Granville at 70th project ’15 minutes to everything’

Granville at 70th project ’15 minutes to everything’ by Claudia Kwan was originally published in the Vancouver Sun on October 8, 2013.

Westbank project in Marpole close to airport, downtown and Oakridge

Michael Braun politely begs to differ with those who believe that living centrally can only be achieved in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

“When you think about it, Granville and 70th is 15 minutes to everywhere,” says the marketing director for Westbank. “Over the last two or three years, people are starting to see this as the centre of the universe.”

The “15 minutes to everything” concept is emblazoned over the project’s marketing materials, pointing out its proximity to Vancouver International Airport and Richmond, shopping at Oakridge Centre and on South Granville, entertainment downtown, and recreational opportunities at golf courses, equestrian clubs, and the parks and beaches of the city’s westside.

The sales team is also highlighting how close the development is to a range of well-regarded schools, including Magee secondary, three private schools, Langara College, and the University of British Columbia.

Braun says they have seen significant interest from a variety of potential purchasers. They include downsizers, people who want to be close to Richmond while retaining an address in Vancouver, and those who may have grown up in the area, but cannot afford to buy a single-family home. Those in the last category have been particularly drawn to the three-bedroom units.

What does that high level of interest signify overall?

“I think it demonstrates that there is very little new-build multi-family housing available on the westside,” Braun answers. “There are maybe one or two projects that come to mind — clearly, there is pent-up demand here.”

Braun points out that the site formerly housed a Safeway grocery store, and will once again when construction is complete.

“There was lots of traffic before because of the Safeway, so that won’t really change,” he says.

The new Safeway will be clad in copper and zinc, with a sinuous glass overhang to shield pedestrians from inclement weather. A green roof will be visible from neighbouring buildings and from planes flying on their way to and from YVR.

Gregory Henriquez, managing partner of Henriquez Partners Architects, has a personal perspective on changes in the neighbourhood; his grandmother lived in Marpole and he remembers visiting numerous times over the years.

He believes this project is an opportunity to reshape the area for the better.

“We moved to the Safeway to the street front, which animates the neighbourhood — instead of that suburban model, where it’s a big store behind a parking lot,” he explains. ”Until now, retail has really struggled here with people being pulled to big-box stores on Marine Drive. The Safeway is an anchor point for a healthy urban community.”

Henriquez said he and those involved with the project were sensitive to people who like the existing single-family feel of the neighbourhood; the townhomes in the project are designed to create a buffer zone between the houses nearby and the towers of the development.

He also wanted to acknowledge the visual history of the original Safeway store, a 1966 Heritage A-designated building with the old arched glulam beams once synonymous with Safeways across the Lower Mainland. Glulam is a composite building material, where lengths of lumber are bonded together with adhesive.

“We wanted to pay homage to that with the entrance canopies and the covered walkways,” Henriquez says. “They have an inverted version of the Safeway arch. There’s also a reference back on the entryways to the glulam.”

The development is highly visible for a considerable distance even on the ground level; with pride, Henriquez and Braun talk about efforts to make it attractive.

In a decided effort to expand the vocabulary of materials used in Vancouver beyond painted concrete and glass, zinc and copper sheathe portions of the exterior. The latter will develop a layer of verdigris over time, as it weathers. It is part of a desire to connect to the local first nation, the Musqueam.

“Copper is a sacred material to first nations,” explains Henriquez. “We wanted to use it to evoke that natural palette that you see in cedar. We also commissioned works from weaver Susan Point and her family.”

First nations art will decorate the sides of the buildings, as well as a median on the site.

Oversized wooden frames dot building exteriors in various spots, looking not unlike little jewel boxes on the facades. They are functional as well, supporting oversized balconies. Some of these in turn are enclosed, creating an outdoor space for purchasers to enjoy.

Braun says the interiors were also designed to be esthetically pleasing. Westbank has a companywide agreement to use Miele appliances in their homes; that includes wall ovens, microwaves, refrigerators, dishwashers, hood fans, cooktops, washers, and dryers. Larger homes also benefit from Miele coffee makers and wine refrigerators.

Consumers also get high-end German Nobilia cabinets, luxurious deep soaker tubs in marble tile surrounds, Kohler fixtures, marble and granite countertops, and mirrors with built-in lighting.

Braun says it’s the level of luxury seen in the company’s Fairmont Pacific Rim or Shangri-La projects, without the accompanying luxury price tag.

Braun acknowledges that Westbank is not particularly well known as a brand, but he wants that to change.

“I would say we are set apart by how focused we are on architecture and design,” he elaborates. “We’re one of the biggest consumers of design services in the country.”

Along with that, he says, comes a self-imposed company mandate to help bring in different building typologies, and to engage in city-building exercises — to help knit together the fabric of neighbourhoods.

What would Gregory Henriquez’s grandmother Essie have thought? “She would have been very proud,” says Henriquez with a laugh. “And she would have been happy to shop at Safeway!”

Project: Granville at 70th

Project size: 267 homes divided between nine-storey, 18-storey and 22-storey buildings; 16 townhomes

Project location: Granville at W. 70th Ave., Vancouver

Residence size: 568 – 1749 sq. ft

Price: Starting at $454,000

Developer: Westbank

Architect: Henriquez Partners Architects

Interior design: In-house

Sales centre: 8188 Granville St.

Hours: noon – 5 p.m., Sat. – Thurs.

Telephone: 604-568-8090


Occupancy: Spring/Summer of 2014

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