Lights out at Vancouver House. Is anyone home? Who are we building for?

Lights are still out well over 95% of units at Vancouver House (509 foot tower, centre left)

These photos were taken on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020, between 8:30 pm and 9:15 pm. The tower opened for occupancy in November 2019, and a resident told CityHallWatch today that all units are finished.

The dark tower is “Vancouver House.”

Is anyone home? Perhaps more precisely, the question should be “Does anyone live there”? Just a few lights are on, so what about the other units?

We wonder, how many of the condo units were speculative purchases, to flip for a profit? Was money laundering involved? How many of the units are owned by numbered companies? In how many cases did the buyers actually intend to live in the units? Who is Vancouver building for in a case like this? More specifically, who was Westbank Projects Corp. (CEO Ian Gillespie) building for?

The 2016 Census showed that there were 25,502 unoccupied dwelling units in the City of Vancouver. What will the 2021 Census show?

Consider the allocation of resources. Instead of building housing for people to actually live in, in this case it looks like the labour and materials may have been largely used to build safety deposit boxes in the sky. Enabled by City Hall.

Some people wonder about this building, blocking views, unconventional design, and seismic safety. The site was repeatedly up-zoned in permitted height (started at 225 feet, then under the helm of then-chief planner Brent Toderian who changed the policy to 425 feet, and finally to 509 feet at the Public Hearing). The site for this tower included a parcel of land that was publicly owned by the City of Vancouver, sold to Westbank at a considerable discount.

Keep an eye on this tower to see if there are more people living in this Vancouver House!

A few more photos of Vancouver House (March 4, 2020):

Compare Vancouver House with the number of lights on at Beach Towers (below) in the West End (rental buildings in the forefront):


Further reading…

Some excerpts:

  • Over the past few years, Vancouver House, an asymmetrical 59-story glass tower, has been taking shape at the north end of the Granville Street Bridge, the gateway to the city for visitors coming from the airport or the United States border.
  • Designed by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and scheduled to open in November, Vancouver House is a mixed-used project that cost 750 million Canadian dollars (about $575 million). The tower rises from a 6,000-square-foot base next to the ramps for the bridge, then twists before fanning out into a 14,000-square-foot rectangular building.
  • The 375 condos in the inverted structure sold out quickly when they went on sale several years ago. The building, another Westbank project, also includes 106 rental units and commercial space.
  • … the condominiums sold for 400,000 to 12 million Canadian dollars.
  • … “Vancouver House is quite interesting, but iconic architecture can have a counterproductive downside,” said Patrick Condon, an architecture professor at the University of British Columbia. “The new developments seem like advertising billboards to the globe, which operates at the expense of local people who need housing.”
  • The median household income in Vancouver is 65,327 Canadian dollars (about $50,000), according to Canada’s 2016 census. The average home price in 2018 was 966,866 Canadian dollars, according to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation.
  • Provincial taxes imposed on investor-owned housing in recent years dampened the residential real estate market, Mr. Gillespie of Westbank said, but it has since rebounded.


Westbank pre-sold a big chunk of Vancouver House condos to offshore flippers
June 12, 2019

Excerpt: Controversial Vancouver property developer Westbank pre-sold at least 30% of all units of its Vancouver House project to flippers, with the vast majority going to offshore speculators, data sent to OpenHousing show. A real estate industry insider shared details of nearly 200 listings showing at least 118 units out of 388 have been put up for sale as assignments of contract. Some of the units were flipped multiple times. [Database provided online…]

…The notes section on some of the listings read “seller is a non-resident of Canada,” while the sellers of some others are foreign corporations… The contracts of purchase, included in the disclosure documents, have the original presale buyers listed as non-residents… Westbank’s marketing director Michael Braun is listed as the realtor in a number of flips. Westbank also pre-sold nearly a quarter of all units of its Kensington Garden project [see here for our recent story on the missing plaza at that Westbank project at 2220 Kingsway in Vancouver] — aggressively marketed in Hong Kong — to flippers.

6 thoughts on “Lights out at Vancouver House. Is anyone home? Who are we building for?

  1. Its occupancy date has passed, but the development is still very much in progress. I don’t blame anyone who chooses to delay move-in when so much of the immediate area is still a building site.

  2. Two important facts the “author” didn’t think about.

    The building does not have a full occupancy permit.

    Elevators need to be booked for move ins.

  3. I understand that some people may be waiting until the building is 100% complete, or until the elevators are not so busy before they move in, but if I paid several million $ for my unit, I would want to occupy it as soon as possible. Also, if you don’t occupy it, the vacant homes tax kicks in. On top of that, those suites over $3 Mill will be also be subject to the supplementary school tax.

    So Randy’s point holds – a mostly empty new condo tower is something to be concerned about.

    • Given that the first move in dates are March 15th-30th, and only for certain floors (the rest will come in April and May), this article is nonsense.

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