More often than not in Vancouver’s real estate cauldron, developers are at logger heads with local residents trying to maintain the character of their community against the onslaught of new towers and increased density.
Roadside rallies, raucous public hearings and lawsuits always seem to emerge as residents realise the magnitude of proposed plans, while development applications make their way through City Hall’s labyrinth.
Not so in the northeast of False Creek, on the lands commonly referred to as the Plaza of Nations and described as the one of the most valuable remaining pieces of waterfront land in Downtown Vancouver.
Here conversation has replaced conflict for a “family of buildings” called Expo Gardens that harmoniously meets the needs of the local community and the wants of the developer – Canada Metropolitan Properties Corporation (CMPC), led by Singapore-based magnate, Oei Hong Leong.
“It’s like dealing with apples and oranges,” said Patsy McMillan, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association as she compared Oei’s group to the other major developer in the area, Concord Pacific.
“Canada Metropolitan has worked with us right from the start and continues a policy of engagement that all of us who live here appreciate,” she said.
McMillan said the developer and its representatives from James K.M. Cheng Architects, approached the association with three different design concepts.
“Our sustainability committee provided input and suggested changes and they were incorporated…most developers don’t do that.
“One of the reasons their plans are sailing through City Hall is because they have our support that comes from their willingness to address the concerns we have,” said McMillian.
Vancouver city councillor Adriane Carr, a founding member of the B.C. Green Party, attributed her support for the project to the backing by the False Creek Residents Association.
“For me to have the False Creek Residents Association come and speak in support of the development is important…they are the people who live by this development,” said Carr, as she cast her vote in favour of the rezoning plans at a public hearing on July 12, 2018.
Carr was also impressed by Oei’s mandate that the project will be sold exclusively to local buyers first and the public amenities it will be providing.
Former city councillor, Heather Deal, who now sits on the Granville Island Council said: “The fact that Patsy came out in favor is important, super important…that’s huge and that bears a lot of weight.”
Vancouver City Council passed the rezoning application by CMPC unanimously, with former mayor Gregor Robertson calling the project “a new crown jewel on Vancouver’s waterfront.”
Mick Slivecko, another co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, said Oei and his development company are “doing it the right way.”
“This is a model that other developers should adopt when it comes to dealing with the local community,” he said.
In contrast, the False Creek Residents Association has had a volatile relationship with Concord Pacific over the past decade over sight lines, density, height of proposed towers and public amenities for the area.
Still unresolved is the issue over a promised waterfront park in the northeast pocket of False Creek which has been more than two decades in the making.
“Our relationship with Concord has improved over the years and going forward we hope to have a similar relationship like the one that we have with Canada Metropolitan,” said McMillan.
In addition to its battles with local residents, Concord Pacific, whose project, sits adjacent to the Expo Gardens development site, also sued Oei, accusing the Asian billionaire of acting in bad faith and breaching an agreement to sell his Plaza of Nations land to them.
The case pitted Oei against prominent Vancouver developer, Terry Hui, the CEO and president of Concord Pacific Group Inc.
After a lengthy court battle, Justice Peter Voith of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed the claim in its entirety describing the evidence and conduct of Concord Pacific’s senior officials as ““problematic”, “unreliable” and “dishonest”.
Concord Pacific, did not respond to requests for comments on this story but it is understood that it has filed an appeal against Justice Voith’s decision.
Oei, for his part declined to comment on the court ruling, preferring to focus his energies now on building his vision.
In an interview with Mata Press Service, Oei said he fell in love with Vancouver when he arrived in the city as it was basking in the glory of its post Expo-86 era.
“I wanted to build something iconic in Vancouver for Vancouver…something that would reflect the green feel of this beautiful city,” said Oei.
“The people who live in False Creek are helping me build this project and my philosophy is local input, local needs and local buyers first.”
Oei’s vision for this new waterfront neighbourhood of terraced buildings of up to 30 storeys includes a community centre, an ice rink for Vancouverites and the Canucks to practice, a child care facility and a gradual amphitheatre for cultural and performing art events,
It will also have 380 units of social housing, a seawall and extensive public spaces suitable for events and festivals, retail stores, restaurants, cafes and breweries with a pedestrian bridge linking the area to the neighbouring Rogers Arena and BC Place Stadium.
The vision for Expo Gardens, went on public display at a community open house held at 750 Pacific Boulevard last Tuesday.
Mata Press is a newswire service based in Vancouver, B.C.
| Mata Press Service