February 1, 2012

Sights of the City in North Vancouver

‘Happy accident of geography’ has provided 15 West with 360 degrees of spectacular views

BY CLAUDIA KWAN

15 West
Project location: 144 West 15th St., North Vancouver
Project Size: 115 homes in an 18-storey tower
Residence size: 1 bed 575 — 681 sq. ft; 2 bed 863 — 1069 sq. ft; 3 bed 1,245 – 1,726 sq. ft
Prices: 1 bed from $368,900; 2 bed from $563,900; 3 bed, pricing on request
Sales centre: 144 West 15th St., North Vancouver
Hours: 12 – 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs
Telephone: 604-980-9949
Web: www.15west.ca
Developer: Citimark/Grosvenor Americas
Architect: IBI/HB Architects
Interior Designer: Scott Trepp, Trepp Design Inc.
Grand opening: today
Occupancy: Summer 2014

When Barry Smith and his wife decided that it was time to downsize from their family home in North Vancouver, they didn’t just jump at the first opportunity. “We’d been looking for about a year and a half, and ended up looking at seven different developments,” Smith explains. “We wanted to get a feel of how things were.”

Every development had good points, and then other things that were just slightly off, like the low-rise that didn’t offer enough privacy from neighbouring towers, or another with suites that weren’t big enough for people used to living in a large house. Nothing was quite right, until they found 15 West. They liked the presentation centre, and the fact that it’s on the actual site of the project. They also liked the details of the show suite, particularly a rendering of what the views will be like once the 18-storey tower is complete.

“They [the sales staff] said don’t take our word about the views, check it out,” Smith says with a laugh. So they did. In addition to taking a series of walks through the area, they went to city hall to reaffirm the spectacular viewscapes that will be on display 360 degrees around the development on West 15th Street, an undertaking by Citimark/Grosvenor Americas. The views form a prominent draw for 15 West – so much so that the individual floor plans are named for the view they face, including The Grouse, The Lions, and The Vancouver.

“[The views] come from this happy accident of geography,” says Cameron McNeill of project marketer MAC Marketing solutions. “North Van is already up on this hill, and the other buildings in the immediate area are restricted to just four or five storeys. That’s where you get these phenomenal views.”

McNeill says another significant selling point has been the neighbourhood. He points out that the location is close enough to the hub of activity on Lonsdale – like restaurants, shopping, the library and civic centre, and medical services – yet removed by half a block, just far enough to avoid noise and commotion associated with Lonsdale traffic. “You can be part of the action without the inconvenience,” says McNeill.

He says they had a very clear vision all along for 15 West, involving the concept of “best in class.” That included incorporating higher-end materials whenever possible, large decks which included natural gas hookups for the suites, and choosing to make the apartments bigger than the norm seen in downtown Vancouver.

Interior designer Scott Trepp of Trepp Design Inc. says having that extra room to play with really gave the firm freedom with layout. “These are bedrooms where you can put in more than just a bed,” he says. “They’re spacious and luxurious, and since there are so many windows, they make the rooms feel even bigger.”

In the two-bedroom show suite, for instance, he points toward the fact that a purchaser has room for a full six-person dining table. Having a sizable apartment gave him the option of creating distinct zones in the suite. The dining room is clearly separated from the living room by both a sofa and a sofa table. The seating in the living room is then organized around a comfortable rectangle of the sofa and armchairs.

“So many downtown Vancouver apartments have the living and dining areas open to each other, because that’s all of the space you have. In this case, you actually can allow the focus to shift outward to the view.” The balconies are big enough to function as outdoor living rooms when the weather permits, and will undoubtedly be a central gathering area during the summers.
In the meantime, the kitchen functions as the anchor of the home. The generously sized appliances are likely to appeal to buyers accustomed to a full-sized kitchen in a house. They include a 36-inch refrigerator with french doors, a five-burner range top spanning 30 inches, and a wall oven. On top of that is a combination microwave and convection oven, also tucked neatly into the wall.

“It’s always such a hard thing to place a microwave, to find the right spot at the right height,” Trepp explains. “It’s usually an afterthought – not in this case, though. ” Both Trepp and McNeill say the goal was to create homes that feel current and modern, but without falling into the trap of feeling “trendy”. Thus, elements in kitchens and bathrooms are non-ornate and clean-lined, but placed within a classic palette of off whites, neutrals, and chocolate. That helps to impart a warm homey esthetic.

The building also includes a number of environmentally friendly aspects like energy efficient external windows, EnergyStar appliances, and community garden plots. They are measures that are encouraged but so far not required by the City of North Vancouver. McNeill says many of the buyers so far are downsizers, but that there are young families also purchasing the suites. In most cases, the consumers are buying the apartments to live in rather than to rent out.

Barry Smith say he and his wife didn’t rush into the decision to buy a home, and are quite glad that the development won’t be complete until summer 2014. “We’ve been in a single family home since 1972, and as you can imagine, we’ve accumulated quite a few things in that time,” he says. “It’s probably going to take that long to just get rid of all the stuff we don’t need!”

Joking aside, he acknowledges that there is an adjustment process involved with the idea of downsizing. In their current living room, they’ve measured out the equivalent space of the apartment they purchased, and are experimenting with furniture placement.  They’re also looking forward to a new style of living, involving being situated within walking distance of transportation and neighbourhood amenities. They will likely go down to one car once they move in.

The Smiths also say they don’t feel like they’re compromising on space. They have enough room to put an office in one of the bedrooms, and room for their grandchildren or out of town visitors. “We’re looking ahead to the future. We see such growth potential in the neighbourhood, especially with the Seaspan deal with the North Van Shipyard. If we end up having to downsize again, we don’t see any problems with doing that with this home,” says Smith.

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