Ocean Towers – Morton Avenue

As we noted in the previous post, his 1959 apartment building helped change the appearance of Vancouver. Designed by Rix Reineke with Chow, Nelson and Associates it was originally designed at 21 storeys, but slightly scaled back to 19. There were only 69 units, varying from just over 1,000 square feet to over 1,500. Originally priced at between $25,500 and $32,000, as costs rose, so did the prices, which eventually were selling at $31,000 to $38,000. The building was devloped and built by the Becker Construction Co, and was originally penciled in at $1 million, but eventually cost about double that. The Vancouver Sun reported that site assembly cost about $200,000. 

The design – seen here in the 1960s – represented a dramatic break from the early 1950s zoning of the West End, which allowed 8 storey buildings (many of which were built to meet that limit). Buildings could theoretically go higher if they were thinner, and this tower is very skinny from north to south, but almost a full block east to west. While the ‘Miami modernist’ look was admired by some, the scale of the building and its effect on the buildings behind made it few friends. It was opposed by the Town Planning Commission, the city’s Technical Planning Board, the Vancouver Housing Authority and the Community Arts Council. Council approved it anyway, but the perceived negative impact of this building and a few others built in the same era ensured they would be the last.

Design guidelines required narrower buildings with space between them when later residential areas were planned, and new towers added to the West End. That’s still true today, as the experience of this tower continues to determine tower design not just in the city of Vancouver, but throughout Metro Vancouver. The architect later moved to La Jolla in California.

It wasn’t – and isn’t a condo building. The strata act wasn’t introduced until 1966. It started life as a ‘self owned’ building with each owner having shares in the company that owned the building. Some time in the next decade or so it became an ownership co-op. which it still is today. At the time we were drafting this post there were five units available with the least expensive priced at $1.5 million, and the additional fees were $1,000 a month.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Leslie F Sheraton CVA 2009-001.120

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Posted 8 April 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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