Archive for August, 2005

New home-sales record this year

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Rising rates no impediment

Ashley Ford

Led by record-breaking performances in B.C. and Alberta, Canada‘s resale housing market is well on track to setting another selling record this year.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said yesterday that sales of existing homes over the first seven months of the year have already eclipsed last year’s performance to date.

Agents sold 40,973 units with a value of $10.1 billion in July, 1.4 per cent over last year. The numbers are seasonally adjusted.

The average price of a re-sale home was $250,567, up 11.8 per cent from July last year.

However the buoyant economies of B.C. and Alberta have seen seven month unit sales rise by 5.5 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively.

Some 64,864 homes were sold in B.C. between January and July compared with 61,505 a year ago.

The value of sales however rose by 19.4 per cent to $2.1 billion from $17 billion reflecting the ever-rising cost of housing here.

The average cost of a resale home in B.C. rose 13.2 per cent over the first seven months from a year ago to $323,758 compared to $286,024.

CREA economist Gregory Klump said the anticipated increase in the bank rate early next month will have little immediate effect on the housing market.

Over the longer term there will be some small impact, he conceded. “The series of small interest rate increases that are expected later this year and in early 2006 will put a small dent in consumer confidence, and will gradually slow housing activity and price gains next year,” he said.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Resort suites sell in four hours for $50 million

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005


A new Ucluelet oceanfront resort sold out in just four hours Tuesday, with $50 million in real estate changing hands.

Prices for suites in the 132-unit Black Rock Oceanfront Resort ranged from $235,000 to $825,000, the resort said.

“There hasn’t been an offering quite like Black Rock Oceanfront Resort on Vancouver Island,” Mike Duggan, president of Boutique Hotels of British Columbia and a principal of the development, said in a news release.

“Buyers from across North America, but predominately from British Columbia recognized the inherent value of this site and this offering.”

Managed by Boutique Hotels of British Columbia, the resort occupies 3.4 hectares of a 40-hectare planned resort community. There will be a $100-million investment in the property of which 20 hectares will stay in its natural state.

Boutique Hotels of British Columbia is manages the Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, Oswego Hotel in Victoria, The Cove Beach Resort in Kelowna and The Outback near Vernon.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Looking out on a future past Grade 12

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

EDUCATIONAL PLANNING: With university costs skyrocketing, it’s time to start saving

Wendy Mclellan

CREDIT: Arlen Redekop, the Province Vancity financial planner Leon Lau wants to set up RESPs for his own two children.

It’s almost time for the kids to get back to school and, even if September still means buying new crayons and shiny princess lunchboxes, paying for post-secondary education looms in the not-too-distant future.

Most parents want their children to have some education after Grade 12, but putting aside the money can be difficult. At the same time, the cost of attending college or university in Canada continues to outpace inflation, rising by an average of 2.7 per cent this year, according to a recent survey by an Ontario-based education savings plan provider.

The study, published by USC Education Savings Plans Inc., estimates university students living at home will need $7,826 for this year’s tuition, fees, books and other costs such as transportation, clothing and entertainment. If they live on campus, the cost increases to an average of $14,500.

A four-year undergraduate program beginning this fall will cost an average of $33,354 ($61,554 if they live on campus). But, for babies born today, the cost could be more than $70,000 ($124,000 if they don’t live at home), according to the report.

“Post-secondary education costs have risen almost four per cent each year for the last 18 years,” said Michael Geraghty, president and CEO of USCI. “A summer job and part-time work during the school year is no longer sufficient to support a student’s education and living expenses. Families need to find ways to start saving earlier.”

Geraghty admits that it’s tough for parents to find the extra money to save for the kids’ education, but the federal government does reward people who manage it with a grant that pays a 20-per-cent annual rate of return on deposits to registered education savings plans (RESPs).

“Despite the grants, people aren’t taking advantage of RESPs,” he said. “They might be thinking about making the mortgage payments or paying for living expenses, but it’s also important to save for education.”

The government offers a 20-per-cent Canada Education Savings Grant on the first $2,000 of annual contributions to registered plans. That’s $400 a year, on top of interest earned on the money.

“It never gets easy to save,” Geraghty said. “But the choice is to save now, or take on debt down the road. The government is not helping you pay off the house, but it has recognized the importance of an education.”

He said research shows 70 per cent of jobs require some form of post-secondary education. Another study, by an analyst with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada in Ottawa, calculates the value of a college of university degree is $1 million over the course of a career.

Leon Lau, a financial planner with Vancity, said even small deposits — $50 a month — to an RESP will build over time so parents can help pay for their children’s education.

“As a parent, you want to teach your kids to be self-sufficient, and having an education is one of the main ways to do that,” said Lau, who has two young daughters.

“People have lots of priorities — paying off debt, saving for retirement — but if you have a little money to even start an RESP, it would be better than delaying.”

Lau wants to set up an RESP for his own children, ages 3 and 1, but money is tight and he may have wait and try to catch up later.

“My wife is just back to work after a year on maternity leave and there is no money,” said Lau, who lives in a townhouse in Coquitlam that his family is quickly outgrowing.

“Daycare is expensive and it’s not cheap to live in the Lower Mainland. It’s overwhelming.”

When the kids are in school and daycare costs drop, he hopes he will have extra money to save for their future education. Putting aside birthday money or gifts from grandparents will also help, he said.

“I want to have an RESP, but it’s not something I’m stressing about,” Lau said. “If you can’t do it, you’re forfeiting $400 a year and that’s not the end of the world.”

In fact, he said, paying off other debt, or contributing extra to a retirement savings plan may be better options for some families.

Some of his clients believe children should pay for some of their post-secondary education themselves. They may provide free room and board, and some of the tuition costs, but their children have to pay for the rest with part-time work and student loans.

He said parents should research the terms and conditions of the various RESPs available, as well as their fee structures, before signing a contract. Some plans have restrictions on withdrawals and what kind of education programs qualify.

“If parents want to help, they find a way,” he said. “If they have to remortgage, they will do it. But the grant is a terrific incentive to set up an RESP.

“I would like to pay for the whole cost for my kids, and I will find a way.”


An RESP allows parents — or anyone — to save money for post-secondary education. The plan is registered by the federal government and contributions are made in the name of one or more beneficiaries.

Contributions are not tax-deductible, and income earned on the money is added to the student’s tax return.

Deposits can be made until the child reaches age 21 and must be withdrawn when the student reaches age 26.

If the child doesn’t pursue a post-secondary education, the RESP can be rolled into an RRSP (as long as there is room) without penalty.

The government pays a grant of 20 per cent on RESP deposits to a maximum of $400 a year until the child reaches age 18, for a total maximum grant of $7,200 per child. The grant amount was increased this year for families with lower incomes.

RESPs can be topped up — and the grants received — if the plan is set up when the child is older, but there are limits. The maximum annual RESP contribution for each beneficiary is $4,000 and the lifetime limit is $42,000.

For more information on RESPs, the Revenue Canada website is
or talk with your financial institution or an advisor.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Housing boom will end, Greenspan warns

Sunday, August 28th, 2005


NEW YORK — The U.S. housing boom is sure to end eventually, slowing spending and possibly leading to a drop in house prices, U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday.

“The housing boom will inevitably simmer down,” he said in a speech at the close of a two-day symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

“As part of that process, house turnover will decline from currently historic levels, while home price increases will slow and prices could even decrease.”

Greenspan’s comments suggest economic growth would slow as the housing surge subsides, reducing pressure on central bankers to raise interest rates.

A day earlier, Greenspan urged investors not to forget about the possibility that asset prices may fall.

The eventual end of the boom will cause U.S. consumers to take out fewer home-equity loans, giving them less money to spend.

That in turn may increase the savings rate and ease the import-driven current-account deficit, he said, adding that the shift needn’t be “wrenching” if the economy remains flexible.

“Home-equity extraction will ease and with it some of the strength in personal consumption expenditures,” Greenspan said.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 per cent of the U.S. economy. Consumers have tapped about $1.62 trillion US of their homes’ value through equity loans since 2001 and spent as much as half of that, economists say.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

To believe or not believe in the real estate bubble

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Some wait to cash in when bubble bursts, others think real estate is reliable

Tom Everitt

Most adults don’t share the same enthusiasm as my one-year-old daughter when it comes to bubbles.

Over time, we discover that, unfortunately, what goes up must come down and that every bubble bursts at some point, leaving behind only soapy suds and a lingering memory of their beauty.

We all eventually discover some bubbles can be downright scary. Certain bubbles can not only be physically dangerous, like the fatal kind hopefully not found in your bloodstream any time soon. Others can be financially dangerous like the most famous bubble in recent time –the tech bubble. Remember that big, glorious gluttony of wealth? My former cyber-millionaire compatriots and their empty bank accounts remember that bubble for sure.

This brings us to what could be the most terrifying bubble in recent memory — the elusive real estate bubble.

It is terrifying because its pop could potentially diminish the net worth of virtually

every homeowner in North America and it is elusive because not even the world’s leading economic experts can agree on whether or not it actually exists.

Across our continent, economists, bankers, brokers, politicians, investors, homeowners and tenants are clearly divided into two parts.

First there are those that believe the bubble is real and that the North American economy, perhaps even the world economy, will come crashing down when interest rates inevitably climb. (We’ll call these people the bubblers.)

And then we have those who think that the real estate game has changed forever and that current values are simply reflective of the times. We’ll call these people the non-bubblers.

Bubblers come in all shapes and sizes and should be avoided by new home-buyers. These former ”friends,” co-workers or family members would rather shake their head in disgust when you proudly tell them of your real-estate purchase rather than simply congratulating you.

They will also inform you in no uncertain terms of their devious plan to buy a property or two (probably yours) when the market crashes (aka. The Bubbler’s Master Plan).

They then continue their verbal assault by reminding you of the price of your piece of property only three or four years ago or, even worse, how much they paid three or four years ago for the exact same one as yours. Bubblers proudly point to the fact that 17 subject-free offers on a one-bedroom clunker with faux laminate does not a rational real estate market make.

Some bubblers are either bitter because they didn’t snap up that three-level waterfront condo in 1999 for $300,00 or they cashed out of their own home at the “peak” of the market in 2003 and are still making their landlord richer to this day.

Then there are the non-bubblers. Considering 2005’s record pace for real estate sales in B.C., there seems to be an awful lot of non-bubblers out there.

Non-bubblers are those positive people that, for better or for worse, are filled with a sunny disposition and brimming with optimism for the future of B.C.

Non-bubblers ignore the pessimists and love to point out that Vancouver continually ranks as one of the best cities in the entire world to live in regardless of the increase in both real estate prices and squeegee kids. Non-bubblers argue that CMHC rules have changed permanently regarding things like deposit requirements (no money down), tax implications and eligibility.

These same shiny, happy people also note that while interest rates may eventually go up, they don’t think it will happen overnight and even if they do rise quickly, non-bubblers insist they are fully prepared and have a mortgage broker on speed-dial so they can lock in for 15 years at 5.68 per cent at the drop of a hat.

Finally, non-bubblers appear to be willing to throw all their eggs into one basket and insist that, for a great many people who have crashed and burned with various other kinds of retirement funds, real estate has been tagged by many investors as the most reliable and tangible RRSP of the new Millennium and, therefore, as safe a bet as any stock on the TSX.

So who’s right? Well, that’s the trillion dollar question folks. One need only Google “real estate bubble” to pull up more than 368,000 web links of arguments from both sides of the bubble conspiracy.

Interestingly, Warren Buffet, the world’s second richest man and one of the only men to have correctly predicted and avoided the tech bubble, is a bubbler for the U.S. market.

Others, like chief economists Helmut Pastrick from the B.C. Credit Union and Patti Croft from Vancouver’s Phillips, Hager & North, are on the non-bubbler side, pointing to a lack of conditions necessary for a bubble to exist in British Columbia.

Me? I’m going back to blowing bubbles with my daughter. They are a lot less daunting and more fun to figure out.

Vancouver real-estate agent

Tom Everitt maintains an Internet site at

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Resort condominium hotels one way to own recreational property

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Resort condominium hotels are a no-hassle way to own recreational property, while enjoying the opportunity to generate earnings and capital appreciation, two executives involved in an Ucluelet resort write

Mike Duggan and James Askew

In the last 10 years the number of people searching for and purchasing recreational real estate in North America has grown tremendously, not just for the proverbial cabin in the woods or cottage by the sea, but for ski and lake and golf resorts.

One of the fastest growing and most successful sectors of the recreational real-estate market is the resort-condominium hotel sector.

This sector has proven popular throughout North America for several reasons:

– No-hassle method to own recreational property.

Opportunity for capital appreciation.

Opportunity for monthly revenue while owner is not in residence.

– High quality amenities.

– Community resort experience.

– Ownership opportunity on prime locations typically reserved for million-dollar-plus properties.

– Fully furnished and maintained properties.

Whistler has been the leader in the resort-condominium hotel sector in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, with significant international hotels attracted by the marquee value of affiliation with one of the world’s great resorts as well as the return on thee investment.

Since the Pan Pacific Lodge in Whistler was developed, it has been a leader in average daily rate and resale values achieved.

There are some important decisions that need to be made in order to create a successful resort development for each stakeholder in the resort: developer, buyer, hotel manager and visitor. One of the keys to creating a great resort condominium hotel is putting together a rental management program that works well for all, so that each stakeholder has a win-win situation. For example, by creating an owner usage program that discourages full time owner residency, the hotel manager can be assured of a minimum number of available room nights to rent out per year. In this way, they can afford to hire the best quality staff to run the resort. As a result, the paying guests receive a high-touch experience and are prepared to pay more for the room, which leads to the owner and the hotel manager achieving higher revenues. As a by-product, the owners also are ensured a first-class experience when they are in residence.

For a buyer of recreational property, particularly those looking at resort condominium hotels, it is important to determine what their needs and goals are for the property. Understanding how and when they intend to use the property will help owners determine the right type of resort condominium hotel ownership and usage structure that is best for them.

Here are the key questions potential buyers should ask:

1. Who will manage my property when I’m not using it?

This is very often the most important ingredient in a successful resort condominium hotel. As most owners typically have their properties in some kind of rental program when they aren’t using it themselves, an experienced and effective hotel management company is key to driving guest occupancy and room night rates, which ultimately determines the revenue generated for the owner.

2. How does the rental revenue get split between owner and manager?

The best revenue split model is one called a “top line” model where the owners and manager split the nightly revenue before operational costs are factored in. In this way, the owner isn’t responsible for potential hotel manager cost over runs.

3. How often can I use my property, and how do I book it?

This depends on the rental management agreement that forms part of the disclosure statement accompanying your purchase agreement. Owner usage can vary from as little as 60 days per year to unlimited owner usage. For some resorts, a very limited usage is the best way to attract a name brand international hotel chain such as a Four Seasons or Pan Pacific. In other circumstances where rental revenue isn’t as critical to the owner, an unlimited owner usage program may be a better solution. It all depends on your needs as an owner. For many owners, usage up to 100 days per year is more than adequate to satisfy vacation needs. To ensure the hotel manager is able to maximize hotel occupancy, owners should be prepared to book their desired usage up to six months in advance.

4. What costs am I responsible for in the resort?

Usually, owners are responsible for any costs associated with a typical residential condominium suite. As such, owners share in the proportionate overall costs of maintaining the common areas of the building. In well-structured resort condominiums, items such as spa and restaurant would be managed and paid separately by the resort management group or a third party operator.

5. What kind of amenities should the resort have?

One of the key benefits of a resort condominium hotel is the quality of the resort amenities. Such features as a fitness centre, lounge, pool and hot tubs, are required to ensure the resort looks and feels like a high-end resort hotel. A destination spa, fine dining restaurant and lounge, and meeting facilities may also ensure that the resort competes successfully with other hotels in the region.

In conclusion, with due diligence, resort condominium hotels are a very popular option for people to enter the exciting and rewarding world of recreational real estate. In order for buyers to assess which type of structure is right for them, it is important to consider their needs as both a user and investor in the property. The resort condominium hotel concept is a proven and effective means of ownership due to its ability to give owners a luxury resort ownership experience in prime locations without the need to invest millions of dollars in the process, and by helping create a revenue stream when owners are not in residence.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Convention Centre – pile driving to be complete by Dec. ’05

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Michael Scott

CREDIT: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun There will be about 900 piles — about 49 kilometres worth — holding up the expanded convention centre.

The good news is that the pile driving at the convention centre expansion, the first major part of the $565- million project, is going pretty well — about 195 piles have been completed since the job began April 22.

The bad news is that there are another 690 to go.

The whump-whump-whump of the pile driving — audible to anyone working or living along the shore of Coal Harbour — is definitely the sound of progress, (however irritating it may be to the construction site’s neighbours).

It starts up early, around 7:30 each workday and continues with clock-like regularity until supper time. The only time during the day that the pile driving stops is when the large steel tubes hit what construction executive John Stewart politely calls “obstructions.”

Unlike the marine piles at the northern edge of the site which are driven down through endless layers of silt, the landlocked piles must pass through several metres of fill and construction refuse from decades past, before they hit the homogenous underlying strata.

Stewart’s obstructions include boulders excavated from other downtown building sites, that were carted to the water’s edge and dumped; as well as bits of old buildings torn down in the middle of the last century to make way for new office towers. The biggest piece the pile drivers have hit was a boulder about the size of two refrigerators side by side.

When a pile hits an obstruction, usually three to five metres down, it has to be yanked out and the offending boulder or chunk of Edwardian office building excavated, before the process can start again.

The completed piles are 55 metres long, which means that the convention centre will one day be seated atop almost 49 kilometres of steel stilts. The piles are milled to order in Japan and delivered in 12-metre and 18-metre lengths.

Sometimes the piles are spliced to the right length in advance at the contractor’s yard in North Vancouver and then barged across Burrard Inlet. This is the preferred method: standing up a 55-metre steel tube, about a metre in diameter, and banging it in. Sometimes that’s not practical, so the contractor, Vancouver Pile Drivers Ltd., has its crews install the piles in shorter sections welding new pieces on at the top as the work progresses.

That operation, known as a field splice, takes two welders the better part of a day, working on the seam at chest height in the middle of the site, with the new portion of the pile towering above them.

But even when one driving rig is idle — waiting for an obstruction to be cleared or for a field splice to be completed — there are three others on site to keep on bang-bang-banging away.

If the work stays on schedule, pile driving will be complete by Christmas, a modest consolation for all the Coal Harbour condo residents and hotel guests (and maybe even the odd business executive) who yearn to slumber undisturbed.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Beware the impact of rising interest rates

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Ashley Ford

CREDIT: Ric Ernst, The Province Despite having the highest real-estate prices in the country, Lower Mainland buyers continue to flock to the condo market

Beware the impact of rising interest rates, potential homebuyers are being warned.

With rate increases now a virtual certainty, Lower Mainland mortgage experts and realtors are urging would-be buyers to be very deliberate in nailing down their financial arrangements.

Rein Webber, a broker with The Mortgage Group in Vancouver, said in an interview yesterday the anticipated rate increases will probably not slow down buying demand here.

But borrowers should carefully study the full financial implications of their obligations, he said.

He was commenting on a report from Royal LePage Real Estate Services showing that condominium purchases by first-time buyers are forecast to double in the next three years.

The report also said that many new homebuyers could benefit from doing a little more real-estate homework as they take the ownership plunge.

There are clear signs buyers don’t really understand the implications of even a small increase in interest rates.

Royal asked new homebuyers: “If you have a $150,000 mortgage and the interest rate increases from five per cent to six per cent, approximately how much more would you pay over the next 10 years?”

Only 18 per cent answered correctly — $10,000 to $15,000 — while about 40 per cent said they didn’t know the answer.

Webber said mortgage rates are still in the favour of buyers, but he cautions about over-committing one’s financial resources, especially high-ratio borrowers.

Webber said that variable mortgage options continue to be very popular with the lowest rate around 3.4 per cent compared to a five-year term of 4.4 per cent.

“The variable option is more popular and there is protection for consumers in that they can lock in at any time. But not all lock-in provisions are the same and borrowers should read the lock-in provisions carefully,” he said.

“My advice is that if you can afford to pay the five-year payment rates, even if you have taken a variable rate, do so as it provides a psychological buffer and you are not going to be impacted by any sudden rate rise.

“There is the added bonus that you are paying down the principal more quickly,” he said,

Despite having the highest real-estate prices in the country, Lower Mainland buyers continue to flock to the condo market with B.C. having the highest numbers of first-time buyers in Canada over the past five years

“Escalating prices have made condominiums virtually the only affordable option for first-time buyers,” said Bill Binnie, president of Royal LePage Northshore Vancouver.

Vancouver can be a difficult market to navigate for first-timer buyers due to the shortage of inventory, high level of demand and frequency of multiple offer situations.”

It’s not always only a question of affordability either. Binnie says buyers must carefully consider their future home needs.

“We have seen a number of first-time buyers re-enter the real-estate market earlier than they expected because they had not anticipated rapid changes occurring in their lives.”

The savings they may have made on the initial purchase can be quickly swallowed up by moving costs, taxes and legal fees that come into play when changing a house, he said.


A mortgage of $100,000 on a 25-year amortization can change as interest rates rise:

variable at 3.4 per cent = $493

a five-year rate at 4.4 per cent = $548

a five-per-cent rate = $582

a six-per-cent rate = $641

a seven-per-cent rate = $702

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Home buyers should be more aware of the cost of interest rate hikes

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Fiona Anderson

First-time home buyers are unaware of what increasing interest rates could cost them, according to a survey carried out by Royal LePage Real Estate Services and Scotiabank.

The survey asked 711 first-time buyers how much more they would have to pay if interest rates went up one per cent. Thirty-nine per cent had no idea.

Only 18 per cent answered correctly that if mortgage rates on a $150,000 mortgage increased from five to six per cent, total payments over 10 years would increase by between $10,000 and $15,000.

“First-time buyers are well aware of the possibility of interest-rate increases and factor them into their decision to buy, but their awareness on how an interest-rate increase could affect their future finances is surprisingly low,” said Phil Soper, head of Royal LePage.

“Nonetheless, with interest rates expected to drift modestly higher over the coming year, it’s important that first-time home buyers have a strategy in place to properly structure their borrowing,” Soper added.

The Bank of Canada is expected to start raising interest rates on Sept. 7 and to continue raising them over the coming year by anywhere from one to 1.5 percentage points.

But the most critical consideration for first-time buyers is not the amount of interest paid but rather the monthly payment, said David Chung, manager of residential mortgages at TD Canada Trust.

Even in a variable rate mortgage, monthly payments don’t change unless the rates increase by a certain amount, Chung said. So with the current variable rate of 3.45 per cent a mortgage of $100,000 translates into a payment of $496 per month. If the rate goes up by a point, monthly payments stay the same but about $20 more of the payment goes to interest instead of principal.

“To most people that’s not a big deal because in the first five years the priority is not to pay off the mortgage,” Chung said.

The priority is surviving the five years until it’s time to renew the mortgage. And at that time, most first-time buyers are much better off financially, with higher paying jobs and sometimes a spouse to help pay the expenses.

It appears any thought of rising interest rates is not stopping young buyers from entering the Vancouver housing market.

In a report also released Thursday, Royal LePage found that low interest rates continue to make home ownership possible in Vancouver, Canada‘s most expensive city from a home-buying point of view. However, escalating prices means a condominium is often the only affordable option for first-time buyers.

Downtown Vancouver and Yaletown continue to be popular areas, where entry-level buyers, spend $200,000 to $220,000 for a one-bedroom condominium.


Royal LePage Real Estate Services and Scotia Bank asked 711 first-time buyers this multiple-choice question: If you have a $150,000 mortgage and the interest rate increases from 5% to 6%, how much more would you pay over the next 10 years? Only 18% answered correctly:

39% – Didn’t know

17% – $5,000 -$10,000

18% – $10,000-$15,000 (correct)

13% – $15,000-$20,000

4% – $20,000-$25,000

2% – $25,000-$30,000

2% – $30,000-$35,000

3% – $35,000-$40,000

1% – Refused

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Concord Pacific to build two towers on CBC site

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Broadcaster plans to upgrade facility on Hamilton Street

John Bermingham

The CBC is pushing ahead with plans to develop its site in downtown Vancouver, despite an 11-day lockout of 5,500 employees across the country.

The CBC has applied to the city for permission to add two highrise condo towers and renovate the CBC/Radio-Canada building at 700 Hamilton St.

The project includes 17-storey and 29-storey residential towers housing more than 400 condo units, new retail space and a five-level parkade.

It’s undeveloped floor area,” said John Greer, the city’s project facilitator.

“The CBC building probably only takes up a third of what can be done.”

The CBC block is bounded by West Georgia, Cambie, Robson and Hamilton, and the towers will stand side by side facing Robson.

Architect Joost Bakker said the development will allow the CBC to upgrade its broadcast facility.

“The very reason CBC is doing this is to create this integrated newsroom and to allow them to bring in a state-of-the-art facility,” said Bakker.

CBC is selling the development rights to Concord Pacific to finance the newsroom overhaul.

“They want to have a building that’s more accessible and has a friendlier public face,” he said. “It’s a bit of a hostile building at the moment.”

The public area and open spaces within the building and outside on the plaza will be expanded.

The plans include a proposed courtyard and music stage, along with a blank, interactive “soundscape” wall to display graphics, as well as a new glass TV studio.

“The [CBC] building will remain. They’re not going to demolish it,” said Greer. “But they’re going to do a lot of improvements to it.”

City staff have given approval in principle to the scheme.

The application goes before the Development Permit Board next Monday. The meeting is open to the public.

The major sticking point in CBC’s dispute with the Canadian Media Guild is that it wants to increase contract workers and reduce the number of full-time employees.

© The Vancouver Province 2005