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Passengers Rate YVR Among The Best

YVR.ca | March 2006

YVR's commitment to delivering unparalleled customer service has been recognized, yet again.

In a recent survey, passengers rated YVR among the best airports in the world for customer satisfaction.

For the eighth consecutive year, YVR placed among the top 10 airports for customer satisfaction in the 2005 AETRA survey of international airports. YVR was rated No. 4 overall in the Americas and No. 6 in the world in our size category of 15 to 25 million passengers per year. This year, we also earned the distinction of second place in the Most Improved Airport category.

The AETRA survey measures satisfaction levels in various customer service areas including: airport services and facilities, efficiency of check-in staff and waiting time at check-in, availability of directional signage and flight information screens, and overall airport environment, such as ambience and airport cleanliness.

AETRA distributed more than 100,000 questionnaires at 66 airports worldwide. Our rating reaffirms YVR's position among the world's premier airports and are a testament to the efforts of both our employees and business partners.

AETRA, formerly known as IATA, provides a customer satisfaction benchmarking program for many of the world's leading airports, including London Heathrow, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. For further information on the program, and highlights from the 2005 survey, click here.

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Donald Trump looking at developing in Vancouver

Trump Tower Vancouver?

That's right! While it's not official, reliable sources from Trillion - a major Canadian life insurance company under Transamerica and owned by Aegon that works very closely with Trump - have leaked that Trillion and Trump are discussing building two "huge" towers in Vancouver and Calgary.

Trillion is definately on Trumps good side as they have bought many residences in Trump Toronto as well as several penthouses.

Apparently, Trump has been looking to expand in the Canadian market and he is eyeing Vancouver and Calgary.  This of course would be Trump's second footing into Canada, with the development of Trump Toronto in the process.

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SkyTrain goes high tech in luring tourists with headset walking tours

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

By Bruce Constantineau, Vancouver Sun

SkyTrain will brand itself as a must-see tourist attraction this spring by launching what's believed to be the world's first automated guided tour of a region that uses headsets on a public transit system, SkyTrain president Doug Kelsey said Monday.

Starting in May, tourists will pay an undetermined fee to rent headsets that can be worn to provide a guided commentary of their SkyTrain journey in six languages -- including English, French, Spanish and German. The new service will be called SkyTour.

So instead of a mind-numbing, half-hour SkyTrain ride from Vancouver to New Westminster, Kelsey said tourists will get a commentary filled with historical and cultural information and snippets like Mount Baker being an active volcano that was the snowiest place on earth in 1999.

"Just think of all the factoids that come out of this region," he said in an interview. "We've never packaged it up like this before."

Global-positioning-system technology will allow headset users to get off the SkyTrain and take guided walking tours of historic areas like New Westminster and Gastown.

"As far as we're aware, it's the first public-transit product of its kind anywhere in the world," Kelsey said. "Nothing can duplicate what we'll offer because we're above the treeline, travel at high speed and cover the entire region."

The SkyTrain system carries about 70 million passengers a year and Kelsey said that during the summer, tourists make up from 16 to 20 per cent of riders. He feels those numbers can be boosted by attracting even more out-of-town riders during non-peak daytime hours when trains are not full.

Details of the new venture -- including the name of the company providing the new technology -- will be announced in May but Kelsey said SkyTrain faces little or no risk in the arrangement because its total upfront cost will be about $30,000. SkyTrain and the company will share revenues generated by the service and the company will handle the international marketing.

Kelsey said SkyTrain will be the first phase of the new tourism product, which can be expanded to other Greater Vancouver transit services and feature other guided walking tours like Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain.

He said SkyTour will only feature interesting parts of the Lower Mainland that give tourists a "wow" impact.

"If there's no 'wow' to what they're seeing, it won't work," Kelsey said. "Tourists want a show, not a transit experience. This will be an entertainment experience."

New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright said Westminster Quay and the waterfront walk along the Fraser River will be featured in the first year of SkyTour and hopes other parts of the city will be included in the future.

"They'll see the old and the new of New Westminster," Wright said. "They'll see where the salmon runs came and where the big log booms are still going."

Kelsey said he wants to make a SkyTrain ride an "experience" for out-of-town visitors, in the same way that Starbucks made coffee-drinking an experience for its customers.

"I believe you can move transit from being just a ride to being more of an experience that tells the region's story and makes money," he said. " ... If you have visitors, what a great way to drop them off for the day and leave them in a protected environment, to be told the official regional story of Greater Vancouver."

Kelsey feels there's an untapped market of potential customers in tour groups who bring visitors to Vancouver for brief visits, noting he knows of one Asian tour operator that brought 140,000 people to the city last year for just one night.

"They didn't stay here because no one appealed to them with anything like this," Kelsey said.

Stephen Regan, manager of destination development for Tourism Vancouver, said it makes sense for Greater Vancouver transit services to become more tourism-friendly because so many tourists use them, especially in the summer.

"Many of our visitors expect to be able to navigate at least part of the region on public transit," he said. "Our big advantage is that the SkyTrain line and SeaBus are attractions in themselves."

bconstantineau@png.canwest.com

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SkyTrain stations to get televisions

By Jeff Nagel

Black Press

TV screens carrying information and advertising will be coming to select SkyTrain stations by spring 2006.

Lamar Transit Advertising will install 40-inch LCD video monitors at downtown stations by March 2006, said general manager Byron Montgomery.

They'll initially go in at the SkyTrain platforms at Granville and Waterfront and the downtown SeaBus station.

"Our goal is to one day have this in every SkyTrain station in the line," Montgomery said. "This is the first baby step."

The TVs will carry news, weather, sports, and financial information, along with messages and programming from TransLink - and advertising from Lamar's clients.

A deluxe version will be installed at Burrard station, where waiting commuters will watch a giant video wall comprised of a 12-foot-square matrix of 50-inch screens.

"It's going to be absolutely phenomenal," Montgomery said. "We're going to tile them - they're going to be big, beautiful, bright and state-of-the-art."

The new era of video transit advertising is just one component of an investment of at least $1.5 million over the next three years in new technology by Lamar, he said.

A series of new tactics are expected to shower commuters with advertising and put more money in TransLink's coffers.

Lamar was chosen last spring to continue as TransLink's exclusive advertising agent for up to 15 years in a deal estimated to be worth at least $135 million to the region's transportation authority.

Other changes coming include:

- SkyTrain car floor graphics - one of the first examples installed on Millennium line cars is a Monopoly-themed floor ad for McDonalds.

- Backlit scrolling posters will be added at 16 SkyTrain stations including Surrey Central, Metrotown, New Westminster and Lougheed.

- Backlit signs near the entrances and exits to SkyTrain stations.

- More wall and floor advertising in corridors at stations.

TV screens on SkyTrain cars are still under consideration, but Montgomery said the technology is more complex and costly. Firms elsewhere have lost money on subway televisions, he said, so Lamar will proceed with caution.

"Advertisers want to get people while they wait in the station," he said.

Another option being studied is tunnel advertising - advertisements in the walls viewed from a moving SkyTrain would appear to move like a giant flip-book.

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B.C. ferry intact on ocean floor

99 rescued but 2 dead at Queen of the North incident

Last updated Mar 27 2006 07:47 AM PST

CBC News

The ferry Queen of the North that sank off the B.C. coast last week appears to be in one piece, according to images captured by a miniature submarine equipped with special cameras.

A spokesperson for BC Ferries said the ship appears to be resting in silt up to its keel, 427 metres beneath the surface of Wright Sound, southeast of Prince Rupert.

Deborah Marshall of BC Ferries says there's too much silt to see any damage to the hull.

"She is resting in silt on her keel, and the silt does cover the hull up to the rubbing strake, which is basically the car deck level, and even above in some areas.

The Transportation Safety Board is not releasing the images taken by the submarine during a three-hour dive Sunday.

The submarines detected no sign of the two passengers who are presumed to have drowned when the vessel went down just after midnight local time last Wednesday.

Shirley Rosette and Gerald Foisy, of 100 Mile House in the B.C. Interior, have not been seen since the Queen of the North hit a rock and sank about a kilometre off its planned course.

The ferry was heading south on an overnight trip to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert when it went down near Hartley Bay. The other 99 passengers and crew members were brought to shore safely in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Over the weekend, Transportation Safety Board officials said mechanical problems didn't cause the sinking. They declined to comment on whether human error was to blame.

Investigators hope the information collected by two mini-subs sent to the site will help determine the cause of the grounding, as well as shed light on how to stop diesel fuel leaking from the ferry.

The estimated 225,000 litres of fuel in the vessel's tanks is leaking at a relatively slow rate of 50 litres an hour.

Teams working to minimize diesel damage

Officials said Sunday that the environmental damage from the fuel appeared to be minimal.

Teams from BC Ferries, Environment Canada, the B.C. Ministry of the Environment, the Canadian Coast Guard and aboriginal groups have been working at the site since the boat sank.

Involved in the cleanup effort are two fishing boats, two tugboats, two equipment barges, three support boats, one skimmer, four trailers and a floating boom that is about three kilometres long.

Officials are testing sand, soil and water in the area of the sinking to see whether the fuel has penetrated the beaches.

Environment Canada said there was no evidence of the spill killing any mammals or birds. The wind and sun help break the diesel fuel down quickly into non-toxic biodegradable substances.

However, First Nations leaders say they are becoming increasingly worried about the long-term impacts on traditional shellfish harvesting areas.

Hartley Bay Chief Bob Hill says the leaking fuel is sitting on top of dozens of clam beds that are important food sources for his people. And Hill is particularly concerned by the thin film of diesel fuel now coating the shores of Fin Island.

"The last remaining spot that we know is healthy has been contaminated by diesel fuel. We have harvested in that area for generations. This is why it's a huge concern to the community of Hartley Bay."

Crews have been trying to keep the fuel off the clam beds with floating booms. But the light diesel fuel has proven difficult to contain.

Mark West of Burrard Clean – the company hired by BC Ferries to clean up the spill – said it's fortunate the clams are deep down under the mud.

"That's good, because when they are in a muddy substrate, then the oil does not tend to penetrate. If they were in a more coarser substrate like a gravel, then the oil would penetrate further down, but largely the clams are out of harm's way."

Environment Canada says it has already taken samples from the clam beds, and says testing will continue until it is proven they are safe.

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Richmond's River Rock Casino to host this year’s Gemini Awards

Mar, 28 2006 - 8:20 AM | CKNW

RICHMOND/CKNW(AM980) - Richmond's River Rock Casino will host this year's Gemini Awards.

The November 4th ceremony will honour Canada's best television programs.

The awards traditionally take place in Toronto and this is the first time they'll be handed out on the West Coast.

Art and function combine for Olympics

Mar, 28 2006 - 1:30 AM | CKNW

RICHMOND/CKNW(AM980) - As the construction of the Richmond Olympic speed skating oval moves ahead, it's been announced that a pair of artists are part of the team.

Takao Tanabe, an important figure in Canadian painting for more than fifty years will be joined by Vicki Scurri who specializes in art as infrastructure and who's art is very familiar to Seattle and Phoenix residents.

Large concrete buttresses will be part of the oval design and provide artistic opportunity by using relief designs in the concrete to give it texture and interest to the public.

Open, multi-phased public art competitions will be held in the near future to choose other artists for the oval and nearby sites.

B.C. economy booming but tourism industry showing some troubling signs

Mar, 28 2006 - 8:20 AM | CKNW

CKNW(AM980) - The B.C. economy may be booming, but there are some troubling signs for one of its key industries.

Credit Union Central Economist Helmut Pastrick says visitor numbers from overseas and the U.S. into B.C. have been dropping. “It looks like we've seen the high in those numbers reached in 2002,” said Pastrick. “The January result this year was among the weakest we've seen in over 2 years. It's a rather poor start to the year."

Pastrick says as gasoline prices continue to rise, there will be a corresponding drop-off in land based travel from the U.S. to Canada.

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Granville closes to buses April 24

Two-year project includes tunnelling, prep work for stations  

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 Font: * * * *  John Bermingham, The Province

Published: Thursday, March 30, 2006

You're going to have to wait two years for a bus on Granville Street.

Starting April 24, the busiest bus corridor in the city is closed to public transit, due to construction of the Canada Line.

It's one of many roadwork projects in and around Vancouver that are sure to frustrate motorists this summer.

Canada Line spokesman Steve Crombie said the closure is to do cut-and-cover tunnel work along Granville and prepare the sites for the Robson and Waterfront stations.

"Even though we have got a very, very major infrastructure project happening, and it's going to be very, very disruptive, all these businesses along the Canada Line are going to remain open for business during the construction," said Crombie.

Granville buses from the north side of Granville Bridge to Cordova Street will be diverted through Howe and Seymour.

Work on the Canada Line will also affect traffic on Davie Street, from Hamilton to Pacific Boulevard, starting Monday.

From April 6, traffic flows along Cambie Street will change from Marine Drive to 54th Avenue.

Highlights among the city's $32-million roadworks program include:

- East Broadway, from Yukon to Nanaimo: repave the roadway, rebuild sidewalks and plant trees.

- Commercial Drive, from Venables to Grandview Highway: replace a sewer main.

- Dunsmuir, from Beatty to Burrard: install a new watermain and bike lane.

- Blenheim, from 16th Avenue to S.W. Marine Drive: install traffic-calming changes.

- Carrall, from Water Street to Pacific Boulevard: build a greenway, including street redesign.

For ongoing information on road works, visit www.roadahead.ca, phone 604-873-7070, or check www.canadaline.ca.

jbermingham@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Province 2006

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Foster and Partners' first residential building in North America

Archiseek / Canada / Architecture News / 2006 / March 29

Jameson House is the first mixed-use residential building in North America designed by architecture and design firm, Foster and Partners. The architects are bringing their signature vision to Vancouver, championing sustainable design with the innovative mix of retail, office and residential spaces. The 37-storey glass tower is located in the heart of downtown's heritage district at 838 West Hastings Street. Construction of the project will begin in Summer of 2006 with a scheduled completion date of Fall 2009.

Foster and Partners is currently working on Beijing's new airport, the largest terminal in the world and the second World Trade Centre Tower in New York. Past projects include Swiss Re's London Headquarters; the new German Parliament, Reichstag, Berlin; Research Centres for Stanford University, California; Hearst Headquarters, New York; and HSBC Headquarters, Hong Kong.

"Jameson House is a powerful distillation of a number of Foster and Partners' key themes that have evolved over many years. It is a historic building that has required a sensitive response to Vancouver's heritage district," said Nigel Dancey, Senior Partner at Foster and Partners. “It is also mixed-use, providing high-density accommodation in the downtown area, and a more sustainable strategy for the future of the city. Finally, it is a high quality residential development, which maximizes views to the waterfront. These factors combine to make this project an exciting articulation of our design philosophy as well as a model for contemporary urban living."

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Wind and Water Tests Begin for Glass Exterior of Expansion

March 21, 2006  

Vancouver - Creating the unique see-through exterior for the Vancouver Convention Centre’s expansion is no easy task and the glazing to be used will undergo special testing before it can be subjected to Vancouver’s winter weather.

The expansion features a glazed exterior wall system designed by architects at Downs Archambault, Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership and LMN Architects.  The wall system allows much of the building’s interior activity to be seen from the outside, while affording those inside the building magnificent views of Burrard Inlet and the north shore mountains.  Even the vertical supports for the glass will be transparent for an even clearer view

A joint venture comprised of Inland Glass & Aluminum of Kamloops and Advanced Glazing Systems Ltd. of Vancouver has been awarded the $20.7 million contract to supply the 1.5 hectares of glass needed for the exterior walls of the expansion.  They will combine Low-Iron extra clear (the clearest possible) "Diamant" glass from Saint-Gobain, France with aluminum framing made in Korea to manufacture and install massive double-glazed units for the building’s outer walls.  The panes are specially coated with metal oxides to provide superior thermal insulation and contribute to the sustainability of the project. In addition, the glazing to be installed on the north side of the building facing Burrard Inlet will be laminated with a special acoustic interlayer, to add extra sound insulation.

“This is a key part of the expansion project and the fact that two BC businesses are working together on this contract serves as a good example of how partnerships can maximize the economic benefits from major projects like the expansion,” said Olga Ilich, Minister of Tourism, Sport and the Arts and minister responsible for the expansion of the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre.  

“Installation of the glazing is due to start in November, but first we need to test it to make sure it can withstand the wind and the rain they’ll have to endure once they’re installed,” said Russ Anthony, President and Project Director of the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project (VCCEP.)  “The first test panels are being sent to a special glass testing facility in Florida this month, where the panels will be placed before a stationary jet engine to recreate wind and rain conditions far greater than we’d ever see here. The glazing system has been specially designed to withstand those conditions long term but we need to be absolutely sure there’s no chance of leakage before we install such a massive glass project.”

To date, contracts totaling more than $170 million have been awarded for the beginning of the construction phase of the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project. Each individual contract was awarded on a fixed-price basis following a competitive and open tender process.

Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project Ltd. is wholly owned by the Province of British Columbia and is responsible for the expansion of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.  The expansion is made possible by a funding partnership of the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, and Tourism Vancouver. The expansion project is to be completed in 2008 and will more than triple the Convention Centre's available space.  It will also serve as the international broadcast and media centre for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Surrey Firm to Grow Convention Centre Expansion's Living Roof

March 21, 2006

Vancouver - Holland Landscapers of Surrey has been awarded a plant propagation contract valued at $700,000 for the 2.4 hectare (six acre) Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project (VCCEP) living roof that will cap the expansion when it is completed in 2008.

“Work has begun to collect the seeds and bulbs needed to plant nearly 400,000 plants and wild grasses that will create this new downtown urban oasis,” said Bruce Hemstock of PWL Partnership Ltd., the landscape architects for the living roof.  Hemstock has been overseeing a series of test plots on Port of Vancouver land east of the VCCEP site for more than a year, to test which species will best suit the unusual waterfront environment atop the expansion. The sustainable design of the living roof includes drainage and water recovery systems that will collect rainwater to be used for irrigation.

“The convention centre expansion not only breaks new ground in terms of design, it will also be a showcase for sustainability with such things as the living roof,” said Olga Ilich, Minister of Tourism, Sport and the Arts and minister responsible for the expansion of the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre. “It is all the more gratifying when a BC firm demonstrates the ability to provide the expertise and creativity required for leading edge projects like this.”

“There’s no doubt this is an unusual project since we will be selecting only plants that make their home here on the west coast and we’ll need enough of them to cover an area as big as 15 hockey rinks,” said Hemstock.  

To date, contracts totaling more than $170 million have been awarded for the beginning of the construction phase of the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project. Each individual contract was awarded on a fixed-price basis following a competitive and open tender process.

Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project Ltd. is wholly owned by the Province of British Columbia and is responsible for the expansion of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.  The expansion is made possible by a funding partnership of the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, and Tourism Vancouver. The expansion project is to be completed in 2008 and will more than triple the Convention Centre's available space.  It will also serve as the international broadcast and media centre for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

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New High Alpine Ski Lift at Whistler for 2006-07

Whistler (BC), Canada (Monday, April 3, 2006) - British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb ski and snowboard resort has unveiled plans to build a new high speed detachable quad in the high alpine for the 2006-2007 winter season. The new Piccolo Express Lift on Whistler Mountain will run to the Piccolo peak from the bottom of Flute Bowl and will provide access to more than 1,000 acres of spectacular high alpine ski and snowboard terrain. The new lift is part of an overall capital investment of C$22.1 million in mountain upgrades at Whistler Blackcomb, the largest ski resort in North America.

“The new Piccolo Express Lift will open up a brand new era in high alpine access for our intermediate skiers and snowboarders as well as the experts,” says Dave Brownlie, Chief Operating Officer at Whistler Blackcomb. “For the first time, our guests will have high speed lift access to this spectacular terrain, with its legendary vast bowls, deep snow and exciting gladed sub-alpine skiing. The new Piccolo Express Lift will provide access to a range of gentle and challenging terrain including the wide open upper bowl area, a new high-intermediate gladed area, and two new conventionally cut trails for low-intermediates. This lift will give our intermediate guests a new opportunity to enjoy a truly incredible high alpine experience on Whistler Mountain with access to wide open bowls that currently have a snow depth of more than five meters (16 feet).”

The Piccolo lift will complement Whistler Mountain’s existing lift network, in particular the popular Harmony Express. Piccolo will be accessed from the top of The Peak Chair or the top of Harmony. To come home, guests will ski or snowboard out from the top of the Piccolo Express Lift, along Burnt Stew Trail back to the Harmony Express. Piccolo will provide high alpine skiing and riding in early and late season. Flute Peak will remain a hike-in, in-bounds backcountry experience, although the new lift will eliminate the need to hike back out.

“This is a very special area of pristine mountain terrain and we are fully committed to preserving the natural surroundings for our guests today and for future generations,” stresses Doug Forseth, Whistler Blackcomb’s Senior Vice President of Operations. “We have engaged the services of environmental experts and a biologist to ensure there is minimal impact from the construction of the new lift. Heli-glading, moving equipment in over snow, and an extensive environmental review of all trail design scenarios are examples of the efforts we will undertake as part of our commitment to continue to innovate while ensuring we develop the most sustainable trail glade designs possible."

The high speed detachable quad will run 2,112 meters (6,929 feet) in length, with a vertical rise of 509 meters (1,670 feet). The top elevation of the lift will be at 2,034 meters (6,673 feet); the bottom elevation will be 1,525 meters (5,003 feet). Over 1,000 skiable acres will be accessed by this new lift.

Construction will begin on the lift this spring and will continue through the summer and fall with an expected opening at the beginning of the 2006-2007 winter season. Hiking access to Singing Pass from the Whistler Village Gondola will remain available throughout the summer.

“We are fully committed to enhancing Whistler Blackcomb to ensure we consistently deliver the industry’s best experiences for our guests,” concludes Brownlie. “Whether it’s last season’s launch of the family-style Coca Cola Tube Park, or the opening of Peak to Creek, North America’s longest intermediate run, or opening up a unique in-bounds backcountry experience in Flute Bowl, we continually strive to be great stewards of the incredible environment we have been entrusted with.”

Further capital plans within the C$22.1 million to be spent for the 2006-2007 season will be announced in the summer and will include investment in mountain improvements, snowmaking and trail maintenance.

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Vancouver most ‘bubble-like'

Written by Tavia Grant, the Globe & Mail

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Western Canada housing market remains on fire, with Vancouver displaying "the greatest bubble-like qualities," a Toronto-Dominion Bank report said Tuesday.

Overall, Canada's housing market reflects a tale of regional divides, with the West still strong while central and Atlantic Canada appears to be cooling, TD said.

Across the country, house prices jumped almost 10 per cent in the first quarter, with sales and new-home construction also remaining strong.

While much of the growth in the West has been supported by strong economic fundamentals and the level of affordability doesn't suggest that housing in Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon or Winnipeg has become frothy, "the risk of speculative pressures is present, TD said.

It sees those risks as particularly acute in Vancouver.

"Vancouver has the greatest bubble-like qualities, with prices rising at a 22-per-cent annual pace in the first quarter of 2006, average home prices reaching close to half a million dollars and affordability deteriorating to the worst level in the country," the report said.

"The Vancouver real-estate market is clearly vulnerable to any deterioration in buyer sentiment."

However, the city's economy will likely remain solid in the next years, "limiting any softening in the price environment."

Across Canada, TD expects the pace of house-price increases to slow.

"Based on long-term factors, including demographics and income growth, the average annual increase in national home prices is likely to be around 4 per cent in the coming decade."

© The Globe and Mail

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Woodward’s building overhaul an ever-changing affair in volatile market

Business In Vancouver Magazine - April 03, 2006

Costs closing in on $300 million as residential and commercial components of east side redevelopment are now far different from those in original plans

Vancouver will soon sign over the Woodward’s building to Westbank Projects Corp. and Peterson Investment Group Inc. for redevelopment.

But the project set to rise on the site over the next three years is significantly different from the one council approved 18 months ago, as Westbank project manager Dave Leung told a recent Building Owners’ and Managers’ Association luncheon.

The original 428 units of residential were boosted to 536 units, while three floors of commercial space have been cut to just two. The project has grown to 1.1 million square feet from 800,000 square feet; costs, at last count, had jumped to just under $300 million from $200 million.

No wonder talk on the street – and there’s a lot of it these days – is cheerier when it comes to the project’s potential benefits for the surrounding area than it is about the project’s financial viability.

Rising construction costs and a growing labour shortage are challenges for the project, Leung pointed out to BOMA members. The redevelopment is getting started when the construction market is operating at fever-pitch.

While presales of the market residential units are a big factor in the project’s financing, the timing could also be better.

Westbank, it appears, hasn’t left itself much room to manoeuvre in the event buyers lose heart (3,000 hopefuls have reportedly preregistered). Moreover, the city isn’t likely to kick in more than the $23.6 million support package it’s already committed to the project.

Westbank has taken steps to address financing issues, however; Leung pointed out that the project’s office and residential components were rejigged “simply because of market conditions.”

Still, with the volume of presales still unknown, six permits to acquire over the next year and tenders yet to go out for construction materials, there’s room for shocks.

But as Westbank’s Ian Gillespie has said more than once, the appeal of Woodward’s for developers lies partly in the challenge and opportunity it presents to make a difference in the city’s most desperate neighbourhood.

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Woodward's

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Project Size

905,000 sf consisting of:

· 125 Single Non-Market Housing

· 75 Family Non-Market Units

· SFU - Centre for Contemporary Arts

· 500 Market Housing Units

· Potenital Federal/City Department Office Space

· Indoor Atrium and Garden Area

· Outdoor Public Open Space, Urban Park and Plaza

· Roof Gardens

Project Cost

$300,000,000

Architect

Henriquez Partners Architects

Completion

Spring 2009

Developer

Westbank Projects Corp. & Peterson Investment Group Inc.

Construction Commencement

February 2006

Overview

The redevelopment of the former site of Woodward's is perhaps the most significant mixed-use development project to be undertaken in Vancouver. After years of neglect and uncertainty over its future, the Woodward's site redevelopment was awarded to the partnership of Westbank and Peterson Investment Group by the City of Vancouver. Covering almost an entire city block, this site, once a major department store, serves as the city's historic and social heart.

This high-profile development proposes approximately one million sf of market and non-market residential, institutional, retail, office and community uses above two levels of underground parking. The redevelopment of the Woodward's site is certain to revitalize the streetscape of the immediate area and to serve as a catalyst for the economic, social and physical revival of the Downtown Eastside.

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Existing airport facilities pushed to capacity by heavy demand

$1-billion terminal by 2015 and third runway by 2025

Bruce Constantineau, Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, April 06, 2006

Vancouver International Airport will need a new $1-billion terminal by 2015 and a third runway -- worth "hundreds of millions of dollars" -- by 2025 as surging passenger traffic pushes existing facilities to full capacity, airport authority president Larry Berg said Wednesday.

That's on top of an estimated $1 billion the airport expects to spend over the next four years on the Canada Line, gate expansions to the international terminal, a new structure linking the domestic and international terminals and associated improvements.

So airport improvement fees that have raised close to $600 million since 1993, will remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future, Berg said after a Vancouver Board of Trade speech.

"If we don't add this infrastructure improvement, airlines will just go to other West Coast airports," he said in an interview.

Vancouver airport had a record 16.4 million passengers last year and Berg expects about 23 million passengers will use the airport in 2015, with growth expected to come from several global markets -- including North America, Europe and Asia.

Berg said the airport authority has the financial capacity now to borrow the money needed for the future capital projects. He noted Standard and Poor's credit rating agency recently raised the authority's credit rating to AA, making it one of just four airports in the world to achieve that rating -- along with Los Angeles International, Aeroports de Paris and Oklahoma City airports.

Details of the airport authority's future development plans will be outlined in the first draft of a long-term plan the authority expects to release later this spring.

Berg said the airport will add nine new gates by 2010, giving it a total of 62. But the airport will need 11 more gates by 2015 and 14 more by 2023, creating the need for a new $1-billion terminal by as early as 2015.

"Our plan will be to develop a flexible facility that could be built in phases as needed," he said.

The authority will recommend the new terminal be located to the east of the existing international terminal and be served directly by a Canada Line station.

Before a new runway is built in 2025, the airport plans to build two new taxiways to get the maximum use of its existing runways. A north-south taxiway will connect the western ends of the two runways and in 2014, the airport wants to build an elevated taxiway that will cross over Grant McConachie Way and the Canada Line.

Berg said an underground taxiway isn't practical for Sea Island so an elevated facility was the obvious option.

"Elevated taxiways are quite common now and not much more expensive to build than conventional taxiways," he said.

Berg said there are two options for a future third runway -- build it along the foreshore or build it south of the existing south runway.

He said there are cost and environmental concerns with the foreshore option but it has received significant support from the public because it moves noise farther away from residential areas. The south runway option was not as popular because it moves noise closer to some Richmond neighbourhoods, Berg said, and the exact cost of either option has not been determined.

"It depends, but when you start talking runways, you're into hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.

Berg said there are no plans to increase the airport improvement fee, which was introduced in 1993 to finance capital improvements.

"But as long as we're in this major construction mode for the foreseeable future, it's my expectation [the fee] will continue to be in place," he said.

The fee -- expected to generate about $70 million this year -- adds $5 to the cost of a flight to a B.C. or Yukon destination, $10 for North America and Hawaii, and $15 for destinations outside North America.

Berg said a new economic impact study has determined that Vancouver International Airport accounts for 26,700 direct jobs and generates $6.8 billion in total economic output. He said the numbers have grown modestly in the past five years, despite a downturn in the aviation industry caused by 9/11, SARS and record-high fuel prices.

The study said positive factors boosting airport activity since 2000 include a 15-per-cent increase in overseas flights, continuing construction projects, growth in air cargo business, growth of WestJet and other domestic carriers and expansion of retail services.

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GVRD begs to differ on Port Mann twinning

But provincial transportation minister insists bridge project will definitely proceed 'because it is critical'

William Boei

Vancouver Sun

Thursday, April 06, 2006

LOWER MAINLAND - Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon rejected a regional district report Thursday that offers qualified support for the $3-billion Gateway Program but says the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge clashes with long-term regional growth plans.

The report, written by Greater Vancouver Regional District chief planner Hugh Kellas, recommends the GVRD support the program if the province drops its plan to twin the bridge and agrees to several other conditions.

Falcon said "No," when asked if there was any chance the province will agree to leave out or change any major components of the Gateway Program.

Asked if that means the province will definitely go ahead with the twinning of the Port Mann, he said, "Absolutely. There is no question about it, because that is a critical part."

The government is in the first phase of public consultations about the Gateway Program but has been talking to municipal and regional officials about it for two years, and Falcon said in a telephone interview that the region can't pick and choose among the parts now.

"If we just built the South Fraser Perimeter Road without the twinned Port Mann Bridge, then what we would do is create a traffic calamity on the Pattullo and the Alex Fraser," he said.

"If you try to pull out that portion of it, you create significant challenges for the other portions. And we're not going to do that.

"This is why you have a provincial government, to kind of look at the broader picture to make sure that we make a decision in the broadest interest."

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who chairs the GVRD's land use and transportation committee, said Falcon's comments were disappointing.

"It's obvious to me that consultation has never been Kevin Falcon's strong suit," said Corrigan, whose committee will be presented with the Kellas report on Friday.

But he predicted the regional district will stay the course.

"Of course we will," he said. "I think the GVRD will be more inclined to dig in its heels if Kevin Falcon isn't willing to listen to any of the comments we might have about whether or not the Port Mann Bridge twinning fits within our plans, or how it might be made to fit within our plans."

Asked what recourse the GVRD has, Corrigan, said, "Public opinion. I'm expecting that there will be significant public pressure on the government to re-look at its plans once all of the information is out."

The Kellas report says the GVRD can support the overall goals of the Gateway Program, such as improved movement of goods and people, better connections to transit and reduced vehicle emissions.

The program includes the twinning of the bridge, widening the Trans-Canada Highway from Langley to Vancouver, building a new four-lane highway on the south shore of the Fraser River and upgrading a truck route on existing roads on the north shore of the river, including a new Pitt River bridge.

Kellas says the Port Mann twinning, widening the Trans-Canada west of the Port Mann and the new Pitt River bridge clash with regional plans. Those plans call for transportation demand management to be used to create space for goods movement before road capacity is expanded.

bboei@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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Woodward's opens door to cutting-edge condo living  

Pete McMartin, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, April 08, 2006

As of Friday afternoon, they had 5,526 prospects: people so interested in buying a piece of the Woodward's development they had registered their names, addresses and phone numbers in advance.

Calls came from New York, Los Angeles, Seattle.

Calls came from realtors acting on behalf of offshore buyers.

Calls came from thousands of locals who -- unthinkable a decade ago -- now were intrigued by the idea of owning a piece of the Downtown Eastside.

For sale: A total of 536 suites.

Price: Anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000.

Move-in date: Some time in 2009, or 16 years after Woodward's closed its doors and the tortuous story of its redesign began.

And today -- Saturday, at noon -- members of the public will get their first chance to preview what is being offered for sale.

A 639-sq.-ft. one-bedroom demonstration suite has been constructed on the 17th floor of the Shaw Tower, at 1077 West Cordova.

It's a sleek little thing with patterned oak floors, polished stone kitchen countertops, high-end stainless steel appliances, a tastefully appointed bathroom -- the typical chi-chi finish you find in a Yaletown condo.

The thing differentiating a Woodward's condo from a Yaletown condo, though?

It's more than the address, or the local wildlife.

It's the high-minded idea, or the pretension, take your pick, that buying into the Woodward's project is to take part in a social experiment. It's an experiment that ostensibly encourages egalitarianism, of having the well-off and the not-so-well-off living together.

At the same time, it's a sly form of reverse marketing, of using the grittiness of the Downtown Eastside as a selling point.

Or to put it another way, living on the edge of the Downtown Eastside is cutting edge. You're not just buying a condo; you're buying texture, an arty urban toughness, a commitment. As its ad campaign states:

"This is an authentic area, not a sanitized environment. Neighbourhoods like this are rare and offer a creative mix of cutting-edge culture, heritage and character. That's why the intelligent buyer will get in early. This is the future. This is your neighbourhood. Be bold or move to suburbia."

"That's why I like to call it an intellectual property," said Bob Rennie, the condo king marketing the Woodward's project.

"You have to think about what you want in living here and about being down here. It's not like buying a condo in Yaletown, because the social housing is in place here and it's not going anywhere. The buyers coming in know this."

Unlike much of Yaletown, the Woodward's development has a high portion of social housing units set aside -- 200 apartments situated on the development's bottom 12 floors, to be managed by the Portland Hotel Society.

In addition to that, 100 of the 536 market units are also being offered to residents of the Downtown Eastside on a priority basis.

You might ask who in the Downtown Eastside could afford to buy a $300,000 or $400,000 condo, but the qualifying residence area covers two postal codes -- all of V6A and half of V6B. Rennie believes there are more than enough single-family residences and home owners in the area to generate sales.

If the number of registered prospects is any indication, he could be right. Saturday's preview, which as I wrote earlier, opens at noon today and is expected to attract about 1,500 viewers. Viewing will run until April 20.

What follows next has the air of a radio-show call-in contest.

On April 13, Rennie's phone lines will open at exactly 9 a.m. and a bank of operators will take calls from interested buyers. It's first-come first-served, and depending on the time they call in, buyers will be assigned a colour-coded wristband designating when they can come in and make an offer.

Those residents within the Downtown Eastside postal code areas will be given priority, and then, on April 22, buyers from outside the area will be able to come in and make offers.

"And they are eligible to buy only one unit," Rennie said.

"My bet is that 90 per cent of the building will be sold on the 22nd," he said.

A couple of years back, he said, he was not as sure.

"Two and a half years ago, [city planner] Larry Beasley and I both spoke at the Urban Development Institute, and we both said, 'The city's moving east,' as if we were soothsayers. We said there was nowhere else to go, and at that time, it was considered pioneering.

"But that pioneering that existed 21/2 years ago is not the same pioneering we are talking about now."

The pioneering we're talking about now, Rennie said, is the undiscovered territory into which the Woodward's development is about to take the Downtown Eastside. The appetite for change down there is tempered by the fear of change, which he said he understands and with which he sympathizes. He hopes the Woodward's development will be the critical mass needed to start urban renewal but not one that completely changes the neighbourhood's character.

"The drug dealers? If they disappear, I could give a s---. They should have no place down there. But there should be room for a real mix of incomes and types of people."

That's the question of Woodward's. How will the well-off and the not-so-well-off get along?

Will Woodward's change the Downtown Eastside or not?

In perfect illustration of that, Rennie told a story.

"I got a call from a guy who was from L.A. and who had expressed interest in buying a unit, and he was in town walking around the [Woodward's] building. While he was there, a woman on the sidewalk dropped her drawers in front of him. So he took a photo of her on his cellphone, sent it to me and asked:

" 'Should I be worried?' "

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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Twinned bridge gets TransLink support

By Jeff Nagel Black Press

Apr 09 2006

Top planners from TransLink and the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) have come to opposite conclusions on whether the controversial Port Mann bridge twinning should proceed.

TransLink staff tabled their findings Friday backing the twinning and widening of Highway 1 – on condition that the province step forward with aid to replace the 70-year-old Pattullo Bridge, complete the underfunded Evergreen light rail line by 2009 and build a Highway 1 express bus corridor connecting north Langley and Surrey to SkyTrain.

They also insist the province toll the bridge to control its use and ensure transit, HOV and truck users get priority access.

In essence, TransLink signalled its support for the twinning can be had – for a price – while GVRD planners see it as catastrophic to future growth patterns and non-negotiable.

“The GVRD approach is let’s go to war,” said Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt. “TransLink’s approach is if we don’t want to go to war, what can we get?”

A more detailed GVRD analysis of the $3-billion Gateway program by policy and planning manager Hugh Kellas was also tabled at the GVRD land use and transportation committee Friday.

It found the bridge twinning and freeway widening to the west of it violate the Liveable Region Strategic Plan that guides growth.

Kellas’ report argues those elements be shelved while growth impacts are studied along with other congestion control options like pan-regional tolling and road pricing.

“Fundamentally, they’re throwing a whole bunch of pavement at the problem and hoping to solve it,” Kellas told the committee.

“If we want to be a more sustainable region as we go from two to three million people we will have to do a better job than has been presented by the Gateway program.”

Both sets of planners broadly endorse Gateway elements such as the South and North Fraser Perimeter Roads.

TransLink planning vice-president Glen Leicester said SkyTrain ridership could be boosted if the Port Mann is twinned and tolled – but use could drop on both SkyTrain and the Evergreen line if the bridge isn’t tolled.

The Pattullo bridge must not be promoted as a free alternative to the Port Mann, he added, and a strategy is needed to replace it.

The GVRD board hasn’t yet endorsed either report, but both sets of findings will be sent to local city councils for debate and comment.

That’s to be followed by a “council of councils” meeting near the end of April that’s intended to thrash out a regional consensus and try to extract either plan sweeteners or alterations from the province.

Topping TransLink’s wish list is more money for the Evergreen line in Coquitlam, which has $170 million from the province and $400 million from TransLink, but remains $230 million short of budget.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who chairs the land use and transportation committee, thinks the pressure on Victoria and the government’s transportation minister will rise as local councils discuss the issue.

“Kevin Falcon is bloody-minded about this. But that doesn’t mean the whole provincial government is bloody-minded,” Corrigan said.

He said other MLAs may press for reconsideration of Gateway.

“There’s an opportunity for the province to come up with a much more win-win solution,” he said.

He noted there’s no rush – the bridge twinning completion target is 2013. “This decision doesn’t have to be made tomorrow.”

Falcon has already said there will be no change in direction on Gateway.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don McLean suggested taking the issue to local councils is futile.

“All this meeting I do not believe is going to change the ministry’s decision of what they have proposed one iota,” McLean said. “They are single-minded. They are moving straight ahead. The fact they haven’t been to the GVRD board is just incredulous to be honest.”

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VANCOUVER 3RD BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN WORLD

City places first in Canada in international survey

Wency Leung, Vancouver Sun

Published: Monday, April 10, 2006

Vancouver is the best city in Canada in which to live, and the third-best place in the world, according to an annual quality of life survey.

Of 215 cities polled, Vancouver came behind only the Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva, Mercer Human Resource Consulting said in its annual Worldwide Quality of Living Survey.

Vancouver kept the same ranking as last year, while Toronto edged up one spot to 15th and Ottawa climbed three spots to 18th place. Montreal ranked 22nd and Calgary 25th.

Mercer consultant Rebecca Powers said Vancouver topped the other Canadian cities due to its natural environment and recreational sites.

"It's the relative nearness of the mountains, skiing, the ocean . . . as well as the moderate climate relative to the rest of the country," Powers said by telephone from San Francisco.

But, she added: "The rest of Canada shouldn't feel that slighted [by Vancouver's high ranking]. The difference . . . in the scheme of things, isn't that large."

The survey is tailored to help governments and multinational companies place employees on international assignments.

It is based on 39 indicators, including political, social, economic factors, personal safety, and health, education, transportation and public services. It also examines environmental factors, such as climate and each city's record of natural disasters.

While the survey did not directly factor in the cost of housing, it does consider the availability and quality of housing.

Canadian cities scored higher than all U.S. cities included in the survey.

New York City, which was used as a base against which all other cities were compared, rated 46th.

Honolulu, the top city in the U.S., dropped two positions to 27th, while San Francisco remained at 28th.

"Overall, U.S. cities continue to slip slightly or remain stable in the rankings, except Chicago, which has moved up 11 places due to decreased crime rates," Mercer stated in a report accompanying the survey results.

It noted that declines south of the border have often been the result of increased air pollution, crime, natural disasters or terrorism.

Canada's natural environment is seen as better than the U.S., while crime in the U.S. is generally considered a bigger issue, Powers said.

Baghdad scored the worst place in the world for expatriates to live, unchanged from last year. Congo's capital of Brazzaville was the second-worst.

Broadening instability in the Middle East also affected Cairo's rating, causing it to plummet nine places to 131st position.

Rankings for most of Western Europe either improved or remained unchanged, but Dublin fell two places to 24th, mostly due to traffic congestion.

The quality of living in Eastern European cities showed gradual improvement, as did scores for Asia-Pacific cities.

Mercer anticipated Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai will see higher quality of living scores in the next few years due to increased foreign investment, while India would also benefit from improved political relations with other countries.

Shanghai placed 103rd, the highest rank in China, and Mumbai ranked 150th.

THE GOOD AND BAD:

The 10 best and 10 worst cities for quality of life.

BEST CITIES IN WHICH TO LIVE (SEVERAL CITIES TIED):

1. Zurich, Switzerland

2. Geneva, Switzerland

3. Vancouver, Canada

4. Vienna, Austria

5. Auckland, New Zealand

6. Dusseldorf, Germany

7. Frankfurt, Germany

8. Munich, Germany

9. Bern, Switzerland

9. Sydney, Australia

WORST CITIES IN WHICH TO LIVE:

1. Baghdad, Iraq

2. Brazzaville, Congo

3. Bangui, Central African Republic

4. Khartoum, Sudan

5. Pointe Noire, Congo

6. Ndjamena, Chad

7. Sanaa, Yemen Arab Republic

7. Port Harcourt, Nigeria

7. Nouakchott, Mauritania

8. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Source: 2006 Worldwide Quality of Living Survey, conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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YVR By The Numbers

YVR.ca | April 2006

The Airport Authority’s mandate is to ensure YVR meets the growing demand for air travel, and continues to realize its potential as a premier global gateway and economic generator for British Columbia. So, we spend a lot of time thinking about the future.

Sometimes, though, it’s good to pause and take a look at where we’re at now, because we’ve certainly come a long way since we assumed responsibility for the airport in 1992. That year, we had about 700 take-offs and landings a day, served 9.9-million passengers, and handled 144,000 tonnes of cargo. We offered scheduled non-stop service to 10 international destinations and eight in the United States. YVR now averages about 800 aircraft arrivals and departures each day and in 2005, we welcomed more than 16.4-million travellers, a new record, and handled 223,700 tonnes of cargo. We now provide scheduled non-stop service to 18 international destinations and 23 in the United States.

Where does our traffic come from? Domestic passengers make up slightly more than half of the annual traffic through YVR. Transborder passengers account for about a quarter of our yearly visitors; another 22 percent is made up of International passengers, with Asia-Pacific travellers at about 15 percent and European travellers at about seven per cent. The balance is comprised largely of travellers from Mexico and the Caribbean.

Of all the passengers who pass through YVR, about a third connect to onward flights. Approximately 65 per cent of YVR passengers are tourists – residents from outside of B.C. travelling for leisure purposes – while 30 per cent are travelling for business. Demographically speaking, nearly 80 per cent of YVR passengers are over the age of 35. The female/male split is nearly even, at 53 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively.

That’s a look at our passengers, but where are they going? The top three destinations to and from YVR are, in order: Toronto, Calgary and Los Angeles. The shortest flight from Vancouver is service to Nanaimo, which clocks in at 24 minutes. The longest non-stop flight offered from YVR is to Manila, more than 10,548 kilometres away – that flight takes 14-and-a-half hours.

This snapshot of where we are now also gives us a view of where we’re going. When we look to our growth areas, we see increases in several sectors, most notably the European sector, where traffic was up by 11.6 per cent in 2005 compared with 2004. We also saw growth in domestic traffic, which increased by 4.5 per cent; transborder (Canada-U.S.) traffic, where we saw a 3.6 per cent increase; and Asia Pacific traffic, which was up by a moderate 1.9 per cent.

With Approved Destination Status from the People’s Republic of China nearing completion, we expect a more dramatic rise in Asia-Pacific traffic in the years to come, as Chinese visitors find it easier to visit Vancouver for tourism and leisure. With a city and province this beautiful, there is little doubt that travellers the world over will continue to find reasons to visit Vancouver, and that’s good news for YVR and for the many businesses and services that depend on the airport and the tourism industry for their continued success

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VANCOUVER'S LARGEST KIDNAPPING INVESTIGATION SOLVED

300 officers, 8-days, 24/7, 14 houses: Kidnap victim Graham McMynn found alive and well

Graham McMynn (CBC)

BREAKING NEWS | April 11, 2006

VANCOUVER (CP) - A millionaire's son snatched a week ago at gunpoint and held for nearly a week as his terrified parents pleaded with his kidnappers was rescued Wednesday in raids on 14 houses by armed police officers.

A shaken Graham McMynn, who had been confined during his captivity, was rescued from a house in suburban Surrey and taken to hospital, said Insp. Tom McCluskie. With only minor facial injuries and in the company of his elated parents, McMynn, 23, went directly to the police station to personally thank officers.

"I can tell you, there was hardly a dry eye" among investigators, McCluskie said.

One hundred officers targeted 14 homes in and around the Vancouver area as part of the operation that involved several police units.

By late afternoon, McMynn was home with his family. He and his parents roared through an electric gate in front of their upscale house past a waiting throng of media and disappeared into the property's garage.

They did not speak to reporters, although a family member was expected to hold a news conference Thursday.

McCluskie said McMynn's father, Bob McMynn, was so elated when he heard his son was OK that he had trouble forming a sentence.

"It's just been awful," Doreen McMynn, Graham's grandmother, told said.

She got her son on the phone, Graham's dad, and told him how happy she was.

"We're so happy, all we can do is cry," she said.

The day began with the officers gathering at a downtown armoury to be given orders on the raids on several houses that included a residence on Vancouver Island.

"Investigative measures" throughout the week led police to believe McMynn was being held in one of the houses, McCluskie said, refusing to elaborate.

Eventually, at least eight people were arrested, with more arrests possibly to follow.

Those arrested were known to police, McCluskie said, adding drugs were involved.

McCluskie would not say what prompted the abduction, but said it had nothing to do with Graham, who was "targeted."

When asked if the motive was the McMynn family fortune, McCluskie responded: "There was the perception that Mr. McMynn was a wealthy individual. I don't want to speculate."

But neither police nor the McMynn family had any contact at all with the kidnappers, despite two pleas by Graham's parents.

McMynn was kidnapped April 4 by several armed men who boxed in his car on a road near his family's home in southwest Vancouver.

His horrified girlfriend was left behind, but someone noted one of the suspects' cars. Police managed to piece together the ownership of the car, McCluskie said.

Bob McMynn's company owns a fleet of buses across North America, but court documents show he has been named in several lawsuits.

As well, the family carries several million dollars in mortgages.

In his video, Bob McMynn told the kidnappers not to believe media reports suggesting the family is broke.

"I have money," he said.

In a blue-collar neighbourhood in east Vancouver, Cicilia Ngai said Wednesday morning there were police officers all over her front yard as they investigated her neighbour.

She said in a telephone interview she was frightened and trapped in her house and asked a reporter what was going on.

When informed the police action was related to McMynn's kidnapping, she exclaimed "Holy moly!

"I only know that one of our next-door neighbours has come out already but they're still looking for someone. But whoever they are looking for hasn't stepped out of the door yet."

She said police repeatedly ordered the occupants of the house to come out.

The woman said she heard a loud bang earlier in the morning that she thought was a gunshot, but she said she wasn't sure.

Police eventually led a man away from Ngai's neighbour's house, as well as a pit bull and another dog.

The house was equipped with several security cameras.

Police were clearly exhilarated with the outcome of the investigation.

Deputy Chief Doug LePard said 400 investigators took part, working around the clock.

"The only thing I can compare it to is watching a successful moon landing," said Lepard, adding the investigation was unprecedented in its magnitude.

Vancouver police were assisted by the RCMP's behavioural sciences group and emergency response teams from other area forces.

Police Chief Jamie Graham said he brief Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan as the raids were underway and while there, he was able to tell the mayor that Graham had been rescued alive.

"I can assure you I have never seen a bigger smile."

© The Canadian Press, 2006

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The Eagleridge Bluffs highway expansion is part of the $600 million Sea-to-Sky highway expansion, to be ready in time for the Olympics.  The Sea-to-Sky highway links Whistler and Vancouver.

Well-heeled plan protest

WEST VANCOUVER I Bankers and professionals are among those demanding that a tunnel be built to save Eagleridge Bluffs

Lori Culbert

Vancouver Sun

Saturday, April 15, 2006

WEST VANCOUVER I Retired investment banker Dennis Perry is ready to pitch his tent Monday night in the slopes above West Vancouver, as he and other professionals stage an urban protest to try to stop the expansion of Highway 1 through Eagleridge Bluffs.

Although B.C. is a province with a rich history of demonstrations against the destruction of environmentally sensitive areas, this protest is truly unique.

Most members of Perry's grassroots group, the Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs, are not card-carrying environmentalists who plan to chain themselves to trees on remote logging roads; they are, instead, bankers, physiotherapists and other professionals erecting a tent city in West Vancouver -- one of the most exclusive communities of million-dollar homes in Canada.

They hope their unusual demonstration will shame the provincial government into changing its plans to build an expansion of the highway through the scenic bluffs above Horseshoe Bay. The group argues a tunnel, or a third lane added to the existing route, would protect the environment and the view.

"This may be unprecedented globally for this major issue to be erupting almost downtown in one of the most beautiful cities in the world," said Perry.

The coalition, which has been fighting the province for three years, is comprised of many West Vancouver retirees -- most of whom have never joined protests before or been in trouble with the law.

"These are average people. You're going to see a preponderance of older people, grandmas and grandpas who aren't afraid to say no," said Perry. "There's many who are prepared to be arrested, but that's a personal choice. We don't know what is going to happen, we don't know what the government is going to do."

Although new to the demonstration game, the Eagleridge bluff protesters, are determined to be in this for the long haul because they can go home for showers and drop into local restaurants for food.

"This is an urban setting. This isn't the wildness of Clayoquot Sound. We will be able to go back and forth to our homes," said Perry, the father of three daughters.

"We can jump in the car and go down to the road to Starbucks. We will always be reasonably clean and not hungry."

Perry estimates there will be "dozens" of people pitching tents Monday night to occupy the bluffs above Horseshoe Bay. One of those will be Trish Panz, a physiotherapist and mother of two teenage children, who never imagined this fight would go unresolved and lead to such a demonstration.

Panz, who has "never, never" taken part in a protest before, said it was a difficult decision to leave the warmth of her own bed to sleep in a cold, lumpy tent. But she believes her "well-educated community" has a responsibility to take a stand to preserve the environment.

"I think that what's very interesting about this situation, is this is an urban community and this is a group of professionals --engineers, investment bankers, teachers and lawyers -- that are saying no," Panz said.

"This is a new evolution in many ways. I think that this is somewhat precedent-setting: having a blockade, having a situation where people are willing to stand up in an urban centre."

When asked if she is willing to be arrested over this demonstration, Panz responded: "We've all obtained legal counsel on that issue and I'll leave it at that."

Indeed, the group of neophyte protesters even took a course on civil disobedience so they could learn some tricks of the trade.

One of their teachers was well-known protester Betty Krawczyk, a great-grandmother who served several months in jail in 2003 and 2004 for blockading a logging road in the Walbran Valley on Vancouver Island. Krawczyk could have avoided jail time by signing a promise not go near logging operations, but she refused.

The group also has the support of West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones, who posed nude in a fundraising calendar put out by the coalition and provided city hall-funded public relations advice for the group.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has maintained in the past that environmental and safety studies back the province's plans for the "overland route," and has dismissed the coalition as a small group of people.

Falcon wasn't available for comment Friday, but his spokesman Mike Long said the government must balance the right of the coalition to protest with the need to ensure construction workers can safely carry out their jobs.

One of the options available to the province is to try to get a court injunction to have the protesters removed. When asked if the protesters could face arrest, Long said: "we're prepared to do what it takes so that work can continue."

The realignment of the highway above Horseshoe Bay is part of a $600-million safety upgrade between West Vancouver and Whistler, which will be completed by the 2010 Olympic Games.

The coalition chose Monday for the beginning of the protest because it predicts logging and blasting will start Tuesday. Long said preparatory work has been underway for two weeks, but that he did not know when major demolition is slated to begin.

Perry's group is holding a demonstration at 5 p.m. at the Eagleridge Bluffs parking lot off the highway's Exit 2, before erecting their tents at 6 p.m. Traffic will not be blocked during the protest.

Perry, who ran as a Green Party candidate in the provincial election to fight the highway construction plans, but has since stepped down as the party's deputy leader, claims the coalition has the backing of thousands of supporters from across the Lower Mainland and other areas of B.C.

He remains confident his unusual group of protesters can garner enough public support to change the government's plans. "We're going to stop it. I'm 100 per cent sure."

lculbert@png.canwest.com

THE PROVINCE

- Maintains the best option is a four-lane overland route with a median divider.

- Says the chosen alignment will save lives.

- Argues the route received a rigorous joint federal/provincial environmental approval.

- Notes West Vancouver challenged the approval in court and lost, and must now reimburse the province hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

- Disagrees with West Vancouver council, which claims there has been a lack of public consultation, arguing there were 34 public meetings and open houses on the disputed section of the road.

Source: Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon

THE COALITION TO SAVE EAGLERIDGE BLUFFS

- Believes a four-lane tunnel, or adding a third lane to the existing route, would be less invasive.

- Argues the overland route will destroy the habitat of the "endangered red listed Arbutus ecosystem and rare red legged frog."

- Disagrees the overland route will be safer, claiming the highway will have "narrow lanes, tighter curves, grades up to eight per cent, designed to only minimally acceptable safety standards."

- Says the overland route will break B.C.'s promise to hold a "sustainable" Olympic Games.

- Disagrees that the overland route has been proven to be the cheapest option.

Source: www.eagleridgebluffs.com

Ran with fact boxes "THE PROVINCE" and "THE COALITION TO SAVE EAGLERIDGE BLUFFS", which have been appended to the end of the story.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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City's outgrown 1936 hall

Vancouver Courier | April 19, 2006

By Mike Howell-Staff writer

Does Vancouver need a new city hall?

Vision Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson thinks so.

"It's just too small," Stevenson said. "I mean people are just jammed in."

Stevenson feels so strongly about the need for a new city hall that he asked city manager Judy Rogers last month to prepare a memo for council on the feasibility of constructing a new hall.

In his motion, Stevenson asked about the possibility of linking a new city hall to a Canada Line station, possibly at Broadway or Second Avenue. This way people could access city hall by transit, he said.

Ideally, a new hall would be built by 2010, the year of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, said Stevenson, although the timeline might not seem realistic.

"There's a lot going on right now, but we could aim for that date. Unless we get this in the public realm and start to talk about it, it won't happen."

City hall opened at its 12th and Cambie location in 1936. It sits on a piece of property that runs from 12th to 10th Avenue, and from Cambie to Yukon.

An east wing was later added to the hall. The city also rents space for employees on top of a Vancity building on 10th Avenue at Cambie Street, across from city hall.

"The time has come to bring the employees together in one location," Stevenson said. "City hall no longer functions very well because we've got people scattered all over the place."

Possible sites for a new hall could be on the current hall's grounds or at Second Avenue, near the Cambie Street Bridge, Stevenson said. Whatever site is chosen, the existing building would stay.

The building was the vision of then-mayor G.G. McGeer, who has a bust of his face featured on a pedestal next to the front steps of the hall. It was designated a heritage building in 1976 when Art Phillips was mayor.

As the city grows, Stevenson said, more city councillors will likely be added. Currently there is a mayor and 10 councillors, each with their own office.

"So if we're looking at adding more councillors, that would probably mean a new council chamber."

Coquitlam and Richmond had new city halls built in the last decade and Surrey's city hall is undergoing a $10-million renovation. Building a new city hall would cost in the millions of dollars.

Mayor Sam Sullivan agreed another hall should be built. He said the east wing of the hall is particularly problematic.

"It doesn't have a lot of space," Sullivan said. "Our workers are really quite crowded in their work space. It's quite unacceptable."

Having employees working out of other facilities also causes problems when departments have to meet. For example, the drug policy coordinator works out of the Vancity building and the city's deputy chief licensing inspector's office is in the east wing.

"It would be ideal for employees to be much closer and we would be able to do better public service," Sullivan said.

Neither Sullivan nor Stevenson knew how the current hall would fit into the city's plans if a new hall is built, but both said it would likely be used by city employees.

Stevenson didn't know when Rogers would be giving an update to council on any work that's been done on the planning for a new hall. As Stevenson said, there's been a lot of talk, but no action.

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Dawn of the prefab condo

A technique developed in B.C. will see a tower of condos built in six weeks, not six months, CATHRYN ATKINSON reports. The process, however, is 25 years in the making

CATHRYN ATKINSON

Special to The Globe and Mail

Friday, April 21, 2006

Unassuming Surrey may seem an unlikely place for an architectural revolution, but the city will soon be home to a new high-rise condo complex that its developers say will better withstand earthquakes, fire and extreme winds -- yet is half the weight of more conventional apartment buildings.

Optima, a three-tower development due to be raised later this year on derelict land in Whalley, will be the first pre-fabricated high-rise in the Lower Mainland to be built from high-tech customized modules. The modules themselves will be created in a 70,000-sq.-ft. automated factory in North Delta that was constructed using the same technology.

Optima will be comprised of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and two level penthouses, and prices start at an almost forgotten amount for the B.C. realty market: $140,900.

The complex is to be the showpiece of Vancouver developers International Hi-Tech Industries Inc. (IHI) and its president Roger Rached, whose family has put in half of the $100-million so far spent to perfect the technology. Development of the technology to build it has taken 25 years.

"Buyers have already reserved the first tower and half of the second on the basis of the technology," the 45-year-old engineer said. "The system is a real investment that won't need replacing after 10 years. It will last 100 or 200 years."

Mr. Rached said what makes the Optima towers unique is the amount of engineering study that went into creating their customized pre-manufactured panels. When bolted together, he said, each high-rise would act as "one piece", and at just half the weight of conventional high-rises is better able to flexibly absorb the impact of seismic movements and winds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.

This is because each panel is composed of a light, rigid foam and fire resistant insulator covered with reinforced concrete and steel, and finished with a water-proof coating. Electrical and plumbing systems are integrated into the panel, which is almost fully soundproof.

And in what some consider to be the greatest innovation of all, Mr. Rached said that the ease with which the panels can be connected means that each 21-storey tower can be constructed in about six weeks, apart from the finishing work. In comparison, he said, more conventional high-rises can take from six months to a year to complete. Construction costs are, he added, expected to be considerably lower than that in the current real estate market.

George Fuji, manager of current planning for Surrey City Council, said Optima had been well received there and had pass the third reading of its rezoning application. He added that the complex fit in with the council's urban renewal plans to provide more housing in Surrey, which is now British Columbia's fastest growing community.

"It is an innovative high-rise project that will help transform our city centre," said Mr. Fuji. "[iHI has] shown through the proposal that it is supportive of Surrey's long-term vision."

Omar Take is IHI's chief project officer and a senior architect at Tokyo firm Tange Associates. To date, he said, several houses, warehouses, factories and even roads have been constructed in Canada and elsewhere using the same methods, including the company's show home on West King Edward Avenue in Vancouver.

But Optima, he added, would be their most important project yet and is attracting interest from around the globe.

"We have concentrated for the last 10 years on prototype projects. We've built 'floating' roads on the permafrost in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and also 8,000 square foot warehouses that can be put up in just two days," he said. "The Optima will be the jewel of all our efforts and testing."

One client, Robin Surcess, purchased the light but tough concrete panels for use as a marina at the Cove Resort at Westbank in the Okanagan. They are due to be installed in July. He said IHI's panels won the competition for the work because they could be deployed faster than any other competing bid, but added that he had been impressed by the "user friendly" technology.

"There's more of everything in them," he said, "more quality control because more thought has gone into making them."

IHI has its beginnings half way around the world in Beirut, Lebanon.

Mr. Rached grew up in a family of engineers who relocated en masse to Vancouver in 1988 to escape their homeland's civil war.

He, his brother and two sisters followed their father, a professor of engineering at Beirut's American University, into the profession, and all eventually studied at Stanford University in San Francisco.

The family emigrated to Vancouver because they liked the city and Canada's international reputation, and wanted to base their business in a city from which it would be easy to sell their products internationally. They also liked the proximity to San Francisco.

"We are very close to the city where we were technically raised, so to speak," Mr. Rached said.

He believes the automation of constructing the modules by using robotic assembly will also revolutionize the construction industry in a more general sense.

"Our target, ultimately, is to computerize the construction industry. When you factor in speed and cost of automation there is no comparison," he said. "Clients wanting high-rises around the world are waiting for the completion of the Optima to see how it can work for them."

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