Vancouver’s most hated developer on his version of Hudson Yards, the city’s “piece of shit” buildings

Ian Gillespie hits back at critics of his $3.8 billion megaproject, says city has settled for "mediocrity"

Dec.December 22, 2019 11:20 AM
Ian Gillespie and A rendering of the Oakridge development (Credit: Very Polite Agency via Bloomberg)

Ian Gillespie and a rendering of the Oakridge development (Credit: Very Polite Agency via Bloomberg)

Ian Gillespie does not care what the critics say. What truly great artist does?

The man who famously declared that his development firm Westbank Corp. was a “culture company” and even issued his own 629-page manifesto titled “Fight for Beauty,” says Vancouver needs higher-quality product. And he believes his ambitious luxury megadevelopment – which has drawn comparisons to Hudson Yards – is a good start.

“We’ve risen to a high level of mediocrity,” the Westbank Corp. CEO told Bloomberg. “Three-quarters of the buildings in this city look like a piece of shit,” he added. “We’ve been sitting on our laurels because we got lucky, right?”

Westbank is planning a 28.5-acre development with a series of nine glass condominium towers four miles south of downtown, with prices starting at C$600,000. The towers will contain 2,548 homes, 1 million square feet of retail space and 290,000 square feet of office space. The development includes a 100,000-square-foot food hall, a 32,000-square-foot brew pub, a 100,000-square-foot community center and a nine-acre rooftop park over the new shopping mall. Other amenities include the city’s largest daycare and a library. It’s also eco-friendly, with residents expected to halve the carbon footprint of the typical city dweller.

Known as Oakridge, the $3.8 billion-dollar project is being co-developed by real estate investment firm QuadReal Property Group, which manages British Columbia’s public pension fund. Gillespie has already sold C$1 billion worth of units despite a flurry of policies and taxes aimed at tamping down foreign investment, according to Bloomberg. Westbank heavily markets to Asian buyers, who have largely spurred the building boom in the Canadian city.

Gillespie has little time for the many critics of his project, who opine that Vancouver and its developers should be doing more to address issues of homelessness, inequality and poverty. “It’s an insular, little fucking village we live in sometimes,” he told Bloomberg, pointing out that he is one of the province’s biggest developers of affordable housing. The Oakridge project also includes 580 rental and subsidized housing units, well above the 20 percent affordable housing mandate in new neighborhoods. [Bloomberg]James Kleimann

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