January 10, 2012

Onni Group Breathes New Life into Evelyn

West Vancouver development brings the outdoors in with floor-to-ceiling glass windows


Evelyn Drive may be a little street off Taylor Way in West Vancouver, but the development of the Evelyn real estate project has been a long and winding road. The grand opening later this month marks the latest chapter in the saga of the Onni Group’s 20-acre 349-home development.

Once a cluster of 62 single-family homes on 65 lots, the Evelyn Drive neighbourhood on Sentinel Hill above the Park Royal shopping centre was declared a special study area for possible rezoning in West Vancouver’s 2004 Official Community Plan. Millennium Group, which would also build Vancouver’s Olympic village — now known as The Village on False Creek — began buying up Evelyn Drive properties, while West Vancouver residents worried about view-blocking highrises and increased density that could worsen traffic at the chronically congested intersection of Marine Drive and Taylor Way. By the end of 2006, most Evelyn Drive residents had sold their homes and moved out. Not until 2007, following numerous community hearings, did the City of West Vancouver approve the site’s master plan.

Millennium could finally proceed with site preparation, only to be halted in October 2008 by the recession and cost overruns with the Olympic Village. The Evelyn sales centre sat closed, surrounded by weeds and construction fencing, as Millennium struggled to pay its $740-million loan on the Olympic Village and $72-million mortgage on Evelyn. By March 2011, both projects were in receivership. Evelyn buyers had their deposits refunded, and the receivers approached prominent developers to purchase the property. In September 2011, Onni Group became the new owner.

Onni was attracted to the project because the design is so unique, says sales manager Nick Belmar, noting: “You’re not going to see a property like this anywhere on the North Shore.” The West Vancouver location was another selling point.  “It’s a very prestigious community,” Belmar says. “People all around the world have heard of West Vancouver.”

Evelyn’s location in West Vancouver is prime, within walking distance of Park Royal, Ambleside and the seawall, and with easy access to the Lions Gate Bridge, the Upper Levels Highway and Cypress Mountain. Robert Ciccozzi is the project architect, but Onni will retain the architecture of the buildings designed by Nick Milkovich Architects and Walter Francl Architecture. With terraced glass-walled residences that cascade down the hillside, Evelyn fits seamlessly into the landscape. “Coming over Lions Gate Bridge, one thing I always find beautiful about West Vancouver is the way the homes blend into the mountainside,” Belmar says.

Although the exterior walls of Evelyn homes are floor-to-ceiling glass, they are stepped down the mountainside with large terraces forming the roofs of the homes below so they are open yet private, and views are not blocked. All face south, oriented to the sun and the view, and are surrounded by green space. Trails through the grounds will link residents to Park Royal below.  The 105 homes in the first phase offers two building styles: Cliffside and At Forest’s Edge. Cliffside homes, at the top of the site, have just two homes per floor. Below them, At Forest’s Edge will comprise two buildings, connected by four town houses.

When Onni purchased Evelyn, the company contacted the original buyers, whom Belmar describes as “very, very important people”, to see if they would like to buy back in. “We thought [it] would be a nice gesture,” he says. A few came back, and new buyers, like James and Mary Spack, have joined them.

The Spacks purchased a 1,515-square-foot two-bedroom Cliffside home with a 695-square-foot terrace. Married a year and a half ago, they were already West Vancouver residents. They had started looking for a new home a year before they married, planning to replace Mary’s condo and James’s house with a single residence. Professionals who like to travel, the two “were looking for something in more of a townhouse concept, and there really wasn’t much available in all of West Vancouver,” says James. They wanted something open and modern, about 1,500 to 1,800 square feet, at least two bedrooms and a southerly view with a big open deck because Vancouver is about the outdoors.

Their home, which will have a view of Lions Gate Bridge and downtown, is located right where they wanted to live: in West Vancouver close to amenities and the seawall. “There’s not many big projects available to West Vancouver because of space restrictions, so this one really kind of caught our eye,” James says.  Mary particularly liked Evelyn’s kitchen and bathrooms. Kitchens have flat-panel silvered espresso or light wheat oak cabinets with lacquered accent cabinets and granite or composite stone countertops, depending on the colour scheme (Ambleside or Dundarave). Bathrooms have oak flat-panel cabinets with travertine stone floors and marble or quartz countertops. Flooring everywhere except in the bedrooms and baths is wide-plank oak.

The Spacks were also attracted by the overall design, “which is just so beautiful bringing the outdoors into the inside with the full floor-to-ceiling windows,” says James. “But it’s the whole concept of a beautifully terraced apartment such that all four walls are your own. You’re not touching another neighbour, and you’re terraced such that you don’t have interference from someone below you because it’s your deck — your ceiling really is the deck of the one above.” Terraces range in size from 100 to 1,600 square feet.

“There really isn’t any other project that I know that is built like this with the same sort of amenities and characteristics of capturing privacy along with giving you excellent floor space and a wonderful outdoor living concept,” James says. “I think it’s going to be a new standard for the way that they build on hillsides in B.C.”

Project size: 105 homes in the first phase
Residence size: 1 and 2 bedroom, 926 – 2,112 sq. ft
Price: Starting at $759,900
Developer: Onni Group
Architect: Robert Ciccozzi
Interior designer: Onni In-House
Sales Centre: 710 Keith Rd., West Vancouver
Hours: noon to 6 p.m. daily
Website: www.onni.com
Telephone: 604-922-0330
Occupancy: Cliffside One — July 2013; Cliffside Two and Three — October 2013; At Forest’s Edge One & Two — December 2013

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