Calgary Herald: ‘Field of Dreams’ grows within gritty Gastown

October 25th, 2008

Paris Annex in Vancouver – ‘Field of Dreams’ grows within gritty Gastown 

Barb Livingstone
Calgary Herald
Oct 25, 2008 

CAPTION: Robert Fung of Salient Group in Vancouver. 

CAPTION: Courtesy, Salient Group: An artist’s rendering of the proposed Paris Annex project on Hastings Street.

PROJECT: Paris Annex, which is offering 16 suites in the all-new minimalist concrete/glass building that will be attached to the adjacent historic Paris Block – a building that is being refurbished to its 1907 elegance. The Annex units have clean, compact lines and range rom 645 to 10400 square feet. The suites have floor-to-ceiling windows in an open-space loft design with 10 to14 feet ceilings, polished concrete floors, private outdoor balconies and elegant, integrated kitchens. The residents will share a common area roof top deck. 
DEVELOPER: The Salient Group 
LOCATION: Hastings Street in the Gastown area. 
PRICES: Prices start in the high $300,000s and rise to the mid $400,000s. 
INFORMATION: www.parisannex.com or www.thesalientgroup.com

 

Robert Fung does not pretend to be building and selling condos in a “white picket fence” neighbourhood. 

But the young developer’s rehabilitation efforts of many heritage buildings in the evolving, but still gritty, Gastown area of Vancouver, are seen as the tide that may turn that part of downtown into a healthier postal code.

“While others might try to mask the neighbourhood, we sell the neighbourhood and its depth and diversity,” says Fung, who has been crowned everything from King of Gastown to one of Vancouver’s bright lights by various magazines and newspapers. 

“We take the Field of Dreams approach – if you build it, they will come,” says Fung. “Our buyers come with their eyes wide open and are helping to create balance.” 

Indeed, the buyers are coming. All the projects that 42-year-old Fung and his eight year-old company, Salient Group, are building, have sold out – some in less than a day. 

His latest project, the Paris Annex on Hastings Street, was released this month. 

It has only 16 suites available in the all-new minimalist concrete/glass building and will be attached to the adjacent historic Paris Block, which is being refurbished to its 1907 elegance. 

“Some buyers want the heritage and some want only modern, but all like the mixture,” says Fung from his office in Gaolers Mews on Water Street in the midst of his Gastown construction zone. 

Originally, The Annex was te be another refurbishment project, but the building had suffered too much neglect from past owners. 

Instead, the 16 condos will have floor-to-ceiling windows in an open-space loft design with 10 to 14 foot ceilings, polished concrete floors, private outdoor balconies and elegant, integrated kitchens. 

The residents will share a common area rooftop deck. 

Like Salient’s other condo projects, The Annex units have clean, compact lines and range from 645 to 1,400 square feet. 

Prices start in the high $300,000s and rise to the mid $400,000s. 

The interior design is by Evoke International Design, recent winners of a 2008 designer of the year award from Western Living magazine. 

The Annex will share a corridor, stairs and elevator with the Paris Block. 

Most of Salient’s projects combine the beautiful brick/sandstone of the historic buildings with the modern elements of sleek, top of the line kitchens and bathrooms that ensure every space has multiple uses. 

But it is the history of Gastown, Vancouver’s original neighbourhood, that is reflected in almost every building Fung has touched. 

It makes sense that a developer who has a vision of how an area can become a stronger community through residential mix, should have studied anthropology in university. 

 

After I graduated, I travelled for a year, looking at the ways people live and interpret space,” says Fung. “We need to retain some of our built heritage because if we lose elements of it, we lose elements of ourselves.” 

 

The Salient projects include: 

• Taylor Building: Salient’s first project in Gastown, the condo building has original 1911 architecture and the company sold 22 units in the fall of 2003. 

The condos have refinished original wood floors, large opening heritage windows, 10- to 14-foot ceilings and a common rooftop deck. 

• Terminus: One of the 10 most endangered buildings in Vancouver, it used to be the Grand Hotel, but it had deteriorated into a rooming house. 

“It was in abysmal shape,” says Fung. “We dismantled it, retained the facade and put in geothermal heating.” 

The 46 condos, all of which are two-storey suites and of which there are no two alike, will be completed by November. 

• Garage: Thirty-four live/work residences are to be built around the Gaoler’s Mews courtyard in Gastown. 

There are architectural elements from five different years (1889, 1930, 1970 and 2007) in a modern/heritage mix of what Salient describes as “killer design that raises the bar for urban habitat.” 

It includes 10,000 square feet of office space and a similar amount of retail. The project sold out in an hour and a half. 

• Bowman Block: Winner of a Urban Development Institute award of excellence, the original building was the first brick one on Beatty Street, which straddles Gastown, Chinatown, Victory Square and Vancouver’s entertainment district. 

It was first built in 1906 and added to in 1914. It has 38 suites, some of them two-storey lofts, in a nine-storey building. There is a common rooftop deck. 

• Paris Block: The most recent of Salient’s projects, the Paris Block was, for 60 years, home to Pierre Paris and Sons, a logging boot manufacturer and retailer. 

The 100-year-old, five-storey building will now be home to 29 condos located just down the block from the Woodward’s building redevelopment. 

The project sold out in two hours and 45 minutes. 

In addition to the Paris Annex, Salient is also working on a heritage refurbishment of the Trapp Block on the main street of New Westminster. 

Originally owned by the Trapp family and formerly housing an Army and Navy store, the Trapp project will be Salient’s biggest to date. It will offer 190 suites in a mixture of heritage and modern residences, and 12,000 square feet of retail space. 

Units are expected to be released to the public in spring 2009.

Prices are not set, but Fung says they should start in the low $200,000s. 

For more information, visit www.thesalientgroup.com