March 14, 2013

At home with a slice of Vancouver history

Residents of 10-acre site to live in a project that will merge its past with its future

Shannon Wall Centre Kerrisdale

Project location: West 57th Ave. and Adera at Granville St., Vancouver
Project size: Phase 1 — 68 homes: 41 condos in Cartier House, 14 townhomes in Churchill House, four heritage estates in the coach house, and (soon to be released) eight in the mansion and one in the gatehouse Still to come: 385 homes to be released in future phases
Residence size: contemporary homes: 1,184 — 1,703 sq. ft; coach house: 1,183 — 3,073 sq. ft; mansion: 1,150 — 2,393 sq. ft; Gatehouse: 2,816 sq. ft
Prices: contemporary homes from $1,199,900; coach house from $1,100,000
Developer: Wall Financial Corp.
Architect: Perkins + Will
Interior design: BYU Design
Telephone: 604-267-8882
Sales centre: 7165 Granville St.
Hours: noon to 5 p.m., Saturday to Thursday
Occupancy: Spring 2015


It’s been a movie set, a wedding site, a concert venue for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and a gathering place for members of the city’s high society. The heritage-designated Beaux Arts-style mansion between Granville and Adera alongside West 57th Avenue — the latter once called Shannon Road — is unquestionably a city landmark. Now, however, it’s poised to merge its past with its future.

The 10-acre site of the 88-year-old Shannon estate, first home to sugar magnate B.T. Rogers, and later to financier Austin Taylor, will become home to new residents in the months ahead; residents who will live — quite literally — alongside a little Vancouver history. The three-storey mansion on the grand estate — a brick-clad, stone-trimmed structure — will be restored by Wall Financial Corp., as will a brick coach house and a gatehouse, also both heritage designated.

Together, those buildings will contain 13 new homes — historically classic on the exterior, but thoroughly contemporary inside — that will be joined, at build-out, by 440 condos and townhomes, and some 200 units of rental property on the site. Together, they will be called Shannon Wall Centre Kerrisdale. So far, says marketer Bob Rennie, the response has been “phenomenal.”

Of the 68 homes launched in the first phase, 47 have been purchased — 39 of the 41 condos in a building called Cartier House, and eight of the 14 townhomes in Churchill House. (Also included in the first phase; four heritage homes in the coach house, as well as the soon-to-be-released eight homes in the mansion and one home in the gatehouse.) Most of the buyers, Rennie reports, are “aging baby boomers” who currently live within two or three miles of the site and are “buying down” for a number of reasons.

“They’re buying down to consolidate, to maintain their lifestyle and to help their children,” he says. “Even with the townhomes … they’re a buy-down for people who are selling a home in the area for $2.5 to $4 million. So when they’re buying a townhome for $1.4 million, that’s a buy-down.” The development’s tony westside location — as Rennie observes, “it’s Kerrisdale, but it’s bordering Shaughnessy” — will no doubt continue to be a big draw when Wall Financial releases the additional phases of the project in the months and years ahead.

But that’s likely to be just part of the allure. Residents, after all, will not have just any westside address, but one Wall Financial says belongs to “Vancouver’s last great family estate”. Like all estates, it has a story — one that dates to the early years of the last century. It was in 1912 when Benjamin Tingley Rogers purchased the land, contracting a year later with architects Somervell and Putnam to build the mansion. However, Rogers died in 1918, never seeing the finished Shannon, which would not be completed until 1925.

In the coming years, the property — and its restored lavish grounds — will become home to hundreds of new residents. But in its earliest days, back when there were few houses south of King Edward Avenue on Granville, the mansion was home to one family: Rogers’ widow and the couple’s three children. The estate, recalls Michael Kluckner in his book Vanishing Vancouver, would resonate with orchestra music and with the chatter of hundreds of people attending charity garden parties. Its staff would be considerable.

“Shannon, in its heyday, had a sizable staff: Indoors were a butler, cook, kitchen maid, upstairs and downstairs maids, and a laundress,” Kluckner writes. “Outdoors were the head gardener, four or more assistants, and a cow man named Ozzie; as well, there was Hathway the chauffeur, who worked for Mrs. Rogers for almost 40 years.” In the mid 1930s, Shannon would be purchased by Austin Taylor (for $105,600, Kluckner says), and in 1967, developer Peter Wall acquired the four-city-block property.

That purchase price: $750,000. (“That would get you a two-bedroom [condo] today,” Rennie quips.) Soon after, Wall commissioned architect Arthur Erickson to design the Shannon Mews rental townhomes and apartments, which have been on the site since the early 1970s — around the time the feature film Carnal Knowledge was shot there. “Peter Wall has always wrestled with what should happen to the property,” Rennie notes.

“There’s nothing, nothing like it in Vancouver. Of all the developments that we’ve worked on — I started working with Peter Wall 18 years ago — it was always talked about — the mansion. It’s always been talked about that one day there would be the right opportunity.” That “one day” has arrived, even though the completion of the entire project is down the road a bit. “The first phase was just to introduce Shannon and what’s coming,” Rennie says. “This can unfold over the next few years. It doesn’t have to be done right away. It’s a very privileged setting, and I think we should treat it that way and go slowly.”

When it is complete, however, Shannon Wall Centre Kerrisdale will offer its occupants something decidedly rare. The project — an undertaking from a team that includes architects Perkins + Will, landscape architect Durante Kreuk and interior designer BYU Design — will include expansive lush gardens, a year-round outdoor swimming pool and a fully equipped fitness centre. And not to go unmentioned: the beautifully restored areas on the south side of the mansion’s ground level, which will be common spaces for all residents.

It’s that, Rennie notes, that will make for something particularly special. “In life, we’re judged by the company we keep … So where one of the founding families of British Columbia selected as their place to live, you’re now rubbing shoulders with the mansion. I think that brings on a certain aura,” he says. “To live on a secluded 10 acres in the city of Vancouver speaks to what Peter Wall saw in the estate when he bought it. It’s irreplaceable. It was irreplaceable in 1967. It’s irreplaceable today.”

State-of-the-art features inside, plenty of green space outside

The eventual residents of Shannon Wall Centre Kerrisdale will live alongside a slice of Vancouver history, but their homes will be anything but dated. The finishes in all the residences — even those in the heritage-designated spaces — will be thoroughly contemporary. “[They’ll be] similar to all the heritage homes you drive by in Shaughnessy,” points out marketer Bob Rennie. “They’ve retained their strength as heritage, but their kitchens and bathrooms are state of the art. The same thing is going to happen here.”

The first phase of the project includes Churchill House, with 14 townhomes, and Cartier House, with 41 condos. Their interiors, the work of BYU Design, will include ultrawide engineered oak flooring in most areas, and carpeting in the bedrooms. Kitchens will have European cabinetry, quartz counters and backsplash and Grohe faucets. Condo units will have Liebherr refrigerators and stainless steel Thermador dishwashers, ovens and gas cooktops, while townhomes will have stainless steel Gaggenau appliances.

In both, bathrooms will be extremely well appointed. “Each master bath, powder room and ensuite is designed to provide a personal oasis and private sanctuary, richly finished in imported marble and limestone and outfitted with the highest quality European fixtures,” says the project sales literature.

Residents will also have access to the common spaces of the restored mansion, as well as a fitness centre and year-round outdoor swimming pool. When the entire project is complete, Rennie says, more than half of the 10-acre site will be green space. It will include a variety of gardens, including mature landscaping, play areas, urban agriculture and garden plots.

Barbara Gunn,
Vancouver Sun

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