Developer aims to hit home run with latest Vancouver project

BATTER UP: There’s a fire on False Creek South’s First Avenue. But Peter Wall doesn’t care to snuff it, even though there are two fair-sized lakes on his property there. That’s the block-long site where Wall Financial Corp. will build the $280-million Wall Centre False Creek complex of 560 condo units in four towers. The first two, with 300 units, should be occupied by summer, 2012.

Such speediness is why buyers are hurrying to get their money down. Eighty-six invitees did so over the weekend, 27 more on Monday and 22 Tuesday. Many had signed before. That was in 2008, when 140 opted into what was then a 400-unit development. Sensing market uncertainty, though, Wall returned their deposits and had architect Stu Lyons design smaller units that now average $60,000 below 2008 prices.

Realtor previews for the project begin Oct. 20. If sales hit 250 by Nov. 30, Wall will release the next two towers. If they don’t. “Peter will fire me,” said Bob Rennie, whose Rennie Marketing Systems sells the units.

Rennie’s firm also handles the Millennium Water complex on the other side of First Avenue. Regarding that troubled former Olympic Athletes Village, Mayor Gregor Robertson said he should be “chief salesman” himself.

Wall can afford to be more charitable than that. In 2006, Peter and Shahram Malek almost doubled the downtown-property price of $130 per buildable foot by paying $193 million for Millennium Water’s 2.6-hectare site. The adjacent Wall property’s paper value promptly shot up, too. But that was then. Exiting his graphite-grey Bentley Brooklands coupe Tuesday, Wall said: “We know who runs our project. And you know who runs our project. But who runs the one across the street? Is it the mayor? Is it Penny [Ballem, the city manager]? Or is it the ghost of [former chief planner] Larry Beasley?”

More practically, and playing to his reputation for calling local markets, Wall said: “You need to know what the public wants, and pay no attention to what the city or the politicians want, because you know it will cost four to five times more.”

Hyperbole? Numbers show the public doing well by Wall. Totalling 15 of his projects, from the $50-million 1050 Burrard in 1996 to this year’s $126-million 2300 Kingsway, the value at sale time was $1.08 billion. Estimated current value: $1.52 billion, without factoring any appreciation for 2300 Kingsway, the $58-million 1212 Howe project that sold in 2008, and the $186-million The Capitol in 2007. Among individual units, an Electric Avenue condo that cost $147,900 in 2005 is listed for $299,900 now.

As for the Bentley’s oddly orange-hued leather upholstery, “It’s called Baseball Glove,” Wall said. Then, after a three-count and glance across First Avenue: “We hit; we don’t bunt.”

Source: The Vancouver Sun



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