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  #1  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 1:52 AM
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questions for ian gillespie (westbank)

so i'm going to be attending this forum on thursday: http://www.spur.org/events/calendar/vancouver-vogue

and i was wondering if vancouver forumers had any questions for the man. i intend, obviously, to ask about what he's going to get up to in san francisco, and about the timeline for and potential modifications to the granville gate project, but the post-presentation mixer is pretty wide open and i don't anticipate huge attendance on this one, as gillespie isn't at all known down here, so his attention shouldn't be an issue.

what say you?
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  #2  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 3:59 AM
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Ask him what he did last summer, then smile and tap your nose.

Then once you have his attention tell him that you think Porches and Jaguars are overrated design wise. Good luck and I think you'll enjoy the presentation.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 5:38 AM
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I wouldn't mind if you ask him what advice he has for a young guy from Port Coquitlam considering a career in the property development industry (that scenario might sound a bit familiar to him )

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  #4  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:46 AM
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Ask him about the process that led to BIG being retained to design 1400 Howe, which will arguably be Vancouver's most daring piece of architecture. How does a world-class project get green-lighted in a development industry that is so focused on space efficiency, value engineering, and prices per-square-foot that are palatable for first-time buyers?

Background reading: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=197602

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  #5  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 4:36 PM
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Ask him if he is still planning to do a project with Tadao Ando in Vancouver (he mentioned it a few years back)
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  #6  
Old Posted Jan 16, 2013, 1:37 AM
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Ask him for an honest assessment of how bad Vancouver's real estate bust is going to be.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jan 16, 2013, 4:45 AM
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Tadao Ando was invited to sketch up a proposal for Beach and Howe along with some other starchitects, BIG ending up winning out, a bunch of the starchitects didn't even submit as the process was started way back before the worldwide market collapse so they were still swapped with work.
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  #8  
Old Posted Jan 18, 2013, 7:32 PM
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hm, the dynamic wasn't what i expected.

gillespie was very animated, telling stories about his development history mostly, and talking about vancouver's environmental principles. it was hard not to like him, personally, he had a very freewheeling way about him, and he really played up the canadian thing, charmingly making loads of unexplained references to things/people unknown to the non-canadian audience. he also had this interesting tendency to describe almost everything hyperbolically or straight up as 'the best in canada,' which was oddly charming as well. alas, the contours of the form and the substance of the content seemed perfectly consistent on balance: during his presentation, in direct response to the sf citywide planning director's questions, and to audience questions, he was very unclear on the details and he stuck to very broad pronouncements.

basically, this was a ceo flown into san francisco to do a presentation as part of the larger push into the sf market, rather than any real urbanism discussion. and he either didn't know or wasn't willing to discuss anything beyond his projects, how great they were, or what westbank could bring to sf.

however, we did learn a few things. first of all, westbank is huge - over 1000 employees. that's padded by the fact that they own and manage hotels, restaurants (momofuku toronto came up), and that they do all their own general contracting. next, we learned that, according to gillespie, vancouver's planning process is actually pretty free-wheeling, and that there's a LOT of room for negotiation. he said that he'd never once built a project in vancouver that fit within existing zoning - a huge laugh line for the sf audience - and he described a somewhat astonishing development process for the shangri-la, which basically consisted of a few lunches with beasley and getting height and lot coverage settled before even acquiring the land. then approaching the land owner, a reluctant seller, and finishing up a co-venture deal with him within an hour, on the back of "a tim horton's napkin" - a reference that most people didn't get, even if they understood the point, incidentally. the rest was just siccing his people on it. there were also plenty of other stories that reinforce the "discretionary" nature of discretionary planning in vancouver, but none so powerful as gillespie's flat out admission that you get what you want as long as you buy the city off with daycare space or whatever they want. he said that, after property taxes, cac (he just assumed that everyone knew what this vancouver acronym was, btw, which was charming) was the major source of financing for these things and, thus, in vancouver, there's a lot of room for negotiation, so that everyone gets what they want.

there was a sort of sideline to this discussion, and indeed throughout, that given this state of affairs, developers have a lot of room to abuse the system and put up terrible buildings, and he continually made reference to his own company's progressiveness and aesthetic awareness in this regard. in direct response to a question about why vancouver's buildings are all so similar and of similarly low architectural quality, he said flat out and unequivocally that it was the market, that development has happened so quickly that progressive forces haven't really emerged at the 'critical mass', at least, that's what i got from his somewhat muddled answer.

finally, there is a mind-blowing project at the first baptist church in the pipes, gillepsie showed us a couple images and the entire room gasped in awe and excitement. it's a full church restoration and expansion with a bing thom-designed tower rising off the back portion of the site, a very special, narrow, pointed marina city-esque wonder that will become a city icon almost immediately. gillespie called it "a done deal."
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  #9  
Old Posted Jan 18, 2013, 8:32 PM
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Cool info. Thanks!
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  #10  
Old Posted Jan 18, 2013, 8:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by easy as pie View Post
finally, there is a mind-blowing project at the first baptist church in the pipes, gillepsie showed us a couple images and the entire room gasped in awe and excitement. it's a full church restoration and expansion with a bing thom-designed tower rising off the back portion of the site, a very special, narrow, pointed marina city-esque wonder that will become a city icon almost immediately. gillespie called it "a done deal."

If you're lying/deal falls through I hope the mods ban you for getting our hopes up
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  #11  
Old Posted Jan 18, 2013, 9:50 PM
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Gillespie is a very special kind of developer and I believe truly loves Vancouver and cares about the city. He spearheads projects with more daring architecture and designs, taking lower returns for the benefit of the neighbourhood and city as a whole.

Vancouver is truly lucky to have someone like him, and I encourage those of you who care to support Westbank's projects more exciting when and how you can.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jan 18, 2013, 10:40 PM
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I am surprised the FBC project was mentioned to a public audience at this stage. The proposal certainly is special and will be an instant icon. I'm not so sure I'd have refered to it as a done deal though, but I'm glad Ian is confident that bodes well for the city. I will not be providing any info on it until I know it's in the public domain so don't ask.
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  #13  
Old Posted Jan 18, 2013, 11:50 PM
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yeah, that first baptist church project is marvelous, and hopefully he gets it a little higher than what we saw suggests (~35fl), so as to make a more emphatic statement on the skyline. one seems aware that it'll be a tricky thing at the street level given the relatively small floorplate and the deepish setback from burrard and proximity to the ymca tower. anyway, i guess we'll see how it comes about.

oh, and sfu vancouver, in re the granville gate project - gillespie basically said that toderian was in contact with ingels about getting something done in vancouver and he put them in touch for the project. the way gillespie describes it, the project developed out of a 3-way collaboration with the final proposal arriving via a sort of dialogue. there was a lot of talk about the city "rewarding" developers who attempt to bring true architectural excellence to the city, i assume he was suggesting that city would be covering his back on height and scale, in order to get a spectacular project that pencils. at least, that's what i got from it, again, the guy - though cool - is a little all over the place.

not sure how closely anyone has looked at the proposal or if it's even available, but he said (and this blew me away) that the tower's base floorplate was only 6000sf, which the top-heavy design brought the uppermost floorplate to almost 18,000sf! wowness. also, not sure that i've seen it in renderings to this point, but gillespie had images of the proposed under bridge illuminated photograph installation, which will serve both to animate the area and to unite the disparate parts of the project into a sort of cohesive whole.

also worth mentioning in a gossipy sort of way: gillespie mentioned multiple times that he and his weren't all that popular with developers in the city, because of their commitment to work with the city on everything from lift capture value and cac fees to pushing the envelope on design. pure speculation here, but i wonder if there isn't some hint in there somewhere as to why toderian was dismissed. i.e. developer rebellion on the regime that toderian was hard pushing into place on the back of westbank deal-making precedents.
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  #14  
Old Posted Jan 19, 2013, 1:04 AM
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Thanks for the info.

I'm sure that the FBC project will anger some residents at Patina who will lose south-facing views (and what about that egg throwing guy across the way?).
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  #15  
Old Posted May 21, 2013, 11:56 PM
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Re: The "Iconic" Mystery Project at Burrard & Nelson

Quote:
Originally Posted by easy as pie View Post

there is a mind-blowing project at the first baptist church in the pipes, gillepsie showed us a couple images and the entire room gasped in awe and excitement. it's a full church restoration and expansion with a bing thom-designed tower rising off the back portion of the site, a very special, narrow, pointed marina city-esque wonder that will become a city icon almost immediately. gillespie called it "a done deal."
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlousa View Post

I am surprised the FBC project was mentioned to a public audience at this stage. The proposal certainly is special and will be an instant icon.
Quote:
Originally Posted by easy as pie View Post

yeah, that first baptist church project is marvelous, and hopefully he gets it a little higher than what we saw suggests (~35fl), so as to make a more emphatic statement on the skyline.
It is intriguing to note that the First Baptist Church site is not encumbered by any view corridors (other than Queen Elizabeth Park) and according to the recently released West End Community Plan a building of potentially 60 floors may be built in this area.

I wonder whether the West End Community Plan will have any effect on the height of this "iconic" mystery project.
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  #16  
Old Posted May 23, 2013, 11:14 PM
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Woah - 60? that's under the radar!
Thanks!
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  #17  
Old Posted May 24, 2013, 4:46 AM
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I posted the links to it a couple of months back, don't think many people read them though. I just don't have the time these days to go thru and cut and paster out the interesting bits. We'll have to wait until the WE community plan wraps up.
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  #18  
Old Posted May 24, 2013, 5:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jlousa View Post
I posted the links to it a couple of months back, don't think many people read them though. I just don't have the time these days to go thru and cut and paster out the interesting bits. We'll have to wait until the WE community plan wraps up.
I read them.

Do you think that the higher limits under the West End Community Plan could alter the dimensions of this "iconic" (but average height) tower Bing Thom is designing for the First Baptist Church parking lot?
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  #19  
Old Posted May 24, 2013, 6:01 AM
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I'm sure that the final WE plan will have an effect on any proposal within the area... you didn't expect me to give any information on an unsubmitted project now did you?
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  #20  
Old Posted May 24, 2013, 6:46 AM
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Originally Posted by jlousa View Post

I'm sure that the final WE plan will have an effect on any proposal within the area...
Thank you. Hopefully, you will be in a position to share more not too long from now, if it is, as Gillespie claimed, "a done deal."
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