Archive for the ‘Yaletown’ Category

A tribute to urban duress

March 17, 2009

The Beasley

Pass it on.  This is the tagline for a new campaign from MAC Marketing Solutions, the creator of Onni’s condo liquidation sale.  This time, MAC’s working magic for Amacon’s Beasley project in Yaletown.  Some of you might remember The Beasley as the “tribute to urban excellence” that never got off the ground.

At a news conference today, condo marketer Cameron McNeill said most units will see price drops of $100,000 to $250,000.  But in a twist, the rollbacks are retroactive.  Early purchasers, not just new ones, get the benefit of the reductions.

The marketer says the rollback is all about passing on the savings of lower construction costs.  I say hogwash.  The name of the game is profit.  Nobody passes on savings unless they have to. The price reduction is not altruistic, it’s a function of the market.  At higher prices, these condos can’t sell.

The most interesting dimension of the promo is the rollback for the original buyers.  It’s proof of the fragility of pre-sales.  The developer probably realizes many of the early pre-sale buyers can’t/won’t complete on the original prices.  My guess is the developer’s calculated it makes more sense to slash prices across the board than risk the time and expense of litigation.

Let us step back and think about what this means.  Nobody “gives away” profits.  To reduce prices on signed contracts tells you those contracts aren’t secure.   It’s a developer’s nightmare.  What’s the value of pre-sales if buyers can’t close?  This is an industry-wide problem and Amacon is the first to face the music.  The precedent is set for retroactive discounts.

This is a warning sign of trouble to come.  As I’ve said before, the one to watch is Woodward’s.  The clock is ticking.

Liquidation comes to Yaletown

February 1, 2009

H+H Yaletown

Bowra Group is throwing in the towel on H+H Yaletown after 15 “buyers” refused to complete on their deals. In true buyer’s-market fashion, Bowra’s leaving it to new buyers to name their price… so long as offers are subject free.  Hmmm.  Deal or no deal?

Open house is today.  No appointment necessary.  Might be worth dropping by if only for entertainment value.  Unconfirmed reports have Howie Mandel on site to mediate deals.  After that, he hits the River Rock to open for Air Supply.

The inventory toilet flush continues.

Prices aren’t the only thing falling

January 29, 2009

Photo by Payton Chung

Owners at a Concord Pacific downtown condo are commencing legal action after concrete was discovered falling off balconies, Condohype has learned.

A routine maintenance survey at The Aquarius (1199 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver) detected the spalling of concrete from balconies on the 01 elevation posing a serious risk to pedestrians.  The issue was so urgent the strata council ordered emergency repairs to prevent liability and possible harm to the public.

The value of the emergency repairs is estimated at $140,000.  An additional $71,000 will be spent to investigate if similar  problems exist on other balconies in the complex.

In a presentation to condo owners, strata council vice-president Michael Alexander explained that “during original construction, the reinforcing steel bars had been placed too close to the edge and some had rusted from water infiltrating the surrounding concrete, causing pieces of the concrete edge to loosen or fall off.”

On January 13, owners passed a resolution to fund building defect proceedings against developer Concord Pacific and all other relevant parties.  The law firm Lesperance Mendes is representing the owners.  The case hinges on proving the spalling is the result of “a structural defect attributable to faulty design, workmanship or materials provided by any party involved in the construction of the project.”

The Aquarius is one of Yaletown’s elite waterfront condos.  Completed in 1999, the development sits at the foot of Davie Street atop a Starbucks, the Urban Fare grocery store and the Provence restaurant.  In 2000, the condo gained notoriety when former Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear was charged with assault following an incident in the Aquarius fitness room.

Photo credit: Payton Chung

The grace of being unknown

January 6, 2009

Grace

Quiet times in condo land. At Westcoast Homes, the section once known as the seven extra pounds of the Weekend Sun is down to three pages, one being a full-page promo for Polygon.

There’s an article on Yaletown’s Grace, which is closer to a real luxury condo than the “melamine luxury” sold in most showrooms across the city. It fits that Grace has no sales centre and the developer, James Schouw, isn’t a media darling. The Sun calls Schouw a “Westcoast Homes unknown” — a gentle way of saying he doesn’t buy ads. (Don’t worry, James, you’re in good company: I’m also a Westcoast Homes unknown.)

Downtowners probably know Grace as “that place” on the corner of Drake and Richards. Its look isn’t for everybody but I like that it’s not the cheap cladding and glass of the Concord Pacific philosophy. What do you think? You’ll find pictures at Architecture Wanted.

BTW, if you want to see me fail at being funny in 140 characters or less, you can follow me on Twitter. Be warned, it could be bad.  There was a time when Crystal Pepsi seemed like a good idea.

As heard at the Opus public hearings

November 20, 2008

This Opus Hotel rooftop thing is something else. I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m amused by condo-dweller rage.

Some people are talking about Yaletown turning into Whalley. About never sleeping again. About gang violence. About linen trucks picking up linen.

Consider these comments made by residents at the hearings:

Some people who have been given the opportunity to speak should not have been given the opportunity. One young man who spoke is from Kitsilano and has no stake in the neighbourhood. He should have not been allowed to speak.

This is about an 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. party outside your window. If you have children, you know how hard it is to get them to bed. How can you get them to bed when there’s noise? The future of the neighbourhood is under siege.

Noise is an issue. It’s intensely loud at night. I sometimes have to close my windows. I have a responsible job and need to get good sleep. Blaring music, people running up and down the lanes, kicking things, vomiting — it all goes on here. It’s gonna become Granville Street.

This is all real folks. I went through the public hearing videos to bring you this. Yeah, I’m that cool and have that much time on my hands. This is why you love me.

The rooftop revolution is on

November 20, 2008

Vancouver City Hall

Spent yesterday trading emails with Dino Celotti, the project manager behind the Opus Hotel rooftop patio. As you probably know, city council voted to reject the patio proposal after residents in adjacent condos worried it would bring about the apocalypse.

Tellingly, these fears don’t seem to have much life outside of public hearings. Read the comments over on CBC and you’ll find plenty of opinion in support of the patio and making Vancouver a more fun city. Ask your friends and they’ll probably tell you the same.

This support isn’t lost on Dino Celotti. Here are highlights of what he shared with me about the decision and where things go from here:

I think the truth is that the majority of Vancouver, even Yaletown residents, wanted this proposal to go through, but a few opposition residents banded together and created a very powerful campaign that mobilized those willing to voice a negative opinion.

Although disappointed about the outcome, we value the process and will return to meet with the city planning staff and the new city council to ascertain whether or not to proceed on some revised basis with the support of this new council. We will continue to be ‘good neighbours’ to the surrounding residents as we value our presence in Yaletown.

If the public wants to help and be part of the policy creation they should by all means contact the city planning department and ask them how to do it. I will be calling them tomorrow to ask the same question.

As far as things stand now, the Opus proposal is dead until the city comes around to developing rooftop patio guidelines. No word on how many pages this document will involve, but I’d wager a loonie it’s more than four but less than seven. Probably Times New Roman font.

Anyway, I’ll be contacting the city about how people can get involved in shaping the policy. If it becomes a question of majority rule at public hearings, the NIMBYs will always win. This culture must change.

Opus Hotel loses patio bid

November 19, 2008

City Council rejects Opus Hotel rooftop patio

Way to go, condo yuppies. You’ve made your point: Yaletown is no place for a rooftop patio. Last night, city council swallowed your hype and rejected the Opus Hotel proposal to bring more fun to our no-fun city. You know, because a district with 21 restaurants “isn’t ready” for the “dangerous precedent” of a rooftop bar.

Vancouver, you embarrass me. I love you but you embarrass me.

More on this tomorrow.

Yaletown revolts against the lifestyle

November 10, 2008

Photo courtesy of Opus Hotel Vancouver

Oh how this is so Vancouver!

Residents in trendy, condo-laden Yaletown — Vancouver’s definitive “lifestyle” neighbourhood of swanky bars, bronze bodies and designer dogs — are furious over plans for a 250-seat rooftop patio at the Opus Hotel. One local dweller fears the “open-air eatery” will draw hordes of Cactus Club-type people “yelling and goofing around and partying” long into the night.

Hoping to curb the rage of nearby condo strata councils, Opus proposes to “muffle” noise and visible drunkeness by way of a tent and bamboo perimeter. (Never fear, local voyeurs — the barrier will not obstruct your ability to see Van Damme snort a line at a room window, provided he chooses to snort a line at a room window.)

Residents argue their rights should come first since their homes went up before the Opus came and ruined Christmas.

Public hearings continue Tuesday, November 18 at City Hall. In total, 140 people are scheduled to speak. Unofficial estimates suggest the majority of those opposing the patio are Cactus Club-type people who bought into Yaletown for the precise purpose of yelling, goofing around and partying long into the night.

Residents of 212 and 283 Davie Street are encouraged to post comments.

Sexy? You must live in Yaletown

July 31, 2008

A professor once told me that most newspapers are only good for lining bird cages and wrapping fish heads. It’s pretty cynical thinking but when a paper runs a story about “neighbourhood sexiness research,” I’m eager to find the nearest available salmon.

My rage today is all the result of the media’s fascination with a non-story conjured up by some speed-dating website you’ve never heard of. As reported in the Province and on News 1130, FastLife.ca says Yaletown is “Canada’s sexiest neighbourhood.” Fast Life came up with this dubious fact by looking at the postal codes of its members and packaging the data as news.

As real estate coverage has shown us, no news story is complete without “expert” commentary. Without hesitation, the press checks in with a Fast Life spokesman to shower us with talking points about the “youth” and “affluence” of the Yaletown population. You know, because that’s what sexy’s all about.

Got a birthday in the 1990s and a trust fund from your parents? Congratulations, you automatically acquire the hotness of Monica Bellucci.

It’s enough to make you want to drown yourself in a Bellini.

Urbane at Seymour and Nelson

May 7, 2008

999 Seymour

In 1988, there was this low-budget movie called The Invisible Kid about a teenage scientist who discovers invisibility and uses the power to spy on girls’ locker room. Being the eighties, the film was marketed as a comedy. Back in the day, the trivialization of sexual misconduct was fodder for big laughs. Ho hum.

Anyway, it’s a no-good movie but I like the idea of having invisibility powers. With invisibility powers, I could be a fly on the wall at all of the condo brand consultancies. Imagine being on the inside of the marketing deliberations for a project like 999 Seymour, a pre-sale condo destined for erection in downtown Vancouver.

The 999 Seymour campaign goes against the grain of most local condo promotion. Rather than sell the benefits of the neighbourhood to the condo, the ad pumps the benefits of the condo to the neighbourhood. The overhead shot of Seymour and Nelson as it exists today coupled with the tagline the corner is “about to change for good” speaks to the promise the condo hopes to bring. As the copy describes, it’s the promise of “urbane downtown living from the $390s.”

How did this brand come about? Why isn’t it awful? How come they forgot the photo of a coffee? Where are the sexy urban professionals? Or should I say sexy “urbane” professionals? Oh, I’m so very confused. This ad should be worse than it is, but it isn’t. Am I going soft in my criticism or is the softening market having a quality effect on the hype?

As the correction draws nearer, my days of blogging may be numbered.