Posts Tagged ‘Bowman Block’

BC Business: A Striking Nature

September 1st, 2006

Bowman Show Suite 1

BC Business: A Striking Nature
The salient group’s unique brand of urban revitalization begins with a plan for a healthy community

Consider Gastown, its cobbled streets, 100-year-old hotels, banks and office buildings – one of the last bastions of Vancouver’s architectural past, a once luxurious neighbourhood now relegated to social housing and tourism, its recent retail life fueled by maple syrup and t-shirts. 

Robert Fung, founder and president of The Salient Group of companies, has a vision for Gastown, a vision that applies equally to any urban neighbourhood where grand old buildings are threatened by neglect and obsolescence. “As a company, Salient acquires, develops and manages residential and commercial properties,” says Fung. “These goals run congruent to our passion, which is urban infill, and the rejuvenation and reinterpretation of our dwindling architectural heritage. We believe that building on a neighbourhood’s existing characteristics enhances the health of a community.” 

”What Robert identified is the concept of critical mass of redevelopment,” explains Gair Williamson, principle of Gair Williamson Architects. “If you can change three, five or six buildings, you begin to change the neighbourhood. It’s a very smart strategy.” According to Mark Ostry of Acton Ostry Architects, the Salient Group strategically picks inner city neighbourhoods in established communities that are without a sense of overall “balance.” Fung, says Ostry, has been very successful in negotiating with city planning departments to add value to the company’s developments. “Philosophically, Salient is very interested in this form of community redevelopment,” says Ostry, “They really try to weave their projects into the existing urban fabric.”


Business Edge: Redevelopment proves heritage site saver

July 20th, 2006

Business Edge: Redevelopment proves heritage site saver
Vancouver spurs projects with incentive program

By Monte Stewart – Business Edge
Published: 07/20/2006

Old is new again in Vancouver as developers try to preserve heritage buildings and deflate ballooning construction costs. 

Heritage building redevelopment is on the rise, says Larry Beasley, the City of Vancouver’s director of planning. There are 28 heritage redevelopment projects, worth $300 million, either underway or in the planning stages downtown and in Chinatown. 

Most projects are residential, he adds. 

“We want to save heritage sites in downtown particularly – especially in the central business district,” says Beasley. 

The city, which has had a heritage conservation program in place since 1983, is doing its part to spur demand by offering an incentive program – particularly in the heritage district along Hastings Street. 

Incentives include density transfers, whereby a developer can transfer density from a heritage site to another location, property tax abatement, and $50,000 façade grants to restore building frontages. 

Beasley says heritage redevelopment has increased lately because high land prices have spurred property owners to do something with heritage sites, and the density transfers have become accepted since they were introduced 10 to 15 years ago. 

The incentives have also virtually eliminated fights between groups trying to save heritage buildings and city hall. Beasley says the city was in a quandary because it is legally required to buy heritage sites if owners oppose their redevelopment. 

“In the past, we were losing heritage buildings left and right and there was nothing the municipality could do about it,” says Beasley.

Developers say it’s much cheaper to spruce up an old building than erect a new one. Demand is also high among homeowners.

“Nobody wants to live like their neighbour,” says Bob Rennie of Rennie Marketing Systems. “(A retro condo) is something different.”

Rennie, whose firm sold market condos in the Woodward’s department store mixed-use redevelopment on the Downtown East Side, says a heritage building’s appeal is all about character. Municipal policies, he adds, will be critical to maintaining developers’ interest in rejuvenating heritage buildings. 

“You can’t take (heritage buildings) away, so as long as the bonus and structure is in place, it incentivizes the developer to do it,” says Rennie. “But with today’s construction costs, we’re going to see that market slowing down, too.” 

However, the slowdown looks like it will arrive slowly – as long as there is adequate supply of properties to redevelop. 

Ward McAllister, the Urban Development Institute’s national president, says the City of Vancouver’s heritage advisory panel is doing a fantastic job of providing an inventory of heritage buildings and encouraging developers to maintain and recycle them. 

“All you have to do is drive through Yaletown and Gastown and wait to see what happens on the Downtown East Side,” says McAllister. “There is a huge amount of acquisitions going on down there right now and that whole area, all of those heritage buildings, will be re-claimed and re-formed and will be fantastic contributors to the overall community.” 

He adds there is massive developer appeal because heritage-building redevelopers know the market and the costs involved. 

But McAllister, also president and CEO of Vancouver-based Ledingham McAllister, a residential, industrial, office and commercial developer, says heritage building redevelopment is not for everyone. “It really is a very segregated market to a very specialized group,” he says. 

Robert Fung of the Vancouver-based Salient Group and Rick Ilich of Richmond-based Townline Homes Inc., are two developers who are taking the specialization test. 

They are both active in the Crosstown neighbourhood, located on the downward sloping north end of Beatty Street – which is within walking distance of Woodward’s, Gastown, Chinatown, the city’s entertainment district and the downtown waterfront. 

“It’s kind of personality-driven,” says Fung about developers’ willingness to specialize in heritage buildings. “I really like these buildings and what they have the potential do in their neighbourhood.” 

He says heritage building redevelopment has become a specialized field because large development companies tend not to get involved with older structures. With a heritage building, he says, construction costs are less predictable because unforeseen issues can emerge during construction, while a brand new building’s costs can be confirmed once a developer signs contracts with builders. 

The planning and construction processes also take longer and developers have to be more “hands-on.” 

As a result, many developers stop working with heritage buildings after one or two projects. 

Heritage redevelopment is highly specialized because it is very different from conventional development, adds city planner Beasley. 

Developers must deal with land uses, height restrictions and other factors that don’t apply to new buildings. 

Fung says the City of Vancouver is the leading jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to providing incentives for redeveloping heritage buildings, and it’s very difficult to work in other municipalities – that’s why Salient works primarily in Vancouver. 

In addition to the Bowman Block, Salient is redeveloping five buildings in three separate projects, including Terminus and Gaolers Mews along Water Street in Gastown; the Flack and Paris buildings on Hastings Street; and the Trapp building, which housed the former Army and Navy department store – and has been vacant for 31 years – at 668 Columbia Street in New Westminster. 

The Trapp site, formerly owned by a family that Fung declined to identify, will contain approximately 75 condos and 10,000 sq. ft. of commercial space.

Other downtown heritage redevelopment projects include the Jameson House in the 800 block of West Hastings Street, which involves preserving the Ceperley Rounsfell building built in 1921; and retaining the façade of the 1929-era Chamber of Mines building. A new tower will also be built with 10 storeys of commercial space, including shops and a restaurant, and 25 storeys of apartments with underground parking. 

One project just off downtown is the Shaughnessy Mansions redevelopment, at West 15th Avenue and Granville Street, which includes 36 luxury condos. 

Fung says there are many heritage buildings that have the potential to be redeveloped, but several buildings have reached the point where they can’t be refurbished – either because of past criminal activity or the way they were built in the first place. 

Several other family-owned properties have been stalled because their owners have not invested in their redevelopment, and Fung questions how long they can remain vacant before developers prefer to build brand-new buildings instead. 


(Monte Stewart can be reached at

Gastown’s Message to the World

June 24th, 2006
Robert Fung Gastown Message

Robert Fung, shown here in one of the lofts he recently introduced into a 100-year-old Beatty Street warehouse.

Vancouver Sun – Gastown’s message to the world
Saturday, June 24, 2006 

by Robert Fung
Special to Westcoast Homes 

Last weekend the city of Vancouver’s senior heritage planner, Gerry McGeough, and I led planners and government heritage representatives from around the world through Gastown. Our purpose was to show how government support for heritage rehabilitation and public/private cooperation has resulted in an economic-development catalyst that is transforming some of Vancouver’s infamous eyesores into a ‘‘sustainable urbanization’’ eye-opener. Two very big words, and very hot if you’re a planner or developer, sustainable urbanization has preoccupied hundreds of learned participants in the World Planner’s Congress and the World Urban Forum in Vancouver.

Of the myriad topics for debate under this banner, one small component involves the integration of our historic fabric into densification. What might this add to “sustainable urbanization” When land is at a premium, and densification is critical, why should we care to save small heritage buildings?

Further, why bother to save blocks of these derelict structures that comprise our currently most underdeveloped heritage neighbourhoods?

I believe a heritage component is fundamental to the final outcome of this torrid pace of growth and to the preservation of our sense of who we are.

Vancouver is often seen as a desirable model for urban densification, with almost 85,000 people residing in the city core.


Western Living Magazine: Suite Dreams

March 1st, 2006

Bowman Show Suite 1, pic 2

Western Living Magazine – Suite Dreams

Bowman Block – Everything old is new again in a Crosstown warehouse conversion.

[ BUY THE CONDO ] The Bowman Block, to be completed this fall, is one of the new generation of warehouse conversions in the Downtown Eastside. At 522 Beatty Street in the area now being called Crosstown, it was built in 1906, the first brick building on the block. Now the Salient Group is adding a couple of storeys, for a total of 11, and converting it to 38 lofts, a dozen of them double height. The six penthouse suites have private decks with outdoor fireplaces, and there’s also a communal roof deck with a gas fireplace, gas barbecue and mature trees. Insuite washer and dryer are standard, as are room dividers/TV cabinets (above) in some floor plans. Single-level suites range from 674 to 745 square feet, two-level from 1,147 to 1,285 square feet; $330,000 to $700,000.

[ STEAL THE LOOK ] Another Alda Pereira design, this suite is open plan because (a) it’s a loft and (b) it’s only 732 square feet. Pereira kept the space simple and pared down, aligning the kitchen along one wall to create more living space. Base cabinets are extra deep to provide more storage, allowing upper cabinets to be less- obtrusive open shelving. Cabinets with sliding doors at the back of the counter provide more storage, and a multipurpose stainless steel tabletop swivels on a leg with a caster to act as a bar in the living room or extra work space in the kitchen. A clever shelving unit that defines the bedroom area contains a now-you-see it-now you- don’t TV cabinet. The cable and wiring are on a pivot point so the TV can be rotated to face either the bedroom or the living room.



[ BUY THE CONDO ] The Salient Group, committed to making the Downtown Eastside the sort of heritage area we admire in other cities, has bought five adjacent buildings on Water Street in Gastown. The Terminus project involves converting two of them, the Terminus Hotel and Grand Hotel, into 46 stylish suites. The interiors of both were unsalvageable, but the bricks from the Grand Hotel will be reused and the facades will be restored, influencing the design of the interiors: bay windows on the Terminus side, arched ones on the other. The rooftop lounge will include a spacious deck, a water feature and a fireplace. To be completed in late 2007, sizes range from 619 to 1,619 square feet; $350,00 to $1.5 million (for the largest penthouse).

[ STEAL THE LOOK ]Instead of the standard boxy bathroom found in many condos, Terminus has taken a linear approach. The tub, shower, powder room and laundry are lined up along one wall. They are concealed behind frosted glass doors, which provide privacy while admitting light. The tub, sink and toilet are by Philippe Starck, and floors (throughout the suites) are ribbonlike walnut strand, made of slender strips of laminated wood.


Download the article here (540KB Acrobat .pdf file)

The Province: Bowman Block featured in Homes section

February 12th, 2006

The Province – Bowman Block featured in Homes section

Download the article here (417KB Acrobat .pdf file)

Westcoast Homes: Bowman Block Featured

February 4th, 2006
Robert Fung Gastown Message

The warehouse’s windows have enthralled Salient’s Robert Fung since he first walked into the Edwardian structure about two years ago.

Lofty expectations – Warehouse homes add to downtown eastside rejuvenation

Westcoast Homes, Vancouver Sun
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Photos: Glenn Baglo Vancouver Sun 
Story: Michael Sasges 

The Bowman ware house-conversion is a consequential downtown-residency addition structurally and functionally, more than equal to the expectations and aspirations of its sponsors, corporate and government. 

Posts, beams and flooring manufactured from ancient Douglas firs in the first years of the previous century and brick and windows, also manufactured in those years, will enclose most of the homes. 

Stainless steel and titanium will clad the appliances. Stone will top the counters. Custom shades will cover the windows. 

These elements infuse the expectations of developer and designer with their integrity, that the 38 homes will be memorable and singular.

The Bowman’s developer, Robert Fung, expects the homes will appreciate by being appreciated.  “ . . . we think we’ve achieved, have come up with, something that is very unique, that the people who invest in this building, who make their homes in this building, will have a very good long-term investment. They [the homes] are things that will carry value,” he says.