Archive for October, 2009

Making money on Twitter

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Celebrities with millions of followers can command five-figure fees for posting an ad pitch

Gillian Shaw

John Chow and daughter Sally, age 3. Chow says his Twitter blog makes about $40,000 a month. Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

John Chow’s part-time blogging pastime has become a $40,000-a-month revenue generator, and now he has turned his attention to Twitter where he is earning almost $120 a pop for posting paid tweets.

While the $2,600 he has racked up since he started about a month ago may seem like lucrative pickings for the 140-character tweets, Chow is only a small player in a growing online business where celebrity Twitter users can rake in upwards of $20,000 per tweet.

All it takes is endorsing a company, product or service in a tweet, or simply letting an advertiser deliver a prepared pitch to their Twitter followers.

“I’ve made more than $2,500 this month, and my blog is making $40,000 a month,” said Chow, whose describes his work as “making money online by telling people how to make money online.”

“I expect the sponsored [paid] tweets will probably climb to $6,000 next month. My sponsored tweets are going for close to $120, and I’ve done 22 tweets already this month,” said Chow, who has signed up with two companies, Sponsored Tweets and to earn revenue from his Twitter posts.

Companies like Sponsored Tweets and are signing up Twitter users — including celebrity tweeps with followers that number in the millions — with the amount advertisers are willing to pay directly linked to their Twitter popularity and influence.

TV star Kendra Wilkinson, on the cover of In Touch magazine this week showing off her very pregnant belly, is listed on Sponsored Tweets with a fee of $11,765 to reach her almost 393,000 Twitter followers.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian has more than 2.5 million followers, and you have to be an advertiser to check out her fees with But Sean Rad, founder and chief executive, said celebrities with Twitter followers in the millions can command paid tweets in the five-figure range.

“We let them set their own price,” he said. “It’s a market price and people probably play with those numbers all the time, moving them up and down.”

Rad said the paid tweets, which his company limits to no more than one a day per Twitter publisher — the name given to Twitter users who post tweets for money — can range from $1 a tweet to the low five figures.

“You’d get $20,000 once in a blue moon. You do see $11,000 a tweet — it depends on the person and on the following,” said Rad. “Five figures is actually very common in our system, but four figures is more common.”

Rad said his company limits the number of paid tweets to avoid having them regarded as spam. And so far, about one month into its launch, the service hasn’t generated a lot of negative reaction.

“We’re about in-stream advertising, connecting top tier-publishers with top-tier advertisers,” he said. “Most of our ads get retweeted many, many times.”

For Chow, it’s just a new sideline to his already lucrative online earnings.

With a monthly income heading north of $40,000 and recently settled with his wife Sarah Hu and three-year-old daughter Sally (who has her own Twitter account) in a West Vancouver house with a panoramic view of Vancouver, Chow’s lifestyle is far removed from the Downtown Eastside house where he moved with his family from China when he was seven years old.

It was through a self-taught website for a printing business that Chow first started making money online. At first, he was just sharing his experience in overclocking — taking a computer and making it run faster than it was designed to.

That was in pre-Google days, and it caught the attention of a company that was pulling together content from various sites to sell ads.

His first cheque was for $427. The next month that climbed to $2,700, and by the time of the dot-com bust — not long after Chow had refused a $1.6-million offer for his site — he was pulling in $20,000 a month.

The bust put an end to that.

“My income went to $1,500 a month,” he said.

He survived to be online when Google launched AdSense, a service that offers access to Google’s network of advertisers for ads tailored to websites.

“Gradually the income started going back up again,” said Chow. “With Google’s launch of AdSense, the entire advertising market seemed to be revived.”

It was around 2005 that Chow started taking an interest in blogging and he launched a personal blog, using a free WordPress theme.

“I thought I should just use it to update my friends and family, and I described it as the miscellaneous ramblings of a dot-com mogul,” he said.

He said readers started asking how they could make money from their blogs and he gave advice — until a few started e-mailing to ask why he wasn’t making money from his own blog.

“In September 2006 it became a monetized blog,” he said. “My goal was to create a full-time income with part-time work — two or three blog posts a day. The first month it made $325 US, the second month $1,500. It hit its goal in four months.

“Then I decided, let’s pull out all the stops and see what would happen if I do everything possible to monetize this site using every available method and still maintaining a schedule of two hours a day.

“My blog now makes about $40,000 a month.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


Eatery lives up to its beer-based name

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Widely varied bottled selection is accompanied by food choices cooked from scratch

Mia Stainsby

Pivo Public House at 526 Abbott St. is a good place to find a meal before a movie or Canucks game.

Pivo features a variety of ‘comfort pub food’ from Chef Kindsey Porteus.


Overall: ***1/2

Food: ***1/2

Ambience: ***1/2

Service: ***1/2

Price: $$

526 Abbott St., 604-608-0500; www. Open daily for lunch and dinner; brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Hours to extend to 2 a.m. in near future.

– – –

If I’m ever in the Czech Republic, I can go to a bar and be right at home. Pivo!” I’d say and I’d be served a beer.

Pivo also happens to be the name of a bar in Vancouver, serving better-than-average pub food and it’s conveniently within walking distance to GM Place during hockey season.

Good luck on home game nights, though. Pivo Public House is a 60-seater, not nearly big enough to feed masses of hungry pre-game fans (as my partner found on a couple of occasions). But if you watch the game on the telly, no problem. After the rush clears, you can have a steak sandwich or sticky ribs or the popular poutine (made with Kennebec potatoes) and settle in. And of course, when you’re flummoxed looking for a place to eat before a movie at Tinseltown theatres, think Pivo just steps away.

By the way, beer fans, I did a little Googling and found this site for you:, with “beer” translated into 78 languages. Pivo means beer in Azerbaijani, Czech, Croatian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovak and Serbian languages. However, since I’m off to tropical Vietnam soon, where beer will be a necessity, I must learn to ask for bia.

Of course, with a name like Pivo, this bar had better have a few interesting ones. It does. There’s about 35 bottled beers, including Rogue Beer’s Morimoto Soba (Oregon). “It’s a Japanese-style beer made with buckwheat instead of wheat,” says general manager Christian Brown. Iron Chef Morimoto was involved in the development of it. “It’s unlike any. Everyone’s a big fan of it,” says Brown.

In the kitchen, a surprise. Chef Lindsey Porteus is a vegan but there she is, overseeing a menu with items like chicken wings, pulled-pork poutine, cheeseburger, Cajun bourbon chicken. “She’s keeping us healthy even though we want beer and burgers,” says Brown.

“Cooking is cooking, regardless of what it is,” Porteus says. “I wanted to try something different.” Prior to Pivo, she was sous chef at Grub, a diamond in the rough on Main St.

“I guess it’s comfort pub food, except it’s cooked with a bit more love,” she says of her grub. “I cook a lot from scratch and there’s a lot more control over ingredients.” However, she says, she found customers preferred frozen pre-made burger patties to the ones made in-house. “I totally thought they were going to do well,” she says of her freshly made burgers.

Well, I totally liked her chicken sliders with hickory bacon (hard to picture her frying up bacon, somehow), horseradish, cheddar and barbecue sauce.

She slipped some pancetta into the aged cheddar perogies, making it toothsome for carnivores; roasted garlic and spinach hummus screamed health-for-you. When one orders prawn linguine (with capers, white wine and butter) in a pub, it’s with the understanding that the prawns will be rubbery and the noodles limp — that wasn’t the case here. The dish was strewn with fresh prawns, cooked just right.

However, the steak sandwich, despite the certified Angus beef inside, was chewy. And flatbread pizza (with artichokes, prosciutto, caramelized onions and feta) was thin on topping and more bread than pizza.

Next time I need to eat before or after a movie at Tinseltown, I’ll be back.

But can I ask one thing of management? The menu — I must have left my nose mark on it trying to read the faint orange print over the green background. At next printing, can you ditch the orange and go to black?

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Telus drops unpopular fees as wireless competition grows

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Gillian Shaw

Telus Corp. is dropping its controversial system access and carrier 911 fees for its wireless customers, the company announced Tuesday.

It’s a move that appears aimed at making Telus‘ wireless offerings more competitive as it rolls out its new 3G+ network Nov. 5 and takes on Rogers’ dominance in the iPhone market with the addition of Apple’s popular smartphone to its lineup. The company is also adding voicemail as a standard feature on all its plans.

While the changes will only save a few dollars a month on wireless phone bills, the added fees have irritated wireless customers and dropping them is seen as a plus in marketing wireless services. The access and carrier 911 fees add $7.70 to the average Telus wireless bill, and voicemail is $7 as a stand-alone feature and not part of a bundle of services.

The company also announced that it is launching “clear and simple” pricing for both new business and consumer wireless rate plans. Existing Telus customers will have a choice of keeping their old plans or switching to one of the new ones.

Telus has declined to reveal plan pricing details for the Nov. 5 launch of its new network and the iPhone, saying it is closely guarded competitive information.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

BlackBerry-linked wristwatch lets the suits stay on the clock

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Vancouver-raised engineer started work on gadget in university

Gillian Shaw

The inPulse is a wireless-enabled wristwatch that lets BlackBerry users see at a glance who’s calling them or sending e-mails. It doesn’t make outgoing calls or send e-mails.

Eric Migicovshy of Allerta Inc. in Waterloo, Ont., wears an inPulse created by the company.

A Vancouver-born entrepreneur is cashing in on the cellphone driving ban with a wireless-enabled wristwatch that keeps BlackBerry users updated on their messages and calls.

Eric Migicovsky, who left Vancouver to study at the University of Waterloo and launched the startup Allerta Inc. there, released the inPulse wristwatch Monday to coincide with Ontario’s newly introduced ban and just ahead of British Columbia’s ban.

The $149 inPulse watch connects via Bluetooth wireless to the BlackBerry smartphone, delivering alerts for incoming e-mails, text messages and calls. It also vibrates to alert users to incoming calls.

The inPulse started as a team project when Migicovsky, 23 and a graduate of Sir Winston Churchill secondary, was still in university.

“During your fourth year of engineering you get to work on a design project of your own and we were working on a BlackBerry accessory,” said Migicovsky, who studied systems design engineering in the co-op program at the University of Waterloo. “We started with the business community; we got a lot of good feedback and we had a lot of requests to make this into a product.”

Migicovsky came up with the idea for the inPulse while he was on a year-long exchange studying design at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and he worried he’d lose his phone while he was biking over cobblestones near canals. Migicovsky said when he graduated, he and a team of five other engineers created a company to turn the university project into a product.

“Over the last eight to 10 months we have been working at shifting our project from hardware that we hacked together for a school project and turning it into a real production device,” he said.

They are launching the inPulse just as restrictions come into effect in Ontario that make it illegal for drivers to talk, dial, text or e-mail on personal hand-held devices, with Ontario the fourth province to introduce such rules. Legislation introduced in Victoria last week to put cellphone restrictions on B.C. drivers comes into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Migicovsky said the inPulse is being billed as a BlackBerry accessory and not a complete solution for drivers.

“You might have a Bluetooth headset for answering calls, but at the moment there is nothing that lets you view e-mail or text messages without holding the BlackBerry in your hand,” he said. “You can’t input on the watch, but you can glance at it and see if an e-mail was one from your mother and not a really important business e-mail.

“It’s an extension of the BlackBerry, not a replacement.”

The display on the watch doesn’t show the entire e-mail, just the sender and the subject or part of it depending on the length.

“It’s not meant for people to read their e-mail,” Migicovsky said. “It notifies you and gives you a quick summary of what’s going on, it allows you to put it off for later.”

Migicovsky said the inPulse watch is also useful outside the car, letting users who just have a few seconds check for messages without having to pull out their BlackBerry. The inPulse website, at, launched Monday for pre-orders.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Augmented reality coming soon to a cellphone near you

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Its proponents predict it will change everything, allowing users to point a camera at a church and read its history

Roberto Rocha

People are coming to Arcane Technologies’ Martin Dube (left) and Jean-Francois Lavoie to ask about their augmented-reality helmet. — FRANCIS VACHON CNS

A bit over a decade ago, before the Internet became a household staple, virtual reality was the next great wave of technology. Magazines happily foretold that every home would have a VR helmet with motion-sensing gloves, letting families escape to simulated environments right from home.

Today, images of people wearing those massive goggles are as kitsch a miscalculation of the future as The Jetsons. After all, why settle for a virtual reality when you can augment the real thing? Why immerse in a sub-par simulated world if you can take the your real surroundings and upgrade them with all the world’s information?

Hence the dream of augmented reality, a happy confluence of technologies that is starting to creep out of university labs into consumer awareness.

Simply put, augmented reality is this: a live video feed of the real world superimposed with computer-generated images that move in accordance with the camera’s motion. The goal is to make, say, an animated dragon look like it’s part of the landscape.

Its proponents predict it will change everything, from education (point your camera at a church and read its history) to games (hunt zombies walking around in your house) to advertising (see the day’s sales when you aim your camera at a store) to training (gaze at the tangled bowels of an airplane engine and an animated screwdriver shows the part that needs to be replaced).

Expect to hear a lot about it next year, observers say, as cellphones increase in sophistication and computing power, and as advertisers rush to jump in the newest trend in consumer technology.

Though augmented reality has existed in labs for 15 years, the miniaturization of gadgets, both mobile and fixed, is making it ever more accessible.

Arcane Technologies, a company in Quebec City, finally shrunk its AR gear enough for practical use by military and industry.

It consists of a head-mounted display with cameras that take in the surroundings and add more information before the user’s eyes. In one demonstration the device superimposes brain scans onto a Styrofoam head. This allows a doctor to view medical images by manipulating models of the body in the physical world instead of a computer screen.

The company has sold a few units to the U.S. military and to a car company in South Korea. It’s still not making money, but co-founder Jean-Francois Lavoie expects this to change soon.

“People used to think what we do is really cool but they didn’t see what could be done with it,” he said. “Now they’re coming to us and want to use it. They saw videos of it online and know what it can do.”

While this is aimed at commercial use, it’s the evolution of mobile phones that’s accelerating awareness of AR among consumers. The latest models sport powerful graphics chips, global positioning system antennas, internal compasses and motion sensors, allowing augmented reality to be served on the go.

These features, of course, describe the Apple iPhone and its tiny cohort of competing devices, which is where we’re seeing the first uses of mobile AR. A few mobile applications — apps in tech-speak — are already available and more are in the pipeline.

One called Wikitude fetches information from the Internet and overlays it on whatever the phone is pointed at. Aim it at an Austrian castle and a descriptive speech bubble appears with text from Wikipedia.

“These apps are cute, but they’re not very compelling,” said Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environment Labs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “They’re very specific to one type of information.”

He envisions a future where all information is available through one application, much like the web browser is the portal to everything on the Internet. Image-recognition software will be able to detect shapes and faces and fetch public info about them.

A company in Sweden is developing an app that recognizes a person and lets you access her business profile on LinkedIn, her Twitter feed and her Flickr photo album.

But this will take some time to reach the hands of consumers. Devices need to be a little stronger and the companies developing them could use a little more encouragement.

“We’re past this hump where people are seeing AR is a viable technology and investing in it,” MacIntyre said. “Once companies get interested, they will devote resources to fund university research to do this kind of work.”

ABI Research predicts that revenue from AR will grow from $6 million US last year to more than $350 million US in 2014. The growth will come largely as advertisers pay software developers to create apps that promote a brand in some way.

Lego is already doing this. At some stores in the U.S., a buyer can pick up a Lego box, point it at a screen, and see an animation of the assembled toy.

The report also says advertisers will exploit AR by “geo-tagging” objects in the real world. This means programming the precise location of objects for the benefit of a portable GPS device.

For the Wikitude app to be of any use, Wikipedia articles have to be geo-tagged so it knows where you are and which way you’re facing to deduce that you are, in fact, looking at an Austrian castle.

This necessarily involves crowd participation to geo-tag the world’s information. The study by ABI envisions the development of global databases of geo-tagged information that AR apps can access.

“Governments, businesses, and individuals all will contribute information into such databases, so end-users will be able to view information on notable buildings, retail sales or special events, or simply to mark locations of interest,” a summary of the study said.

Another obstacle is the device makers themselves. Apple, for instance, has been shy to give third-party software full access to the phone’s inner workings. Apps can overlay information over live video, but not to access the data in the video itself. This prevents features like facial recognition.

And then there’s the whole question of privacy. What if some people don’t want to be recognized and downloaded onto cellphones?

When asked if AR is simply another hype like VR once was, its proponents are quick to swear to its long-term viability.

“When you walk down the street it’s usually pretty boring,” said Ori Inbar, founder of AR game maker Ogmento in New York City. In fact, he entered the field so he could find a way to blend his kids’ love of the computer screen with the outside world.

“With AR, everything around you comes to life. You can be part of a story that you experience when you’re doing everyday tasks,” he said.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Mexico hopes for better times ahead

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Phil Reimer

Travelling in the shoulder season, which is just before or after the high season, has its advantages. Prices are lower, the crowds are smaller and most people involved in the tourist market are happy to see you.

That was the case last week when I cruised the Mexican Riviera aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.

It’s been a tough year for Mexican Tourism. The recession and the H1N1 flu have hurt them badly. Although it’s been difficult, Mexicans are optimistic about this winter.

The typical Riviera ports for cruise ships are Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Our schedule was turned upside down due to tropical storm Patricia, but we managed to visit all three ports.

Mazatlan, according to our guide Umberto, is the music capital of Mexico and, once you hit the Zona Dorada, or Golden Zone, you’ll encounter club after club and wall-to-wall stores. Along the waterfront, as you travel from Old Town to the Golden Zone, are statues that honour everything from Mazatlan‘s pulmonia taxis, which look like golf carts, to one of their biggest employers, Pacifico Brewery.

As in most of Mexico’s coastal cities, walking is the best way to see the old parts of town. The Church of the Immaculate Conception was worth a visit in old Mazatlan.

I didn’t go, but I heard favourable comments about the beach on Stone Island, the Papantla Flyers show and the day trips to the Sierra Madre Mountains and the towns of Concordia and Copala.

When we got to Puerto Vallarta, we had an authentic Mexican food experience. It started with breakfast at La Canoa at Marina Vallarta. It is a simple family restaurant with true eggs ranchero, orange juice, bottled water and coffee for less than $6.

It ended with lunch, typically eaten at 2 p.m., at 8 Tostada, which was only about a five-minute drive from the port. I started with a marlin tostada followed by a Mexican version of bouillabaisse that was loaded with fresh fish.

Between meals, we drove downtown and then to the old section of Puerto Vallarta.

I spent the morning at the Dolphin Adventure Center where you can swim with dolphins. They are truly amazing when you are up close to them. For more details go to

The best beach in town is in the Romantic Zone. There is also a pier where you can watch local people fish with nothing more than a line and a hook, no rod or reel needed.

Our final port of call was Cabo San Lucas where Mariner anchored offshore and we tendered in.

While many passengers participated in a myriad of water sports, Mauro Butron from Terramar, a well-known tour organization started by former Vancouverite Kim Clapham, had a different idea.

We immediately took off with him for San Jose Del Cabo that is some 50 kilometres down the main road on the way to Fortuna. San Jose represents the true Mexico.

I avoided the tourist stores as Butron took me to authentic Mexican craft stores such as Negri for ceramics, Veryka for Mexican artisans and Antigua Los Cabos for more authentic goods. All are located in the Mission Plaza.

After sitting and talking in the courtyard at La Panga Antigua restaurant, we enjoyed more Mexican food, this time a meal of delicious chicken mole. We then travelled down a dusty, rutted road to a most amazing botanical garden that featured cacti. Of the world’s 1,500 known cacti species, 800 are grown at the garden which is called Wirikuta.

I blogged every day on this trip so if you are interested to read more about the cacti garden, each port and the ship, then go to my blog at

Visit for daily updates on the latest cruise news. You can also sign up for an email newsletter. Phil can be contacted directly at [email protected]

© Copyright (c) The Province

Rent restrictions tough to enforce

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

rules: Bylaws can be complicated due to many exemptions and amendments

Tony Gioventu

A well-run strata shows in the condition of the building and finance records. Photograph by: AFP, Getty Images, Special to The Province

Dear Condo Smarts: We live in Toronto and will be retiring to Vancouver to be near our family in the next five years. We have been looking for a condo in either Vancouver or Victoria and are working with a real estate agent.

The agent has told us that we are best going into a building that does not limit rentals — that way we won’t be restricted on our use — but we are quite uncomfortable with a building that might be all rentals.

We understand you might not be able to answer this question but what is better: a condo that permits rentals, prohibits rentals or controls the limit?

— Adrienne Lefevre

Dear Adrienne: You have asked the million-dollar question that everyone asks regarding rentals in strata buildings.

Rentals are much more complicated than simply whether they are permitted or not and the impact they might or might not have on real estate values.

Your intended use of the strata lot ultimately influences your conclusion.

Our offices assist every type of strata in the province, and there is no hard and fast rule.

There are strata corporations that permit 100 per cent rentals that are model operations. And there are strata corporations that prohibit rentals, some of which are plagued with conflict and some of which are harmonious and efficiently run.

If a strata corporation has an enforceable rental bylaw, and the strata council is reasonably active regarding bylaw enforcement,

the community will likely function well.

Rental bylaws, however, are the most complicated of all to enforce. There are exemptions that apply to family rentals, hardship rentals, owner developer rental disclosure exemptions, and of course permitted rentals.

A strata bylaw might permit only 10 rentals in a 120-unit building, but in addition to those 10, there might be another 15 family rentals, a couple of hardships and, in a newer building, many of the first purchasers might still be exempt.

When a Form B Information Certificate is produced for an owner, one section refers to the number of strata lots that are rented.

It is almost impossible for this number to be accurate, especially in larger strata corporations,

without conducting routine title searches.

Even then, a strata would have to consider whether exemptions are included in the number or not, and if or how those would be reported.

Another new twist to rentals is the amendment under Bill 8 that effectively will exempt a new building after Dec. 31 from rental bylaws for a specific period of time.

If a developer files a proper rental disclosure statement, the building can be restricted from adopting a rental bylaw for that period. For an investor, that would be beneficial as the property’s use would not be altered in that period. But if you are looking for a resident owner community, this will prohibit the strata residents from regulating rentals in that period.

I visit excellent strata communities all over the province that vary in their rental bylaws. They all have one thing in common though. They are consistently well managed and well maintained properties.

It is important to remember when looking at a property that you review the minutes of meetings, do a site walk about, review the strata insurance, the financial operations, maintenance programs and long-term renewals.

If the strata is well run, it will show in the condition of the building, the finances and the effectiveness of its general operations.

Most important, get everything in writing. If you have any questions about engineering reports, alterations, building conditions and building history, put your questions in writing. Insist on a reply in writing, and keep those letters on file.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association, e-mail [email protected]

© Copyright (c) The Province

The future, according to Twitter chief

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Popular social networking site

Size matters: apartments getting bigger, houses getting smaller

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Attitude, too, matters: less was once acceptable and on Whidbey Island we can see its return

Michael Geller

‘Tiny House Movement’ examples are as close as Whidbey Island, in Washington state. There, the Third Street Cottages project in Langley put eight detached homes on four building lots.

Recently, I overheard a prominent Vancouver art dealer questioning the wisdom of Vancouver city council’s decision to allow condominium buyers to rent out a portion of their apartments.

“How can anyone live in such a small space?” he wanted to know.

As an early proponent of the suite-within-a-suite concept, I was eager to respond.

While few of us would want to live in such a small suite forever, most of us have happily lived in very small spaces at some stage of our lives, when those were all we could afford.

Ironically, one of the benefits of allowing apartment buyers to rent out a small portion of their suites is that this might encourage the construction of larger apartments.

Let me explain.

Today, most new apartments have two bedrooms or less. Suites with three or more bedrooms are rare, since most developers worry that they will not be affordable by younger buyers, who make up a significant segment of the market.

However, just as many first-time buyers can afford to purchase a single-family home by renting out the basement, the suite-within-a-suite concept allows someone to purchase a larger apartment by renting out a portion of it.

Think of it as a mortgage helper in the sky. Over time, as the household grows or financial circumstances improve, the suite can be incorporated into the rest of the apartment.

While this idea will appeal to some, it will not be for everyone.

However, as apartment living becomes more acceptable for both “move-up” and “move-down” buyers, I hope we will see more three- and four-bedroom apartments being built close to shopping, transit and daycare. They will accommodate families with young children or households with an aging parent, a caregiver, or older children away at college. And just because these apartments have additional bedrooms does not mean they need to be overly large.

After all, many of the post-war three-bedroom bungalows built across Canada measured little more than 800 square feet. They still had room for a kitchen with an eating area, a combined living/dining room, and three-piece bathroom.

Compare that with today’s “starter home.” It is expected to have a double-volume entry, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a family room off the kitchen, and a two-car garage.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the average size of a Canadian house in 1945 was just over 800 square feet; in 1975, it was 1,075 square feet; and by 2000 it was 2,266 square feet. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States more than doubled from the 1950s to 2,330 square feet in 2004, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970.

During the same period, the average household size decreased.

However, the trend appears to be changing.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median size of a new house dropped to 2,114 square feet in the fourth quarter of 2008, down more than 100 square feet from the first quarter of the year.

In Canada, according to CMHC, the size of the average new house has shrunk to under 2,000 square feet over the past year.

Perhaps in reaction to the “McMansions” that have been built across North America, there has also been a growing interest in very small houses. This has led to the “Tiny House Movement”, which promotes smaller, detached single-family homes that can range anywhere between 65 square feet (yes, 65 square feet) and 750 square feet.

People are joining this movement for many reasons, but the most popular are environmental concerns, financial situations and a desire to simplify one’s life. Devotees can join The Tiny House Village Network and read the Tiny House Newsletter.

This past summer, I went on a pilgrimage to Langley, Wash., on Whidbey Island, where local architect Ross Chapin has designed and built some wonderful tiny houses.

He was able to do this since the local municipality approved an innovative “Cottage Housing Development” zone that allows a doubling of the density of detached homes in single-family zones — provided the ground floor area is less than 700 square feet and the total area is less than 975 square feet.

The Third Street Cottages project was the first to be built under this innovative code. The project is comprised of eight detached homes on four lots; they are approximately 650 square feet, with lofts up to 200 square feet, and are situated around a shared garden with a commons building and tool shed.

Parking is provided in garages and surface spaces separated from the housing.

The houses are one-storey, and although they are similar to one another, each is unique. Nine-foot ceilings, large windows and skylights add to the sense of space.

There is a surprising amount of storage, with walk-in closets, built-in shelves and an attic. Large porches, built-in eating alcoves and small nooks further enhance the livability and design interest.

As I look around our region, I cannot help but think that many people would like to buy smaller detached cottage-style houses such as these, especially if they were developed close to their existing neighbourhoods.

To make this happen, we will need to change our attitudes and zoning bylaws. We will also have to be prepared to share our living spaces and bathrooms, too, just like we did when we were growing up.

– – –

Michael Geller is a Vancouver architect, developer and Simon Fraser University adjunct professor. E-mail: [email protected]

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Luma – Luma a beacon for younger households – a beacon for younger households

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Polygon highrise in Burnaby attracts big crowd on first day of selling

Steven Threndyle

A neighbourhood rarity priced competitively created a first-selling-day lineup outside sales centre.

Low interest rates and prices, and relative rarity in its neighbourhood meant prospects were eager to get inside the Luma sales centre on the first day of selling.

Polygon will install GE appliances, clad in stainless steel, in the Luma residences. It has specific granite for kitchen countertops and marble for vanities. The sales centre displays (below) made the most of the building’s eventual lightin-the-sky function. A vertical blue LED light strip will run the entire building, from base to penthouse.


Project Location: Kingsway and Sperling, Burnaby

Project size: 200 apartments and townhouses, 26-storey building

Residence size: 2 bed, 2 bath, 744 sq. ft. – 935 sq. ft.; penthouses, up to 1,164 sq. ft.

Prices: $354,800 – $699,000

Developer: Polygon

Architect: Buttjes Architecture

Sales centre: 6688 Arcola, Burnaby

Hours: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., Sat – Thurs

Telephone: 604-871-9056

E-mail: [email protected]


Occupancy: July 2011

– – –

There is a giant hole in the ground at the corner of Kingsway and Arcola, right in the heart of Burnaby.

And in the wee hours of Saturday, Oct. 3, prospective purchasers of the homes that will rise from that hole in the ground started lining up around the block to put down a deposit on a condo in Luma, Polygon’s newest highrise project. It looked like 2007 all over again, as deposits were taken on over 100 units, which are scheduled for occupancy beginning in July 2011.

The target market is comprised of first-home buyers tempted by low interest rates, and purchasers are coming from Burnaby, Vancouver and Richmond, says Ralph Archibald, Polygon’s senior vice-president for sales and marketing.

Luma will be the only new highrise in the area in the foreseeable future,” he says.

It is part of a neighbourhood that’s emerging between Metrotown and the updated Highgate Mall, along the SkyTrain route connecting Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby with downtown Vancouver.

Polygon’s advance marketing and advertising promoted a number of suites for as low as $888 per month; definitely an attention-getter. Those 774-square-foot units were gobbled up quickly, but so, too, were the majority of two-bedroom/two-bath units ranging in size from 817 to 935 square feet, with 1,100-square-foot units on the penthouse floor.

Once completed, this 26-storey concrete highrise between Metrotown and Highgate Mall, to the east, will truly stand out — especially at night. The building’s signature feature will be a vertical blue LED light strip that will run the entire length of the building from the penthouses to the lobby.

One of the people in line was Dennis Eng, a sales manager for Telus Mobility. Eng had done his homework, looked at other properties in the area beforehand and wasn’t surprised that so many people were lining up to buy into Luma.

Eng has purchased condos for investment purposes before but this was his first-ever purchase for personal use. He was knocked out by the value that Luma offered compared to other listings in the area, which is beginning to emerge as an attractive suburban neighbourhood. “A few of the blocks to the east aren’t the greatest, but Luma’s location and price certainly looked like a great deal to me,” said Eng.

He found that comparably featured resales less than five years old were generally $40,000 more than the price points offered at Luma.

Indeed, “you have to go back about 20 or 30 years to find a resale for the same price as Luma. The older units are bigger, but they don’t have that nice open floor plan that newer buildings have.”

The presentation centre was buzzing with buying activity, so Eng put down a deposit on an 815-square-foot unit. “I didn’t even look at the display suite, but I was impressed by the open floor plan and general design of the unit.”

Designed by renowned highrise specialists Buttjes Architecture and sleekly modern and high-tech in every way, Luma is an example of Polygon’s commitment to excellence in home-building.

The use of rainscreens, concrete construction, and appropriate roofing and waterproofing are incorporated to keep the elements at bay.

Polygon’s “New Generation” building practices take into account everything from the building’s green footprint to a regular maintenance program. Each home includes a comprehensive 2/5/10-year third-party warranty in compliance with the Homeowner Protection Act.

Each floor has seven units, except for the penthouse, which has been split into four separate residences.

People interested in purchasing high-rise condos often wonder: “What’s the view like?”

Luma’s display suite features a Nintendo Wii-type imaging device, which allows prospective clients to see what the view will be like from each of the 26 storeys. The good views really come into their own from the fourth storey and up. To take full advantage of the views, floor-to-ceiling windows with energy-efficient glazing open out onto spacious patios, especially on the southwest, southeast, and northwest exposures. With each floor another new view opens up, looking below to Metrotown and right into downtown Vancouver, all of the North Shore, south to the Fraser River and east to Mount Baker.

Luma will feature a 2,000-square-foot fitness studio and a lounge for group social gatherings, as well as a garden courtyard on the ground floor. Indeed, extensive landscaping will be in place to ensure privacy from the high-traffic Kingsway corridor. Luma will also have a full-time resident manager who will instantly attend to any issues that might arise.

Kitchens feature granite slab countertops and full-height ceramic tile backsplash. Flat-panel cabinets with designer selected chrome pulls provide storage for pots, pans, dishes and groceries, and the GE appliance package — 30 inch slide-in gas range, energy-efficient dishwasher, 17.9-cubic-foot Energy Star refrigerator and built-in microwave — are kitted out in stainless steel. All units come equipped with a stacking washer and dryer.

Designer bathrooms have soaker tubs, imported marble slab countertops and backsplash, polished chrome fixtures and dual-flush water closets to conserve water. Oversized vanity mirrors are elegantly lit with recessed lighting. To create more privacy, the master bedroom and second bedroom are on opposite sides of the unit.

Despite having some experience buying real estate, this was Eng’s first experience with an opening day sale. His advice: “Do your research in advance and if you see something you like, be prepared to act quickly.”

In accordance with provincial law, all depositers have a seven-day “cooling off period” in which they can get their money back if they are having second thoughts about their purchase.

Polygon’s Archibald says that some buyer interest might be coming from people wishing to avoid the proposed HST next spring. “People who buy now will not pay the new tax,” he says. “Right now, we have a very good selection of homes priced under $400,000.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun