Firenze – Hong Kong developer wading into Duck Pond

Sunday, July 18th, 2004

Van. Cour.

Three towers are slated for the property known locally as the duck pond. Photo by Dan Toulgoet.

Hong Kong developer ready to wade into ‘duck pond’ By David Carrigg-Staff writer. It’s taken almost a decade, but Hong Kong-based Henderson Developments is starting to see its Downtown Eastside gamble payoff.

The company bought a large patch of land bounded by Expo Boulevard and East Pender Street and Beatty Street and Taylor Way in the mid-1990s from Li Ka-shing, who had acquired the site as part of the Expo ’86 lands deal.

In 1999, Henderson built International Village, a cinema, shopping and residential complex, between Pender and Keefer streets and Abbott and Taylor way.

At that time the area was struggling with social disorder and was on the periphery of Chinatown, leading to several village tenants bailing out of the project. The future of the mall was uncertain.

However, the area is changing rapidly. The Village Starbucks faces busy Keefer Street and people now walk their dogs in nearby Andy Livingstone Park, which was once a place to use and hide drugs.

Vancouver School Board is also considering building an elementary school near International Village.

A sold-out condo tower is under construction at the corner of Keefer and Taylor, and Henderson will this week seek council approval to develop three towers on a large block bounded by Andy Livingstone Park, Abbott Street and Taylor Way.

The lot can be seen as you drive over the Dunsmuir Street viaduct and is currently a large hole in the ground filled with water. An earlier attempt to develop the project was abandoned due to market conditions.

Labelled the Firenze, the proposal is for a 31-storey tower, a 25-storey tower and a six-storey midrise with retail at grade. Almost all of the 457 units, which range in price from $170,000 to $730,000, have been pre-sold.

Several hundred metres away, in a lot just west of General Motors Place, work on the Costco condo tower development is underway, which will further revitalize the area.

Henderson now has only one undeveloped lot, which is on Keefer Street, west of Abbott and is currently used as a carpark.

Albert Fok, chairman of the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association, said business in the area is starting to improve for merchants.

However, residents of the Taylor and Firenze projects will not move in until 2006, so the full financial impacts of the developments will not be known until then.

“What is encouraging is the real will to revitalize that area,” Fok said.

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