Archive for June, 2006

Gastown balance: Businesses and residents fear a waterfront soccer stadium will undermine the revitalization of their community

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Jon Stovell

The 100 block of Water Street. There are plans for the area that don’t involve a third downtown stadium. Photograph by : Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun Files

Vancouver city council is scheduled next week to make a decision that could change for the better or worse the future of Gastown, one of Canada’s premier heritage districts and an area that has, until recently, been treated as an afterthought by city staff and various city councils.

At stake is a decision on whether the city should fast-track the Vancouver Whitecaps’ proposal for a controversial downtown stadium to be built on a podium over the CP Rail tracks.

However, the true impact of this decision will be borne by the many businesses and residents of this nearby community who are sure that the stadium and the inevitable other podium developments planned by the Whitecaps will undermine the significant revitalization already underway in their neighbourhood.

At issue for many of these businesses and residents is the necessity of a third stadium in the downtown peninsula. With both B.C. Place and General Motors Place only four to five blocks away, Gastown is already well versed in dealing with the impacts of nearby stadiums.

Why should the city sacrifice the last remaining piece of prime waterfront land to build yet another stadium?

If B.C. Place is suitable for the B.C. Lions, why is it not good enough for the Vancouver Whitecaps? If B.C. Place is going to be torn down in a few years, why don’t the Whitecaps and the Lions get together and build a new outdoor stadium on existing B.C. Place land? Why isn’t the city helping them out?

The second issue for many is why this stadium must be built over the railway tracks.

The Whitecaps and CP Rail both talk about how the tracks will never move, but is that true? The tracks don’t really go anywhere and are simply used as a parking lot for shunting or shifting cars around. If that’s the case, why don’t they simply move this activity to somewhere closer to the port?

Why does this activity need to take place on such valuable land? Land whose value would increase by 20 times over if the tracks were moved or relocated?

Conversely, if the tracks are necessary and critical, why should we suddenly be compelled to build over them in a way that may reduce their flexibility or expansion and permanently cut Gastown off from the future of the waterfront?

If the tracks are moved, what kind of possibilities would that create for this land and for Vancouver?

The Gastown Business Improvement Society has developed plans for new mixed-use development that would include a greenway adjacent to the heritage buildings, both highrise and low-rise residential developments, new affordable housing, new Triple A office buildings as well as some new cultural amenities or theatres.

In other words, in place of one stadium the city would unlock a wealth of value and interesting possibilities that would be more conducive and sensitive to the nearby heritage community and benefit all the citizens of the city, east and west.

Of course, before you can say Yes or No to either a stadium or other potential ideas, the city needs a comprehensive plan to analyse what would be the best use of this land. This is a reasonable idea and one that city staff has recommended to council.

They have indicated that the many issues identified in the initial review of the stadium would be best solved as part of a broader review of the entire area in consultation with other stakeholders and landowners. The Vancouver Port Corp., the largest landholder in the area, has agreed.

This not only presents the Whitecaps with an opportunity to resolve some of the issues with their stadium, but to also elaborate on their plans for the remainder of the railyard lands to Main Street.

This type of planning is not something new and is consistent with the way that any project this size would be treated. It also follows on the advice that the Vancouver Whitecaps got before they bought the rail land — that it was “somewhat of a long shot,” in the words of city planner Larry Beasley. The Whitecaps organization was told that this would be a long process due to all the difficulties with the site and yet it still went ahead.

When council comes to its decision, it will surely weigh these and other factors in determining the appropriate course of action.

In a recent poll commissioned by the Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition, more than 70 per cent of Vancouver residents surveyed were in favour of the city initiating a planning process to determine the best use for this site and in looking at other possible locations in the city.

It is to be hoped that city council will stop and listen to its staff, and to these and other voices and make sure the proposal for a stadium goes through a comprehensive plan before being considered further.

Jon Stovell is with the Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


CMHC OK’s interest-only and 35-year mortgages

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Jim Jamieson

The CMHC is making it easier for people close to qualifying for a mortgage to get into Greater Vancouver’s red-hot housing market.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. announced it is eliminating high-ratio mortgage insurance application fees and offering insurance for mortgages with longer amortizations and more flexible repayment options –including an interest-only product.

“I think it will open up financing to more people than would otherwise be able to get in the market,” said economist Helmut Pastrick of Credit Union Central of B.C.

“Certainly in high-cost markets like Vancouver, first-time buyers are having a more difficult time.”

The interest-only option is offered for up to the first 10 years on a 25-year mortgage. It’s available only to borrowers with good credit. For the final 15 years, the entire principal and interest must be paid.

Christina Pughe of Vancity Credit Union said there are sufficient safeguards to stop borrowers from getting in over their heads.

“Folks would still have to qualify for this mortgage as if it were amortized,” she said. “If you were just qualifying on an interest-only mortgage, you could get into a much bigger mortgage.”

Incomes normally rise over time, making a higher payment 10 years into a mortgage more manageable — although rising interest rates are a wild card, Pughe said.

Pastrick said rates aren’t expected to climb much in the next three to five years.

Interest-only loans have long been popular in the U.S. CMHC also introduced extended amortization periods of up to 35 years.


25 years 30 years 35 years

Monthly payment $1,215 $1,130 $1,075

Reduction in payment n/a $85 $140

Total interest $175,000 $217,000 $261,000

Source: CMHC (Assuming a $190,000 mortgage)

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Home Depot, Winners sign up to RISE

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Development will be third-largest retail centre in city

Ashley Ford

Architect’s drawing shows what Grosvenor’s new retail-condo development will look like at Cambie and Seventh.

International property giant Grosvenor is now out of the ground with RISE, the city’s third-largest retail centre.

The project bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues and Cambie and Yukon has attracted three of the biggest names in retail — Home Depot, Winners and Save-On Foods as anchor tenants.

In essence, the development coupled with others nearby such as Best Buy and Canadian Tire and more retail going in along Main and Cambie are creating a new “mid-town” retail centre.

Grosvenor is a privately-owned international property group headed by the Duke of Westminster, for many years the richest person in Britain, although now third wealthiest behind Indian industrialist Lakshim Mittal and Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich.

The $120-million RISE will combine 200,000 square feet of retail with 92 rooftop, live-work townhomes.

It will only trail Pacific Centre and Oakridge in retail size and service the fast-growing residential communities of Fairview Slopes and southeast False Creek that will eventually house the 2010 Winter Olympic Village plus other planned housing developments.

“It will rival Oakridge when completed,” said Andrew Bibby, Grosvenor chief development officer. “Perhaps what is most interesting is that we initially intended it to be a retail development only but the city proposed we add two levels of live/work units.”

Bibby said Save-On was long looking to come into Vancouver and at first Home Depot said no, but then changed its mind.

“We started talking with Winners fairly recently and the result is 90 per cent of the retail space is spoken for and we only have some small shop places left,” Bibby said.

The development is also strategically situated between two future transit stations — at Broadway and at Second Avenue — on the coming Canada Line that will link Vancouver International Airport and Richmond with the downtown waterfront.

Home Depot will have a 78,000-square-foot operation, offering products and services specifically designed to appeal to the surrounding urban neighbourhood.

Winners and Home Sense will occupy 60,000 square feet and sit atop Home Depot.

Save-On will occupy 45,000 square feet at the northwest corner facing Cambie and 7th Avenue.

There are 500 underground parking stalls for retail customer and another 100 for residents.

At street level, RISE will be home to a mix of boutiques and cafes, and is designed to be both pedestrian-friendly and bike accessible.

The 92 live-work rooftop homes will be in a garden setting that will include almost 0.8 hectares of roof landscaped green space. The project is set for completion late next year.

Grosvenor has been in Vancouver since 1951, when it announced its presence with the purchase of Annacis Island on the Fraser River. Its investments can be found in the Americas, UK and Ireland, Europe, Australia and the Pacific Rim. It manages or has interests in about $17.3 billion worth of real estate.

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Wireless Media Revolution

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Marc Saltzman

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Deposits returned in Varsity condo project

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Fiona Anderson

VANCOUVER SUN FILES The former Varsity Theatre was town down earlier this year. A condo project in its place has been postponed due to costs.

The unprecedented rise in construction costs has claimed its first Vancouver victim — the Varsity in Point Grey Village.

The proposed 19-unit condominium project, which took its name from the 65-year-old theatre on West 10th Avenue it was to displace, pre-sold last October. But by the time its developer Salient Group sought tenders to start building, costs had jumped 20 per cent, Salient’s president Robert Fung said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the landmark movie theatre was torn down.

“So the way that the current costs and the current revenue are, our lenders have said they are unable to finance and we have no choice but to return deposits,” Fung said.

Construction costs in Vancouver have been increasing at an estimated one per cent each month. But that’s an average, Fung said, and the months between October and February were above average. Costs for the Varsity also rose more than average because, with only 19 units, it is a small project and that’s a “big problem,” Fung said.

“Small projects are very, very inefficient from a construction standpoint and as construction costs are going up the premium [for small projects] seems to be going up also,” Fung said.

The building’s design of steel and concrete also led to higher costs, he said.

“These are unprecedented cost increases that neither ourselves nor the professional quantity surveyors nor the contractors anticipated and, unfortunately, the project has suffered from it,” Fung said.

Fung has been personally calling purchasers over the past few days to let them know the project would not be proceeding as originally planned. However, the project is not dead, Fung said. Salient will be redesigning and re-pricing the project and purchasers will have first dibs on buying a unit at the new higher price. How much higher that new price will be, Fung couldn’t say. But it will be at least 20-per-cent more expensive, he said.

And this time, the units won’t be priced until costs are locked-in, Fung said.

In the meantime, deposits will be returned to purchasers with interest. Salient is also throwing in a bonus payment, amounting to about 15 per cent of the deposit, calculated annually, to compensate the purchasers for their inconvenience.

In January, Anthem Properties cancelled its upscale Bambu development in downtown Victoria because of rising costs. It was 90-per-cent pre-sold.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Sophisticated wiring needs to be installed when home built

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006


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Patio Pots Aplenty

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006


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Bohemia townhomes offer everything within reach

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006


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Crossroads – a whole new look for Broadway & Cambie

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006


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Espana- Living in the village

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006


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