Archive for October 2014
More 2220 Kingsway / Kensington Gardens Marketing Fail?
Through the letter slot on 20 October 2014 slides a glossy foldout that further exposes the failures of Westbank marketing of 2220 Kingsway / Kensington Gardens. Here’s a scan of the front and back.
A Final Tower Release Event is scheduled to “happen” on Saturday 25 October 2014. With this further information, we can see for sure that the ominous-sounding Final Tower can be identified as the least desirable East Tower.
Save the worst till last! The biggest tower in the ugliest location. Even if very few buy, the free food should attract enough of a crowd to obscure that fact.
If nothing else, Westbank should manage to avoid the total embarrassment of absolute no interest that manifested back on 8 February 2014.
Watch Vancouver mainstream media this week to see if some outlet will shill out a shameless infomercial.
Many Months Onward
What has been going on with 2220 Kingsway marketing since early February? A plausible speculation would be that there has always been a push on to market to offshore investors, since that is known to be a favored Westbank strategy.
Perhaps too many prospective buyers, both in Vancouver and elsewhere, have decided that the five-star gem of a Westbank project should not be set along the truck route asphalt of Kingsway.
Perhaps Westbank now is crawling back to the local market in desperation, to try to hawk the humongous pile of leftovers.
Back to the primary market for East Vancouver. But with an image and a cost that will strike smart locals as way too fancy for the location.
Why the Worst?
Why is East Tower the worst tower? Four easy reasons.
One — The tower form is all about the view. This East tower will mainly have breathtaking views of … the other two towers that are the same height. What can be seen to the south and the east is not what shows up in the advertisement. The cruelest trick is that the view of mountains and inlet to the north is doomed when the large site across Kingsway redevelops to the twelve stories specified in the Norquay Plan. No one can own a view.
Two — That outside edge of the fortress will overlook … the noise and exhaust and traffic of delivery trucks in the narrow lane designated to service the big box store buried in the heart of the development. Not to mention all the other traffic (residential and commercial) streaming into and out of the massive underground parking arena. All of the other three perimeter buildings overlook existing streets.
Three — Biggest is least exclusive. And the exterior design is arguably the worst.
Four — Harsh weather will broadside East tower. That tower will provide windbreak for the interior courtyard and the other two towers. That tower may experience higher energy costs. Whenever envelope breach occurs, East Tower should fail first.
Views of What?
Perhaps the biggest flim-flam has to do with views. No one in any tower will enjoy the airplane vista that graces the brochure. Many will be looking mainly at other towers sited for minimum allowed separation. Most residents will have a view that is not that far from pavement level.
How much of that panorama can be seen in the ordinary world? Why have the golden arches of the nearby McDonalds disappeared? Why is there almost no traffic flowing along Kingsway? Those are three quick questions that jump to mind.
For the benefit of those unable to examine the old Canadian Tire site in person, here are a few useful local views — across Kingsway, and proceeding west toward downtown for the two blocks to Victoria Drive.
Dollarama Across the Street
The Five-Star Elegance of Those Golden Arches
At Your Doorstep?
Here are the ordinary street distances to the three external “amenities” touted below the disappeared-McDonalds picture. (Remember, that’s a picture in the brochure, not a photograph.)
1.2 km to Kensington Branch of Vancouver Public Library
1.5 km to John Hendry Park / Trout Lake
1.0 km to Nanaimo SkyTrain Station
Any property owner in Vancouver whose doorstep is a kilometer or more away is going to be a very rich person. Imagine having that much land.
Surprises Throughout the Day?
One of the surprises was prepared about three weeks ago. Protective plastic orange fencing went up around City of Vancouver boulevard trees along three edges of the Canadian Tire site.
Pay close attention. This fencing is mostly a subliminal message:
You must decide to buy right now because construction is just about to begin
Never mind that the whole Kensington Gardens project appears to be less than half-sold after a marketing campaign that started in late 2013.
Never mind that the rent-a-fence that has been up for months (to keep out garbage dumpers and strewers of used needles) has come down just ahead of the October 25 event.
Never mind that the condo offerings have already been picked over. Or still will be held back.
Comment on Development Application DE1418341 under RM-7 Zoning
20 October 2014
This development application is the first for a single lot in the new RM-7 zone in Norquay. It proposes three units on a 44 x 89 ft. corner lot, two units facing Clarendon Street and one unit facing East 37th Avenue.
We are happy to see that there is almost 18 ft. of open space in the back yard. Most single family houses on the very short lots in this block have smaller back yards.
We have several concerns:
1. The units appear to be too small. They all appear to be approximately 1050 sq. ft., falling well short of the 1200 sq. ft. specified in the zoning regulations for a “typical” unit in RM-7.
2. Development in RM-7 is to respect the character of the neighbourhood. Viewed from the front (Clarendon Street), this development has the appearance of a duplex. All duplexes in Norquay are required to have pitched roofs. Flat roofs should not be built on RM-7 developments on a single lot.
3. The site plan indicates that three “existing trees” along East 37th Avenue are to be protected and retained. It is a stretch to call the existing plantings “trees.” They appear to be damaged overgrown evergreen shrubs with the bottom branches pruned off. These bushes should be removed, and healthy deciduous boulevard trees should be planted instead.
4. There is no existing sidewalk along this part of East 37th Avenue. A sidewalk should be required as part of this development.
Jeanette Jones and Joseph Jones
Q. When does a full-page advertisement become a news item? A. When you can read between the lines and spot a disaster.
The latest Westbank round of marketing for Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway leaves some dirty underwear peeking out. That’s embarrassing, not sexy. (A whole new dimension for their #gwerk “philosophy,” perhaps.)
Here’s a grab of the ad that displayed on page 29 of Vancouver Metro on 16 October 2014. Same ad, different shape, on page 4 of Georgia Straight in 16-23 October issue. Test yourself. Can you discover the biggie before reading on below for the spoiler? (Oops. The story is already in the headline for this posting …)
The top line of the advertisement says it all. Just do the math. Kensington Gardens equals three towers and some other stuff. The Final Tower Preview is about to arrive. Gasp!
Pause to recall the nothingness of the South Tower Release Event on 8 February 2014. Nobody showed up.
When did tower two catch up with tower one to get “75% sold”? Who knows? Maybe it happened quietly offshore on a fractionalized basis. Maybe some packager has inked a special agreement that allows Westbank to make a claim of units sold. There will be no transparency. An advertisement can claim just about anything.
So three towers, two of them three-quarters sold, computes overall as a project that is half-sold. Half-sold after almost a year of marketing.
Bob Rennie would be so ashamed. Only, he isn’t the one doing the marketing. See link in the nothingness paragraph above for that story.
Let’s dig a little further into the new Westbank advertisement.
How about those 5 star amenities? That’s what you expect with located-in-Vancouver condos that start at a price point of $250,000. Right? No?
Whatever you may find inside the walls of the fortress, here’s a sample of what you can expect to find outside.
Item — 9 Sept 2014 — Gooey condom on Dollarama sidewalk opposite 2220 Kingsway
Item — 8 July 2014 — 6 used needles at Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway
Now there’s some 5 star grossness.
If you need to calm your nerves, though, after having bought into Kingsway grittiness, there are at least three (hard to keep exact count) medical marijuana establishments located within a five-minute walk. There’s local shopping in a walkable neighborhood!
Parks and Greenspace
One of the Westbank advertisement’s four graphics bears the caption
Parks & Greenspace at Your Feet
A vision of Shangri-La that will be found nowhere in East Vancouver. All by itself, this misrepresentation should provide truth-in-advertising grounds to back out of a deal, if there is anyone out there who has been foolish enough to buy a 2220 Kingsway condo sight unseen.
Let two further points wrap up this foolishness. (1) See what City of Vancouver had to say about Norquay parks at our fourth community workshop on 28 April 2009: Only average park land, and lacking in facilities. (2) Despite the priority standing for nearby Brock Park in the Norquay plan, the total sequestration of $3 million CAC from 2220 Kingsway, coupled with dubious traction for our appeals to 2015-2018 capital planning, make it likely that the deteriorated infrastructure will continue to revert to swamp for the indeterminate future.
Notice that Westbank uses the word Asian in the advertisement three times. (1) Prominently in the third line: “world-class Asian grocer” — Is that what you would call Loblaws-owned T & T? (2) In amenities listing: “premier Asian restaurant” (3) In amenities listing: “Asian-inspired park” — A major feature of the SW corner parklet will be underground exhaust air grates.
It does not look as though the Asian buyers desired for this development are stepping forward fast. Perhaps too many of them can smell a pig in a poke?
Beyond this ghetto marketing, Westbank may have failed to tune into Norquay’s shifting demographic. Observations of street life over the past few years tend to confirm Bob Rennie’s anticipation that a hefty chunk of $88 billion of local wealth represented by 113,000 primary dwellings will “help the kids” buy real estate in East Vancouver.
Source: Bob Rennie — 2012 UDI Speech, Point 22
Compare These Two
It looks like Westbank seriously overpaid for their chunk of East Vancouver land. Back in 2011, the purchase price was reported as $34.088 million for 2.3 acres.
That works out to $14.82 million per acre for Kensington Gardens in the heart of East Vancouver versus $14.73 million per acre for Vancouver House downtown.
Also, time is money. The Vancouver House transaction occurred about three years later. Business in Vancouver selected the Vancouver House land purchase price factoid to lead off a story on skyrocketing residential land prices. Three years later.
Developer Westbank paid $32.4 million, or more than $15 million per acre, for the 2.2-acre site of its new Vancouver House residential tower. … The land costs for Vancouver House, for example, translate into $83,000 for each of the 388 condominiums …
Source: Frank O’Brien. “Vancouver residential land prices skyrocket in 2014” Business in Vancouver
(22 Sept 2014)
Not a Great Investment
A recent long report on the Vancouver real estate situation contrasts a wealthy investor in high-end single-family properties with a struggling family’s luckless, difficult cash-out on a Fairview condo — bought at $385,000 and sold for $335,000 after “a few years.”
More impressive than the single anecdote is this graph that goes along with the story:
Source: Iain Marlow / Brent Jang. “Vancouver’s real estate boom: the rising price of ‘heaven’ ” Globe and Mail (10 Oct 2014)
The bottom line for 2220 Kingsway will never be visible. But it sure looks like the glitz of Westbank hubris has shipwrecked on the hard rock of customer savvy in EastVan.
To: Park Board Commissioners
From: Jeanette Jones
Date: 30 September 2014
Although I attended the meeting last night, I was unable to speak. I will not be able to be present at tonight’s meeting. Below is my submission.
Submission to Vancouver Park Board: 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report
The 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report  states:
Neighbourhood parks are the backbone of the parks system, and are where city residents escape daily to recreate and recharge. With increasing density around many parks, intensifying use, changing demographics and standards, and emerging demands for new recreational and leisure pursuits, the on-going re-thinking and renewal of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds is a continued Park Board priority. (p. 4)
The Report admits “about 25% of the parks and open space portfolio is currently assessed as being in poor condition” (p. 10). Yet the 2015-18 Capital Plan allots only $2M to park renewal. This is about 1.3% of proposed total Park Board investment over the next four years, and less than 6% of the amount allotted for new parks and renewals. I find it difficult to reconcile this paltry funding with the Park Board’s stated priorities.
The $2M allotted for park renewal is expected to cover completion of the work at Hillcrest/Riley Park and a new playground at Andy Livingstone Park. Last night staff suggested that improvements to Sunset Park will come out of this line item as well. At best, only a few hundred thousand dollars will remain to be assigned to the hundreds of other neighbourhood parks in Vancouver.
I encourage you to increase the amount allotted for park renewal. To illustrate the need, I use my neighbourhood park, General Brock Park in Norquay, as an example. [See also Brock Park photos provided as appendix to earlier Eye on Norquay posting about 2015-2018 Capital Plan.]
When we first moved across the street from the park in 1980, it was fairly new and well used. Our three daughters spent many happy hours in the playground with their preschool friends. A cricket team played in the park every Sunday during the warm weather. Informal games of soccer, catch, and frisbee took place often. A post and chain fence separated the park from the lanes that surround it on three sides.
Since then, we have watched the park steadily deteriorate. The underground stream that lies beneath the park has created a field that is so uneven and full of holes that only dogs can run on it. The cricket team left years ago. No one who values their ankles is willing to play games of any kind on the grass, and the soccer goalposts have long since been removed. An asphalt path that was built about 20 years ago provides a place for people to walk for exercise, but the path is now cracked and sagging. The fence rotted and was taken down, enabling residents of some of the houses that border the park to use parkland as extra parking space. The brush area surrounding the stump of a cottonwood tree that was removed a couple of years ago has become a magnet for people to dump garbage. The only part of the park that is used regularly for recreation is the playground, and even this area contains less equipment than it did thirty years ago. There are still no washrooms.
Meanwhile, more and more people have been moving into the area around Brock Park since the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan was passed in 2010. A recently built development at 2300 Kingsway and the already approved Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway, are bringing around 1000 new residents. This is 20% of the 5000 new residents that city staff projects will live in Norquay by 2040. In addition, a 4-storey apartment building containing 94 units has been built at 2239 Kingsway. Another nearby 28-unit apartment is in the pipeline. Three duplexes are under construction, and a duplex with an infill house backing directly onto the park has been approved. All of this development is within three short blocks of Brock Park, and this is only the beginning.
Increasing densification of the area does more than increase the number of residents. It also transfers many activities that have traditionally taken place in private backyards to city parks. Norquay’s new housing forms (duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, small houses on shared lots) leave very little room for open space on the property. Neighbourhood parks are becoming the “shared backyard” where residents are looking to play, exercise, garden, and socialize. We are looking for picnic tables, exercise and play equipment for all ages, landscaping, and open space where we can run and play.
No adequate park renewal will be possible without adequate funding. One hundred thousand dollars will do little more than begin to address the drainage issues in a single park, and many of Vancouver’s neighbourhood parks have drainage issues.
The City of Vancouver has repeatedly assured Norquay residents that new development will bring new amenities. Recent development in Norquay has generated millions of dollars for the City in DCLs and CACs, but we have yet to see the promised amenities. The Norquay Public Benefits Policy (2013) identifies the renewal of General Brock Park as a high priority. Please help the City to keep its word by increasing the allotment for neighbourhood park renewal.
 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report