Archive for January, 2014

Chinatown: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden finding place in history

Friday, January 31st, 2014

National designation sought

Sandra Thomas
Van. Courier

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and adjoining park are one step closer to being listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places thanks to a statement of significance from the park board.

Jeannette Hlavach, a board member of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society, said the city must first add the attraction to the Vancouver Heritage Register. Support from the park board means a lot towards achieving that goal.

“Chinatown was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places in 2011,” said Hlavach, a former heritage planner for the City of Vancouver. “That was very important.”

Hlavach was involved with that effort, as well as the Millennium Gate and Keefer Memorial Square projects.

The garden was created in time for Expo ‘86 to celebrate Vancouver being the twin city to Suzhou, China, and for 15 years Sun Yat-Sen was the only one like it in the world outside of China. The garden is named after Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, a nationalist leader considered by many to be the “father of modern China.”

According to the garden’s history, he stayed in Vancouver for three extended visits while travelling the world raising money and support for the Chinese nationalist movement. The large number of Chinese nationalists who lived in Vancouver helped finance the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Sun Yat-Sen became the first president of the Republic of China.

Funding for the garden came from the provincial, Canadian and Chinese governments, as well as Vancouver’s Chinese community. Later, when more money was needed, organizers turned to the city’s affluent West Siders and businesses.

Architects Joe Wai and Donald Vaughan designed the outer park, while architect Wang Zu-Xin conceived the inner garden with help from the Landscape Architecture Company of Suzhou.

In total, 52 master craftsmen travelled to Vancouver from China to create the attraction modelled after a scholar’s garden from the Ming Dynasty, which dates back to the 15th century.

The men brought with them 950 crates of materials and constructed the garden using traditional methods, which excluded the use of glue, screws or power tools.

In 2011, National Geographic listed the attraction as one of the top 10 city gardens in the world, and in 2012 it was named Canadian Garden of the Year by the Canadian Garden Tourism Council.

Hlavach said the fact the garden is somewhat hidden makes those awards more special. She added Ming Dynasty-style gardens are extremely complex and typically aren’t as manicured or picturesque as gardens found in Japan, France or England.

“They can look a little higgledy-piggledy, but then you realize there’s a symmetry to them,” said Hlavach. “There are small details worked in and the idea of yin and yang plays heavily so every time you see something round, somewhere nearby will be something angular.”

Hlavach said that same principle applies when smooth items are combined with rough and dark with light.
“It’s the universe in harmony,” said Hlavach.

Hlavach explained because the garden will be “listed” a heritage site rather than “designated,” means it will be business as usual when it comes to the day-to-day operations of the attraction.

Once the city lists the garden on the Heritage Register, the next step is for the provincial government to recommend it for the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

“There’s a long road ahead of us, but being added to that list will raise our profile,” said Hlavach. “We want the garden to become an attraction for tourists and some people do plan their itineraries around national historic sites.”

© Vancouver Courier

Victoria eyes a mini-boom

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Developers kick-start biggest cycle of speculation since 2006 peak

Bill Cleverley

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Transportation network vital to business as population shifts to south of the Fraser

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Valley in motion

Sanor Gyarmati / Jen St.Denis

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Hotel market heats up

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Doldrums ending as private investors check into wetern markets

Peter Mitham / Frank O’Brien

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Credit Suisse breaks ground on $200 million tower despite no tenants

Friday, January 31st, 2014


Credit Suisse Real Estate Asset Management and SwissReal Group revealed their confidence in Vancouver’s office market by launching construction of their long-planned $200 million Exchange office tower at 475 Howe Street despite not having any tenants lined up.

“The race is on,” effused marketer and CBRE Canada president Mark Renzoni. “The race to secure the first deal, the race to complete construction and the race to welcome the first tenants”

Swiss architect Harry Gugger and Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson joined Renzoni at the launch January 23.

The 31-storey, 369,000-square-foot building is set to be the second-tallest LEED platinum office building in Canada and it is the country’s first LEED platinum heritage conversion. Leed platinum is the highest designation for sustainability by the Canada Green Building Council.

The project incorporates part of Vancouver’s former stock exchange building, which was built in 1929. Its construction employs an estimated 400 workers.

The building will use half the energy of a traditional office building, said Credit Suisse. The design includes solar thermal panels, storm water retention and reuse and geo-exchange thermal regulators.

Rainer Scherway, director at Credit Suisse Real Estate Asset Management, said the company usually invests in properties that are fully developed and leased.

“This office tower represents the first time in North America that we are confident enough to build a major project from the ground up,” Scherway said.

Marketers expect most of the building to be leased before construction is completed in 2016.

Gugger also designed London’s Tate Modern Gallery and the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.

Under-construction Tsawwassen mega-mall hooks major retail anchor

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Frank OBrien

Outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops will open a 145,000-square-foot outlet, joining Walmart and Rona as anchors, in the giant shopping centre complex being developed in South Delta.

The Tsawwassen First Nation joined with development partners Ivanhoe Cambridge and Property Development Group January 24 to mark the start of construction as well as announce larger tenants for two malls scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.

U.S.-based Bass Pro Shops will be one of 16 anchor tenants for Ivanhoe Cambridge’s Tsawwassen Mills, a 1.2 million-square-foot mall at Highway 17 and 52nd Street. It is the first B.C. outlet for the outdoor retailer.

Names of other anchor tenants for Tsawwassen Mills were not released, although developers say they will be a unique mix of premier fashion brands and factory outlets.

The mall, modeled after CrossIron Mills in Calgary, will also include an 11,000-square-foot food court.

Property Development Group, which is building the 550,000-square-foot Tsawwassen Commons adjacent to Tsawwassen Mills, introduced Walmart (108,000 square feet) and Rona (44,000 square feet) as anchor tenants.

Together, the malls will be the second-largest shopping centre in B.C.

Daniel Fournier, chair and CEO of Ivanhoe Cambridge, said his company’s $600 million commitment shows they are in this for the long-term.

He said up to 4,500 construction jobs would be created at the mall development’s peak, while 3,000 permanent jobs will be available at the mall, which will incorporate Coast Salish artwork and design components.

“And let me be clear – it’s full speed ahead,” he said. “Get ready for a shopping experience like you’ve never seen before.”

The shopping centres are being built on TFN land under a 100-year lease agreement.

The Western Investor

Contrary to Popular Perception, Business is Booming in the Burbs

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Ryan Berlin

There’s a growing perception that the role of Canadian suburbs as places in which to live, work and do all the other stuff in between is diminishing.

Using data from the most recent census and National Household Survey (NHS), we thought it would be a good idea to see if this was the case here in this region. Specifically, we want to address this question: what role has each of the suburbs and the historical urban core played in accommodating employment and population growth here in the Lower Mainland?

Between 2001 and 2011, employment in the Lower Mainland grew by 15% through the addition of 135,501 jobs. Over the same period, the region’s population grew slightly faster—at 17%—with the Lower Mainland adding 365,555 new residents. Employment in the region’s core (the City of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, the North Vancouvers, West Vancouver, Richmond and Greater Vancouver Electoral Area A, which is primarily UBC and the University Endowment Lands) grew slower than the region-wide average, at 10%. In comparison, employment in the suburbs (all other municipalities outside the core from Hope up to Lillooet) grew at two and a half times this pace (25%). Also of note is the fact that the burbs added more jobs in absolute terms than the core: 77,110 net new jobs versus 58,371 in the core. As a result of the faster growth outside the core, the burbs’ share of total employment rose to 39% from 35% over the past decade.

Other non-census, non-NHS data sources confirm this spatial pattern of growth. In particular, if we consider patterns of business formation throughout the region, we see that the 75% increase in the annual number of incorporations in the burbs since 2001 has outpaced the 56% increase in the core.

This trend toward faster growth in the region’s suburban communities was also evident in the pace of population change. The 21% growth in the region’s suburban population was almost twice the 12% growth in the core municipalities’ populations.

Considered in absolute terms, the 136,810 people added to the core over the past 10 years was well below the 228,745 new residents accommodated in the burbs.

Again, this pattern is confirmed through other data sources. Specifically, housing starts data between 2001 and 2011 show that 52% of the region’s starts were in the burbs.

This differential pattern of growth in the places of work and places of residence (and all of the places we travel to in between) has resulted in a dramatic diversification of commuting patterns over the years. Consider this: in 1971, the census reported that 22% of workers living and working in the Greater Vancouver Regional District commuted to a job in Vancouver, and a further 37% of those living in the city also worked within the city. While 6% of workers living in Vancouver commuted to jobs in one of the surrounding municipalities, 35% of the region’s workers commuted between non-Vancouver municipalities.

By 2011, Vancouver’s prominence as the region’s employment core had declined, for both Vancouverites and those in the rest of the region. The recent NHS data shows that the share of the region’s commuters travelling to Vancouver has dropped to 16%, with the proportion of commuters travelling between non-Vancouver municipalities increasing substantially, to 56%.

For the Lower Mainland at least, it seems that reports of the death of the suburbs have at best been greatly exaggerated and at worst been dead wrong. Indeed, much of the region’s growth in employment and population over the past decade has occurred outside of its historical urban core.

As we grapple with the questions of whether or not-and where-we should invest in transportation infrastructure, whether we should pursue economic development strategies locally or regionally, and where and how future additions to our regional population should be accommodated, it’s important to recognize the realities of our growing and changing region. Only then will we be in a position to make sound decisions that will benefit our communities and our economy in the coming years.

© 2013 Real Estate Weekly

The Immigrant Influence, 2014 – Asian immigration affecting the local housing market

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Susan M Boyce

Just how much is Asian immigration affecting the local housing market? Are Mainland Chinese purchasers to blame for pushing housing values so high that many locals can’t afford to buy?

It’s an ongoing, often hotly debated topic in Metro Vancouver. And a conclusive answer seems even more elusive as Mainland China’s government progresses firmly along the path of change.

“It gets a lot of press. But I believe its impact is a bit overstated,” says Richard Bell, a Vancouver lawyer and principal of Bell Alliance, which offers a Global Immigration Services branch to help newcomers establish residency.

Like many industry watchers, he believes the idea is more urban myth than verifiable reality: “Yes, this demographic has an effect on the very high end of the housing market, but that segment is a very, very small part of the overall marketplace—one, maybe two per cent.”

However, he adds that within last six months, if a west side Vancouver property sold in the $2 to $2.5 million range, the odds are “strong” that the purchaser was Asian.

Buyers Return

After virtually disappearing between April 2012 and fall of 2013, Asian buyers are once again making their presence known. We’ll see if the annual rush to purchase real estate during Chinese New Year resumes this year.

If it does, there’s a sense that it will happen at a more moderate pace. “I believe the unrealistic pricing created by Asian buyers has run its course,” Bell says. “They seem to have reached a point where they simply don’t believe there will be further significant increases in values within prices ranges they’re buying in.”

Gaining a North American education for their children now seems to be the most important motivation. That’s why Bell believes luxury condominiums might well surpass high-end single-family houses as the residence of choice.

“It’s a story that will unfold over the next couple of years, but when the focus is education, where do you want to be? Close to universities—and that market is now primarily high-end condos.”

Many of these educational immigrants are continuing a trend to flexible, new ways of dealing with financial realities. “I see lots of Asian families where mom’s here, the kids are here and going to school, but dad is still in Asia,” Bell says.

The reason is pure economics. “It’s tough for dad to make the same money in Vancouver that he would in Asia. It’s not a place you come to get rich, but is a place with an exceptional lifestyle and where young people can get a good education.”

And not just any education. This demographic wants the emphasis on English skills that will allow them to participate in a global environment where English is the language of business.

Looking Ahead

Bell is enthusiastic about possibilities for the future. “Stability from the new political regime in China may well be opening some tremendous opportunities for Vancouver,” he says. “We are the gateway, the connecting city between North America and China.”

In fact, he suggests Vancouver may well be underselling its potential. “We have a beautiful city, high education values, and we’re attracting attention globally. And none of that is going to change.”

© 2013 Real Estate Weekly

Opsal 1785 Quebec 165 units in a 24-storey tower by Bastion

Thursday, January 30th, 2014


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Economic & Housing Forecast 2014, West Van Hottest market, 50% of Buyers over $2M are foreigners

Thursday, January 30th, 2014


In late 2012 after home sales in B.C. fell to the lowest level since the late 1990s, doomsayers were calling for a severe real estate correction. That didn’t happen. In 2013 sales steadily improved and prices stayed relatively flat. Could 2014 be a shakeup year? To find out, The Province interviewed real estate experts to learn the key trends that will influence next year’s market.

1. Looking back to see ahead — what happened in 2013?

The key word to describe real estate in B.C. this year, experts say, is balance. According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada ’s CEO and president, Ross McCredie, it was predictable that sales would start slowly in 2013. Buyers were on the sidelines, expecting interest rates to rise. And there was uncertainty ahead of B.C.’s spring election. The surprise victory of the B.C. Liberals was welcomed by real estate investors, McCredie said, and sales pushed higher through the summer and early fall. Pent-up demand has been brought into balance now, said Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, and sales dropped back below long-term averages in November. Muir said B.C.’s market could soften over the next six months before picking up in the latter half of 2014. “This is the second year of slow economic growth,” Muir said. “And there was really no employment growth this year, so that has to have some impact.”

2. What’s hot now?

West Vancouver is the hottest market in the Lower Mainland with a nine-per-cent jump in the single-family home benchmark this year, to $1.9-million. And while Vancouver’s west side was down three per cent in the spring, by November the tony market had rocketed back to gain three per cent year-over-year, at nearly $2.1 million for a single-family property. Areas of Burnaby are also heating up, and Whistler has bounced back by 2.2 per cent year-over-year, as the American economy recovers and foreign buyers re-enter the market, McCredie said. Among the priciest Lower Mainland markets, Richmond was coolest this year with a 2.7-per-cent drop to $930,000 at the single-family benchmark.

3. Where will it be hot in 2014?

McCredie pointed to immigration from Asia as a bullish factor that will press single-family home prices higher across Vancouver and into Burnaby. While official data on rates of foreign investment is difficult to track, McCredie believes that in Greater Vancouver foreigners account for about 50 per cent of purchases above the $2-million price range. McCredie said Vancouver’s market is driven by almost twice the rate of foreign investment as Toronto, the next most popular Canadian market for offshore buyers. “The reality is that even wealthy Canadians are priced out of Vancouver markets now,” McCredie said. “We see a lot of foreign demand in very specific neighbourhoods like Point Grey. And we think in 2014 you will see continued demand east of Main in Vancouver, and even out to Burnaby.”

4. Why will it be hot?

Some international economists and journalists in the United States recently warned that Canada tops the list of nations with housing markets most likely in dangerous bubble territory. But McCredie and Muir said the doomsayers are wrong. According to McCredie, Vancouver’s condo market has already corrected and will stabilize at current levels. And as the city rapidly rezones and densifies, pressure will increase on the remaining single-family home lots, with demand outpacing supply, he said. As factors that will support Vancouver’s market, McCredie pointed to a relatively strong economy in Canada, ultra-cheap borrowing costs, wealthy baby boomers who are relocating to cities and supporting their children’s’ property purchases, and growing foreign investment.

5. Interest rates — sizzle or fizzle?

B.C.’s real estate market is supported by historically cheap interest rates that are largely tied to economic factors outside the province. In efforts to stem a financial collapse in 2008, officials in the United States dropped lending rates as low as possible. Because Canada ’s economy is linked so intricately with the U.S. ’s, the Bank of Canada must follow suit. There are signs that U.S. officials finally are attempting to curtail extraordinary stimulus efforts, but with cautious steps. That means Canada ’s central bank likely won’t raise interest rates until 2015, giving borrowers more fuel to buy real estate. Muir sees banks raising five-year mortgage rates by 0.5 per cent in 2014. But uncertainty around the U.S. ’s unprecedented banking policy could still rile financial markets and impact Canada , he said. “The big risk I see right now is longer-term interest rates being driven much higher than expected,” Muir said. McCredie predicted borrowing costs won’t rise meaningfully before 2015 in B.C., and even then, “it would take a three- or four-per-cent” rise to trip up Vancouver’s housing market. Read More Here:link

Nothing is nicer on a cold winter night than curling up beside a warm fire. Gas fireplaces, in particular, can offer a clean burning option with the convenient click of a button.

A recent survey of household energy use found that 23% of Canadian single- and semi-detached, and row-housing reported having a gas fireplace. And of those, 22% reported using them every day once the temperatures dip. Depending on the size and location of your fireplace, the added warmth can help ease the heating burden on your furnace, causing it to turn on less frequently

But will that save you money? Not necessarily, according to research undertaken at the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology (CCHT).

The study tested gas fireplace use and its impact on both furnace use and total gas energy consumption in the CCHT’s R2000 certified research house. Researchers wanted to find out if operating a gas fireplace would reduce total gas consumption. It also looked at whether running the furnace fan continuously had any benefits on heat distribution to rooms away from the fireplace compared to having the fan automatically turn on only when the furnace was required to provide heating for the house.

The results showed that, while the furnace came on less frequently during fireplace use, total gas energy consumption overall actually increased by approximately 10-16%. This is because the gas fireplace, which had a measured efficiency of only 76%, was offsetting the operation of the furnace with an efficiency of 94%. The study also found that even when the fireplace was not in use, overall gas energy use was 6% higher compared to the control house because of the gas consumed by the small, but continuously running, pilot light.

While running the furnace fan continuously was expected to distribute heat from the fireplace to other rooms more effectively than when run intermittently, the researchers found that operation of the fan had very little influence on the temperatures in other rooms in either mode. In fact, not only was there no difference in heat distribution, but continuously running the furnace fan actually increased daily electrical energy use from 6 kWh to 11 kWh, which can be significant given that typical Canadian homes use a total of 15 to 30 kWh per day.

Gas fireplaces are a wonderful way to enhance the beauty of your home, providing a warm ambience during our cold Canadian winters. But using your high efficiency furnace as the main method of heating your home will save you energy and money in the long run.