Vancouver influences along the Gold Coast
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Special to the Sun
Michael Geller is a Vancouver architect, planner and property developer. Most recently manager of the introduction of the UniverCity neighbourhood for Simon Fraser University Community Trust, he now is travelling the world and will share his discoveries with Westcoast Homes readers from time to time.
I first heard about Australia’s Gold Coast in the early 1980s, from an Aussie visiting Vancouver to get ideas for a resort community he was planning near the northern, or Brisbane, terminus of the 70 kilometres of beaches on the country’s east coast, the Gold Coast.
Mike Gore was the man’s name and he returned to Australia with visions of False Creek, Granville Island and Whistler — and the people who had helped create these special places.
Norm Hotson, lead architect for Granville Island, designed the village centre and marina.
Rick Hulbert was commissioned to design the flagship Hyatt Regency Hotel. Gore’s friend and fellow Aussie, Ian Thomas, provided the market advice. Neil Griggs, who had been involved with the south shore of False Creek and Whistler, worked as Gore’s project manager.
Together, they spent five years in Australia successfully overseeing the transformation of thousands of hectares of swamp into Sanctuary Cove, today one of Australia’s best-known resort communities.
[For more on the Vancouver connection to Sanctuary Cove, click here for Price Tags 50. ]
In the last 20 years, Sanctuary Cove has gone through many changes. Unfortunately, Gore’s heart could not keep up with his fast-paced lifestyle and he died shortly after the first phase was completed.
The resort has had different owners, although golfer Greg Norman missed out on being one of them when his offer fell short by a few million dollars.
As you walk around the village centre and marina, you can see the False Creek and Granville Island influences in the layout of the streets and waterfront walkway; the shapes of the buildings with their extensive use of corrugated siding; and the metalwork and railing details.
There is also a similar mix of restaurants, marine facilities, retail and office uses. While I kept looking for a Granville Island-style public market to buy mud crab and Moreton Bay bugs, unfortunately it wasn’t copied.
In addition to the village centre, hotel, and the Palms and Pines golf courses, a few thousand residents now live and play at Sanctuary Cove.
While some of Hotson’s early townhouses are among the most attractive homes, they are by no means the most expensive. Many of the properties now sell in the $2-million to $4-million range and are owned by Australians and people from around the world who can keep their yachts in the nearby marina.
To fully appreciate developments such as Sanctuary Cove, it is helpful to look at the context in which they were built. While the Gold Coast really got under way in the 1930s, many of the buildings were constructed in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
For a while, there was a 24-storey height restriction, but no restriction on architectural styles. As a result, much of the coast looks like a mixture of Miami Beach, the Mediterranean and Vancouver’s West End.
In the 1980s, the buildings started to get taller and fatter, but the designs did not really change. More recently, the towers have been getting even larger, and fortunately the designs have improved.
I was very impressed with some newer developments. At 1,057 feet (322 metres), Q1, in Surfer’s Paradise, is the tallest residential building in the world. With 80 storeys, it has a public observation platform near the top and a striking architectural form that is as yet unrivalled in Vancouver.
The $850-million Soul development will be the second-tallest building in Australia when it is completed in about four years.
The 77th-floor penthouse sold last October for an Australian record $16.85 million, about $16 million Cdn.
While I should have been trying out the surf at Surfers Paradise, there was a cyclone warning and we were cautioned about large waves.
So, I decided to take a look at the Wave, another of Australia’s most beautiful residential buildings, in nearby Broadbeach.
With its curvilinear balconies, the building takes on a different appearance from every angle, and is a photographer’s dream.
Two other developments in Broadbeach caught my eye.
n The Oracle is a two-tower development under construction near the Gold Coast Convention Centre and Jupiter Casino. Features include Zen gardens and a tai chi lawn; four swimming pools, private wine lockers; and a lounge in which residents can socialize with their neighbours.
The smallest suite is a one-bedroom and study at more than 800 square feet.
All suites have outdoor balconies ranging from 15 to 35 per cent of the interior floor space. In comparison, buildings in Vancouver are limited to a maximum of eight per cent balcony area, and most buildings offer much less.
n Freshwater Point, a new mid-rise in which I stayed, is very contemporary in its design, with extensive trellises to block the sun and add architectural interest.
Like many of the new developments, it caters to both end users and investors who rent their suites. However, in this development, the different users are separated into different buildings, each with its own swimming pool and amenities.
Consequently, the owner-occupiers do not have to mingle with holiday makers like me. Interestingly, there is a 50-per-cent cap on the number of foreigners who can buy into any new multi-family building in Australia.
There is no doubt that with 300 days of sunshine, the Gold Coast has a very different climate than Vancouver. However, despite our rain and cloudy days, many Vancouver apartment buyers would like the opportunity to buy larger suites and balconies, especially if they are moving from a house.
They would also like to know that they are sharing their amenity areas and elevators with like-minded neighbours, rather than short- or long-term renters, who may not have the same values. In these respects, the Gold Coast developments can offer Vancouver some very useful lessons.
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