Posts Tagged ‘The Alhambra Building’

Malcolm Parry: Gastown – Gotta Have Heart

June 11th, 2009
CAPTION: Renovations worth $65 million by Robert Fung’s Salient Group leave Gastown building looking old in front, but much newer from behind.

Renovations worth $65 million by Robert Fung’s Salient Group leave Gastown building looking old in front, but much newer from behind.

Gastown – Gotta Have Heart
Malcolm Parry,
Vancouver Sun
June 11, 2009

GOTTA HAVE HEART: The very oldest part of Vancouver is becoming new again. Not just cosmetically tarted up as Gastown was in its early-1970s first revival. “These buildings are now considered new for insurance purposes,” said Robert Fung. He meant the $65-million-worth of development his Salient Group is near to completing on Maple Tree Square and along Water Street.

The adjacent properties include the now-completed Terminus. It’s a $26- million project incorporating the 1886-built Terminus Hotel and the adjacent Grand Hotel. The latter sat unoccupied for 35 years and was owned by 11 separate deal-seeking groups until Salient acquired it in 2004. Today, the two properties feature 46 suites sized from 700 to 1,600 square feet and offered for $400,000 to $1.6 million. “Those go back to 2006 prices,” said Fung, 43, who served eight years as a Concord Pacific development manager after arriving from Toronto in 1990. “We’re selling them for what original buyers paid.”

The Terminus remained on the city’s endangered-list top 10 even after a fire that left only its 30-cm-thick facade shored up for years.

Alongside that Water Street project, the former Nagle Brothers Garage and the 1890s Cordage Building comprise a $27-million project of 34 residences ranging from 575 to 1,600 square feet. Priced from a tad below $400,000 to $1.6 million in 2007, they sold in 90 minutes.

On the square itself, the 123-year-old Alhambra hotel, is subject to a $12-million revivification, again as the retail restaurant and office facility it has been for decades.

“You can’t set up a legitimate business if the infrastructure isn’t working, and this building was falling apart,” Fung said. In fact, Salient itself will move back there after temporarily occupying the Richards-off-Pender Street Lumbermen’s Building it renovated “taking the life-cycle clock back to zero,” Fung called it – in 2007.

That project also entails opening up Blood Alley, and blending skylights and glass-walled commercial spaces into a zone characterized by vintage brickwork and leafy trees. Rather than seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation, as some Gastown developers have, Fung believes “more in going for good, practical, sustainable solutions that don’t penalize the buyers.”

He’d love to get his mitts on Cordova’s Street’s venerable Army & Navy store building. Has he talked to owner Jacqui Cohen? “Yes. She is very friendly, and she’s great in the neighbourhood.” Does that mean a deal is nigh? “She has many developer friends.”

Globe and Mail – Heritage projects suffer collateral damage in downturn

May 8th, 2009
Robert Fung has turned some of Vancouver’s worst eyesores into high-end housing. But the financing model he used to cover the added expense of saving the city’s grand old buildings has run into a brutal new reality.

Robert Fung has turned some of Vancouver’s worst eyesores into high-end housing. But the financing model he used to cover the added expense of saving the city’s grand old buildings has run into a brutal new reality.

Globe and Mail – Heritage projects suffer collateral damage in downturn

Kerry Gold
Special to The Globe and Mail
Friday, May. 15, 2009

Developer Robert Fung stands on Water Street in Vancouver’s Gastown, surveying a row of heritage buildings that comprise one of the city’s most beautiful streetscapes.

They represent some of the city’s oldest buildings, and each of them had been long neglected until Mr. Fung came along and restored them as work, retail and condo spaces.

“He’s the poster child of heritage,” says Heritage Vancouver president Don Luxton.

But with the downturn in British Columbia’s property markets, Mr. Fung now sees himself tied to a complex financing model that no longer works.

The Alhambra building, circa 1887, anchors Water Street, the most historic block in the city. It is part of Mr. Fung’s $60-million, three-phase, five-building project that involves “a high level of heritage restoration.” The condo building Terminus, once on Heritage Vancouver’s Top Ten Endangered Sites list, is the first phase. The heritage building, with its sleek, uniquely modern interior, is finished and mostly occupied. The Garage condos next door, once the location for the city’s first jailhouse, will be complete by November.


BC Business Magazine: Video: Robert Fung and the Revival of Gastown

December 3rd, 2008


Robert Fung and the Revival of Gastown
BC Business Magazine
by Joel Bentley

Robert Fung – the Salient Group developer and subject of this month’s profile, “Old Soul” – is restoring a series of heritage buildings in Vancouver’s Gastown.

Synthesizing modern architecture with traditional building frames and 100-year-old windows, Fung has designed a series of interconnected buildings housing condos, studios and commercial spaces.

I visited Fung onsite at two of his projects, the Paris Block and the Terminus. Fung graciously spent an early November afternoon showing me around his sites as I captured footage. The architecture is elegant, and the buildings exude a respect for their past.

With these Water Street recreations, Fung is inspiring developers to revive a sustainable community in the heart of Gastown.

See the whole story and video here.

Vancouver Sun: From commercial hub to heart of the Downtown Eastside

November 20th, 2008
Gassy Jack and The Alhambra Building at what used to be the city's main focus.

Gassy Jack sits in front of The Alhambra Building at Carral and Water Street.

From commercial hub to heart of the Downtown Eastside
Home to some of Vancouver’s coolest bars, a stone’s throw away are junkies, crackheads

by John Mackie
Vancouver Sun
November 18, 2008

Carrall is one of the shortest streets in Vancouver, but it’s also one of the most important. It was the first street surveyed for the Granville townsite in 1870, the place where Gassy Jack Deighton built his infamous saloon. For much of Vancouver’s history it was a commercial hub, the connection between Gastown, the Hastings Street shopping area and Chinatown.

But today Carrall is the heart of the troubled Downtown Eastside, a street of extremes. It’s home to some of Vancouver’s coolest bars and restaurants, but a stone’s throw from the trendies you’ll find junkies and crackheads huddled around doorways like extras from Night of the Living Dead.

Things may be changing. Several buildings on or near Carrall are being restored, and the city is going full speed ahead on a Carrall street “greenway” that will link Gastown to False Creek. If everything works out, Carrall might be the centrepiece of the revitalization of the city’s historic core.

Then again, it might not. The Downtown Eastside’s problems have deep historical roots that have resisted revitalization schemes before.

Long before Europeans arrived to lay the foundations for Vancouver, the area around Carrall street was well known to local natives.

“Carrall Street was a tidal mud flat-y area,” said heritage expert John Atkin.

“At high tide, it almost connected over to Burrard Inlet. It was used as a portage route for natives. Early settlers could also get their rowboats from Burrard Inlet over to False Creek and back again.”

The area was so wet that when the streets were laid out, the sidewalks were raised.

“Hastings and Carrall are much higher than they would have been in the natural landscape,” says Atkin.

“The sidewalks for Carrall street are actually eight feet above the ground level.”

Carrall was the first street laid out in the survey for the Granville townsite.

“It was up against the Hastings Mills timber lease boundary,” Atkin said.

“That’s why the Granville townsite started there. Then he surveyed six blocks from Carrall street. He laid out Water Street parallel to the waterfront, over to Abbott and Cambie, then he surveyed Cordova and Hastings. That gave you six blocks. Carrall Street became the zero point in the street numbering system for east and west.”

Gassy Jack’s saloon stood at the southwest corner of Carrall and Water. It was made out of wood, and burned down in the Great Fire of June 13, 1886. The brick Byrnes Block/Alhambra Hotel quickly sprang up in its place, and may be the oldest building in the city on its original site.

The Alhambra now anchors the most historic block in the city, which includes the Ferguson Block (1886-7), the Abrams Block (possibly 1887), the Bodega Hotel (1887), the Tremont Hotel (1887), the Town and Robinson Block (1890), and the Boulder Hotel (1890).


Globe & Mail: Burnishing a Dusty Gem

October 5th, 2007
Robert Fung at one of his projects, the Paris Block on Hastings Street.

Robert Fung at one of his projects, the Paris Block on Hastings Street.

The Globe and Mail
Friday, Oct. 5, 2007
By Kerry Gold

Burnishing a Dusty Gem
The developer pioneers are moving into Gastown and the downtown east side: “Nobody kids themselves they’re moving into Disneyland,” says the leader of the pack, Robert Fung.

For as long as most Vancouverites can remember, the heritage district of Gastown has been a draw for tourists, night clubbers and vagrants. 

Architects, designers and entertainment types who opted for character buildings over sterile office towers quietly set up business there. A few condos went up over the years, inhabited mostly by singletons who’d get married and move on. 

And although it contains some of the city’s most historically important and beautiful buildings, it’s hardly been a place to set down roots. 

Surrounded by soup kitchens and social services outposts, the potentially pretty neighbourhood with cobblestone streets also butts up against the drug-addled war zone that is the infamous downtown eastside. 

Restaurateur Sean Heather opened the successful Irish Heather restaurant-pub 11 years ago, right by the Gassy Jack statue, because rent was cheap. As one of the first businessmen to commit to investIng there in the long-term, he is considered a pioneer, one of the few brave hearts who dared take on the troubled area. 

“We’ve certainly always been there for Gastown, always pushed it whenever we could,” Mr. Heather says. “The Heather was opened on a shoestring, and probably by year two was good. We’ve been making a decent living out of it ever since. But you have to have the right product, the right temperament, all these things.” 

After years of mere talk about revitalization of the area, Mr. Heather began to notice a palpable, exciting change In the last couple of years. It’s a change brought about by intense market demand for more housing in urban areas, and a city tax incentive program that made it worthwhile for developers to convert heritage buildings to condos. 

“We noticed that the buildings got sold and were bought up by people who then got hanging around and were going to change things,” he says. “We started to see customers coming in that were developers. People were talking about Woodward’s, and it looked like it was going to happen. And when things suddenly look like they’re going to happen, that’s the big change.” 


Vancouver Sun: What’s Up For 2007: Scott Pettipiece

January 18th, 2007
Scott Pettlplece poses In front of Shebeen whisky bar, housed In Gastown's Alhambra Hotel, one of several historic properties being developed as part of a revitalization plan for the area.

Scott Pettlplece poses In front of Shebeen whisky bar, housed In Gastown's Alhambra Hotel, one of several historic properties being developed as part of a revitalization plan for the area.

Vancouver Sun: What’s Up For 2007

Scott Pettipiece, Sales and Marketing Manager, Salient Group
by Jeani Read

Scott Pettipiece is part of big revitalization plans for the heart of Vancouver, so the city and its residents are on his mind for the new year. 

“I think 2007 is the year Vancouverites are going to stop comparing our city to New York or San Francisco and embrace Vancouver for the great city it already is,” he says. “It’s not just a naturally beautiful city where they can hike up a mountain before breakfast, but an urban city filled with a great nightlife and social scene.”

“I think people are going to start migrating toward real estate they feel a connection with, buildings that have history and real presence. I’m helping with the marketing on some of these heritage buildings that are becoming real homes, historic buildings like the Bowman Block, a 100-year-old former warehouse on Beatty Street; the terminus, an old hotel in Gastown; and the Paris Block on Hastings Street.

“For me? I proposed to my girlfriend Natasha on Christmas Eve, at home, after dinner. It was a quiet thing. She’s pretty shy and I’m not the kind of guy to go over the top. But she said yes. We like the idea of a summer wedding.”

Download the article here  (650kb JPG file)

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.”