention Centre

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Earplugs on offer

Ashley Ford

CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province Russ Anthony, right, hands out earplugs to passers-by at waterfront construction site.

That ringing in your ears is the sound of progress.

For those living and working around the $565-million Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project on the waterfront, the relentless pounding of steel upon steel is going to be jarring their ears for the rest of the year. Get used to it!

VCCEP president Russ Anthony, the man in charge of getting the massive project done on time and on budget — so far it is — by 2008, says the “serious” end of the construction is now under way.

That is, the pounding of about 1,000 huge steel piles to depths of between 14 and 55 metres over the next eight months.

That’s what it takes to support the 68,000-square-metre centre that will be roomy enough to host major global conventions.

Anthony, recognizing the sound may annoy some people, handed out earplugs yesterday and will again today, plus pamphlets explaining the process.

“It is part of our good neighbour policy to keep everyone informed about the project and the pile driving,” he said. “We have held public meetings and have sent out newsletters to residents informing them of the process and thanking them for their co-operation.”

Stephen Peters, manager of the Pan Pacific Hotel, which rubs elbows with the site, is not worried by the pounding. “So far the noise is no more of an inconvenience than the seaplanes taking off and landing.”

He added: “We are putting letters in our guest rooms informing them of the project and will either move guests or compensate them if a problem does arise,” Peters said.

Anthony said there will eventually be four pile-drivers on site — but not necessarily all pounding at the same time. “We will be working five days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he said.

The steel piles come from Japan and will provide a seismically sound foundation. Once driven, the piles are capped and laced together.

Construction of the actual building can then begin. Thousands of densification columns have been driven and concrete caissons to support the extension of the Canada Place road have been poured.

Pile-driving has been completed for an underground parking structure at the west end of the project.

The latest phase of pile-driving will begin at the east end of the site near the existing convention centre and move westward.

The plan is to clear the east side first to accommodate the cruise ships that start arriving at Canada Place next month, Anthony said.

[email protected]

– – –


– Site: 4.5 hectares

– Dimensions: 68,000 square metres

– Cost: $565 million

– Partners: Federal and provincial governments contributing $220.5 million, private sector $90 million and $30 from on-site revenue

– Design: Downs Archambault Architects, Musson Cattell Mackey Partners (Vancouver), LMN (Seattle)

– Pilings: 1,000 main piles and thousands of densification columns

– Jobs: 6,700 person-years during construction; 7,500 full-time jobs when complete

– Economic benefits: Expected to generate $1.5 billion

– Completion: 2008

© The Vancouver Province 2005

State-of-the-art theatre opens

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Nine screens, food fair and stadium seats

David Spaner

CREDIT: Nick Procaylo, The Province The new Paramount Vancouver cost $7.7 million and features four box-office tills, eight automatic ticketing machines and nine auditoriums with a total of 2,144 seats.

There’s a lot to love about a shiny new movie theatre.

In a couple of years, the pristine nine-screen Paramount Vancouver may be as grungy as any old theatre, but the city’s latest multi-screen extravaganza opens its doors today as a thoroughly inviting destination for movie lovers, with comfortable stadium seats, scads of leg room and a food fair fit for a mall.

The $7.7-million, three-storey complex at Burrard and Smithe is “the latest in technology but it’s a very peaceful place to come,” says Nuria Bronfman, a vice-president of Famous Players, the theatre chain behind Paramount Vancouver.

All that peacefulness comes from what Bronfman described, during a pre-opening tour, as Paramount Vancouver’s “techno-zen” quality, including a water wall, designer tree trunks and a simulated stone floor.

“The latest in projection and sound technology,” Bronfman adds, noting that it will be digital friendly.

As important as the complex’s imposing floor-to-ceiling screens is what’s on them.

Bronfman, who programmed gala screeners at the Toronto International Film Festival for 11 years, is acutely aware of the quality of Canadian cinema, including Vancouver‘s strong lineup of filmmakers who always have to battle to get into theatres.

There’s some amazing filmmakers that come out of Vancouver.

“I programmed [Vancouver director Bruce Sweeney’s] Last Wedding for the Toronto festival. I loved that film,” says Bronfman. “We have to develop a market for that.”

The jury, however, is still out on the sort of films that will grace the new theatre.

“I don’t know at this point. We do have nine screens, so we can have a variety of programming. It can sustain a very eclectic mix,” Bronfman said.

While Paramount Vancouver marks the beginning of a new age in downtown filmgoing, it also is another nail in the once-thriving Theatre Row along Granville Street.

To make way for the Paramount Vancouver, Famous Players is closing its Capitol Six, leaving the Granville as the last theatre in a movie-theatre district that once boasted about a dozen cinemas.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Squamish – $800M Condo & Housing Project

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

The proposed $800-million project is the latest for town

Michael McCullough

Squamish could see a new $800-million, 1,350-home community on its downtown waterfront following the recent sale of the site of a closed Interfor sawmill.

Pridham Development Inc., owned by Vancouver lawyer John Norton and environmental consultant Ned Pottinger, has bought the property with the intention of building condominiums and townhomes connected to downtown Squamish across the Mamquam Blind Channel by a passenger ferry.

The parties did not reveal the value of the deal, which is expected to close this summer.

The property was assessed at $6.59 million in 2003, while the mill was still operating, according to a report in the Squamish Chief newspaper.

The redevelopment of the Interfor mill, which shut down permanently last fall, represents the largest of a number of proposed housing developments in and around Squamish spurred by a spike in home prices in the two years since Vancouver won its bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics and the provincial government committed to upgrading Highway 99.

“It’s going to change the whole complexion of Squamish,” Norton said of the increase to three and four lanes on the highway. The drive time to Vancouver will be 45 minutes, and to Whistler half an hour, he added.

“I think there’s going to be an enormous demand by 2007,” when sales and construction of the Pridham development is set to start.

Norton described his development as “resort-like,” with a grand entrance, waterfront promenade and a marina. The buildings will be low-rise, no more than four storeys, but dense by Squamish standards. He predicted three-quarters of the buyers would use it as a vacation property.

“I think it will all be built out by 2010,” Norton said.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland said of the proposal, which would require rezoning from industrial to residential use.

However, there is a consensus that the waterfront land would be best redeveloped as housing, which would support the viability of downtown businesses, and tie in well with the District of Squamish’s own plans to develop a retail and residential neighbourhood on its nearby, 31-hectare “Nexen” waterfront site, Sutherland said.

There is always concern over the need for jobs and economic activity when an industrial site is replaced with housing, he added, but the district is taking steps to open up more land for industrial use towards the north end of the community.

Squamish and neighbouring communities have seen a flurry of development proposals over the past two years, including:

University Heights — as many as 960 housing units will be built on the 97-hectare site of Sea to Sky University.

– Garibaldi Springs — Townline Properties is building up to 600 townhouses and detached houses in conjunction with a golf course.

– Britannia Bay — A subsidiary of Vancouver-based McDonald Development Corp. is selling at least 200 existing and proposed single-family homes in the old mining town of Britannia Beach.

Porteau Cove — The Squamish Nation has taken initial steps to develop a large strip of waterfront that under the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s community plan could hold as many as 1,000 homes.

Meanwhile, activity has picked up at developments already under way, such as Burrard International and Parklane Homes/Tanac Development’s subdivisions at Furry Creek, now about one-third built out to its maximum 900 homes.

Retail development is also moving forward at an unprecedented rate. A new 7,897-square-metre Wal-Mart store, Home Depot and factory outlet mall are planned for the Squamish Business Park, and are in various stages of approval.

Simon Hudson, an agent with Re/Max Sea to Sky Real Estate, believes the market can sustain all the new development.

“The last four months in real estate have been as busy as it’s ever been in Squamish,” he said, and that’s despite a dip in interest from Vancouver-area buyers because of road closures resulting from highway construction. Hudson expects sales activity to intensify once the upgrade is complete, which is when many of the proposed developments will come on the market.

Developments such as the Pridham site, with their high-density housing, will attract buyers commuting to Greater Vancouver and make Squamish more of a bedroom community than it is today, but the development activity is creating more jobs in Squamish too, he said.

Housing still solid investment, bank says

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

A TD economist says there’s little evidence of a speculative bubble in the real estate market

Eric Beauchesne

OTTAWA — Fears that the current housing boom will go bust or that today’s homeowners are over-leveraged are “largely exaggerated,” a major bank argues.

Housing is still a solid investment, TD Bank concludes in a report Wednesday that tries to put to rest what it concedes are widespread worries.

“While a modest cooling in the housing market is in the cards for this year, it’s still on a solid foundation because there is very little evidence of a speculative bubble,” said TD economist Carl Gomez.

One fear is that homebuyers who have been lured into the market by low interest rates will be deeply hurt when rates rise, the report noted.

However, most homeowners still have fixed-rate mortgages and as such are insured to some extent against the risk of rising rates, it said.

And when the Bank of Canada resumes raising interest rates, fixed mortgage rates will likely rise less than short-term rates.

Most variable rate mortgage holders could also simply lock into a fixed-rate mortgage if rates headed higher, it also said.

Further, even if rates were to rise it would initially only result in an increase in the proportion of money that goes toward interest and principal, not to an increase in monthly payments.

Regardless, the risk of a substantial increase in rates is not likely, because inflation is not the threat that it was when the last housing boom in the late 1980s was undercut by surging interest rates, it said.

TD predicted that future interest rate increases will be at a measured pace.

Another concern is that the condo markets in Toronto and Vancouver have become overbuilt, which has created a glut that will lead to a plunge in prices for that type of housing.

However, TD argued the condo market is supported by a growing trend towards smaller households, and the fact that they provide affordable downtown housing, despite high land prices, for buyers such as younger people and recent immigrants.

The homebuilding industry has also put in place strategies such as the pre-selling of condos before construction to avoid over-building, it added.

“So even if demand suddenly cooled, the risk of a supply overhang would not be as great as previous cycles,” Gomez said.

The report conceded, however, that there could be a drop in prices for smaller condos that have recently sprouted up in some markets because they were designed for young first-time buyers who will make-up a smaller percentage of future potential buyers.

Another “myth” is that home prices will collapse as the large baby-boom generation retires and unloads their larger family homes on a smaller pool of younger buyers, it said.

The baby boom generation spans 20 years, so while older boomers may be pondering retirement, their younger counterparts with growing families will still be looking to trade-up to larger homes.

The analysis, however, assumes that the economy grows moderately.

It forecasts that home prices will rise at an average annual pace of about three per cent over the next decade, which it says translates into an after-tax return of nearly six per cent because there are no capital gains on the sale of a principal residences.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005