Wistful in Fairview: Skyline on Broadway takes the measure of the question, what’s a hundred feet?

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

Michael Sasges


Jas Kaur Basra and a model of Skyline on Broadway, where she surprised herself by buying a unit after finding the project while surfing the Net.

CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

To interview Jas Kaur Basra and Mark Wickson about Skyline on Broadway is to hear about the universal tussle between head and heart that precedes all our important decisions.

Basra is a 20-something single woman, a downtown resident and lawyer with Richards Buell Sutton. The Richmond native was not looking to buy — although she was looking at commercial properties– when she found the Skyline on Broadway on the Internet.

Mark and Pat Wickson were looking. They are empty nesters who have found their current one-bedroom-with-den apartment too small.

Says Basra: ”I am a very conservative buyer because I try to contemplate all risks associated with an investment.

”But for the first time, without consulting my family or other people close to me, I made the purchase. Really, it was like walking into a supermarket and buying a gallon of milk.”

Says Mark Wickson: ”We bought now because it was the right place, even if not the right time given the increase in housing prices over the last couple of years; the increasing numbers of units for sale; and the indications of increasing interest rates,” Mark Wickson reports.

Their Skyline apartment is the “right place” for the Wicksons because of the second bedroom; a kitchen open to the living/dining room and the views; in-suite storage; two parking spots; and a fitness facility.

Additionally, it offers centrality, “a few blocks from my wife’s work and close to downtown where I work; close to the south shore of False Creek; close to Granville Island.”

Finally, it is the “right place” because of its “reasonable price.”

Fairview is on the upswing and the views are the best around, a virtually unobstructed north view toward the downtown peninsula.”

A lovely suburban wistfulness infuses the Wickson and Basra telling of their decisions to buy into Skyline.

Commented Basra: ”The beauty of Skyline for me is the location. You are close enough to the action of the city, but far enough away to enjoy the ‘sub-urban’ neighbourhood.”

Said Wickson: ”In the absence of a clean, safe, convenient and comprehensive rapid transit system, living close to downtown becomes the preferred option. I expect that this will be a place we can feel at home without feeling boxed in, a place where we can relax in the middle of the city.”

The Fairview slope has been housing Vancouver since the 1890s. Its northern boundary is certain — False Creek — but its southern isn’t. Broadway seems too soon, West Sixteenth too late. Its western boundary is Granville and its eastern is Cambie.

Fairview is a landmark neighbourhood. Across the street from the Skyline is one of our town’s most famous landmarks, the Bowell McLean/Toys ‘R’ Us sign, erected in 1958.

Down the hill is Hodson Manor, at 1254 West Seventh, built in 1894 and moved in 1974 from its Eighth and Hemlock site to its current site; a 1905 cottage at 975 West Eighth; and the Takehara Tenements, at 1017 West Seventh, built in 1913 for Japanese sawmill workers.

”Fairview has undergone a series of changes — from upper middle-class residential to working class to small-scale commercial and back to residential — all of which have left their mark on this now typical mixed-use block,” Exploring Vancouver: The Essential Architectural Guide (1993) says of the block in which the 1905 cottage is located.

More recent residential work in the neighbourhood has generated at least two governor-general’s medals for architecture — Sixth Estate (1982) in the 1000 block West Sixth and Heather Court (1980) at 730 West Seventh.

The Skyline, when it opens, will be a 10-storey edifice of glass and concrete stepping down down the Fairview slope. The lobby will be off Spruce street. The Broadway side will contain street-level shops.

The man who (figuratively) introduced the Wicksons and Basra to this historic neighbourhood is George Wong, Skyline’s marketing manager. In his opinion, their commitment to his project is a manifestation of a distinctly, or near distinctly, Vancouver real-estate culture: “Vancouver is one of the very few places in North America that is accustomed to buying things before they’re built.”

Shared only with Toronto, in Wong’s opinion, this metro Vancouver comfort with pre-construction purchases is a consequence of the immigration to the Lower Mainland of Hong Kong and Taiwanese residents — people accustomed to “buying off floor plans” — in the last 20 years.

One consequence of this propensity is an exportable knowledge industry. ”A lot of marketers in Vancouver have been exporting to American and Canadian developers this marketing ‘technology’ . . . the merchandising of the sales venue, the presentation centre. We should be very proud.”

We might also be very proud to know that in the opinion of a 20-year veteran of real-estate sales we are very demanding buyers. The appointments in the display centres are not trifles; they are potential closers in this “buying culture.”

”Developers and marketers are always trying to raise the bar, on better flooring, better countertops, better faucets, so that they leave a better impression in buyers’ minds. Competition, in that sense, is good for the consumer. Vancouver is very, very informed, very informed.”

The Skyline presentation centre is paradoxically underwhelming, almost minimalist, and overwhelming, even opulent.

It is located in a small storefront that, with a parking lot next door and the old Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver building at the northwest corner of Spruce and Broadway, will come down for Skyline.

Inside the presentation centre, behind the model of the building and back of the receptionist, are two mock-ups — of a kitchen and a bathroom.

In the kitchen, counters are “natural, solid granite slab” and the cabinetry is “custom-designed white oak or ash,” their door-pulls “contemporary brushed nickel.” Backsplashes are “linear, high-gloss porcelain tile;” lighting, halogen track and “undermount cabinet puck;” appliances, stainless steel.

”You’re buying space. If you’re interested in buying 502, I can’t take you up to 502 and show you that suite,” Wong said.

What he can do, however, is work with the developer and his architect to ensure the space on offer is more likely than not the space that will appeal to buyer segments.

”We understand the demographics of the people who will be buying here, their financial profile. So if we build something that is inappropriate for the financial profile we would not be successful. That’s why the size of each product-type is very, very important.”

In the Skyline, not all skylines are equal. The north side views are enjoyed from more expansive layouts; the south side, from less expansive.

”The thinking there is that people who are willing to pay for their views also want bigger suites and they have the wherewithal to do that.

”People who want to be in this location and just want to be able to enter the market at this time . . . They don’t care if they have downtown and North Shore views. They just want to get in.”

Wong’s concern for ”functionality” at the Skyline is an insistence on purposeful apartment layouts that minimize wastage. In a project like the Skyline, 100 square feet trimmed from a suite is $35,000 to $40,000 trimmed from the asking price. ”That’s a lot of money,” especially for a first-time buyer.

[email protected]


Address: 1125 West Broadway, at Spruce

Developer: Leeda Developments Group and First Western Developments Ltd.

Architect: W.T. Leung Architect

On offer: 44 apartments

Price and size: Jas Basra bought a southeast corner “Luna,” two bedrooms w/study; 767 square feet; $308,900 to $337,900 ($403 to $441 per square foot). Mark and Pat Wickson bought a north-facing “Alpine,” two bedrooms w/den; 875 square feet; $331,900 – $443,900 ($379 – $507 per square foot).

Rentable: Yes

Construction: Concrete and glass

Warranty: 2-5-10 years, St. Paul Guarantee

Telephone: 604-730-8826

Website: www.skylinecondos.ca/

Presentation centre: Noon to 5 p.m. daily, except Friday

Ran with fact box “SKYLINE ON BROADWAY”, which has been appended to the end of the story.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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