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
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.
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