Archive for the ‘CBK Van Norman’ Tag

Seymour and Dunsmuir Streets – looking south

We saw the building on the corner, 570 Dunsmuir, when it was developed in 1926 as a bus depot, and then turned into a bigger building in 1957. Here it is in its rebuilt form, some time in the 1980s (and seen below in 1974). There was a new bus station opened in 1947 further along Dunsmuir to the east, and BC Electric ended up owning the old terminal having bought out the bus company. They used it as offices, but moved to their new office building on Burrard, in spring 1957 and by December a larger building had been completed here by adding additional floors to the shell of the transit centre. A consulting, design and construction engineering company, The BC Engineering Company, moved in,

They were a wholly-owned subsidiary of BC Electric, and their new offices had a bright two-tone blue scheme designed by Townley and Matheson with C B K Van Norman. The company became International Power and Engineering Constultants (IPEC). By 1980 H A Simons, an engineering company specializing in designing mills occupied the space.

They had clearly moved out by 1993, when the Sun reported that “A man has been charged after police raided a vacant office building and found a loaded handgun, marijuana and a home-made lab used to make amphetamines. Vancouver police liaison officer Del Valerie Harrison said the arrest was made at 9 p.m. Monday at 570 Dunsmuir. Charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking is Erberto Ferretti, who was allegedly living in the seven-storey structure.

In 1997 the building was given a further makeover by a company called 570 Dunsmuir Holdings. We don’t know who designed the new blue glazing. The contractors, Ledcor, stopped work when their payments were stopped because a BC-based mortgage company, Eron, run by Brian Slobogian and Frank Biller, were forced to call in the receivers and stop payments to the developer. The men behind 570 Dunsmuir Holdings were said to be Peter Bryant, and Martin Chambers, a dis-barred lawyer with convictions for financial improprieties. 570 Dunsmuir Holdings had an $8.5m mortgage with Eron to pay for the makeover, so eventually the building became part of Eron’s inadequate assets. The building was sold to Churchill Property Corp. in 2004 for $11.19m as part of the foreclosure of Eron.

In 2005 the Canadian Press reported “The Churchill Building, better known to thousands of scammed investors as 570 Dunsmuir St., is part of financial dog’s breakfast that was Eron Mortgage Corp.

Almost eight years after the Vancouver-based firm collapsed, taking $240 million of investors’ money with it, Eron founder Brian Slobogian is to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to one fraud and five theft counts.

His lawyer has recommended a three-year prison sentence while the Crown is looking for six-and-a-half to seven years behind bars.

The hearing will be closely watched by former Eron vice-president Frank Biller, who faces trial by judge alone April 4 on 14 charges of theft, fraud and breach of trust. Both men had previously been found guilty of securities violations, fined $300,000 each and handed trading bans in what the B.C. Securities Commission calls the biggest fraud in B.C. history.

In a parallel process – symbolized by 570 Dunsmuir – Eron’s judicial bankruptcy
trustee is disposing of the last of its assets. Only four of the dozens of Eron developments remain to be sold.

Slobogian was sentenced to six years, and Biller to three, (but they served much less time in prison). In 2022 U.S. Authorities reported that Francis Biller was wanted for involvement in a civil fraud case involving a boiler-room operation based in Medellin, Colombia, that they allege netted US$58 million. Martin Chambers was convicted on other charges of money laundering in the U.S., and spent 13 years in an Arkansas jail from 2002. He died in 2022.

TransGlobe of Toronto paid $15m for the building in 2006, and today it’s still office space on a site with a major re-development potential. Underneath, the base of the building has a nearly 100 year old frame.

CVA 772-1372 and CVA M-15-87



Posted 12 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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570 Dunsmuir Street

Here’s a 1926 building photographed after dark in 1936. There is a daytime shot from 1938 (below) but it was taken from an upper floor window, so we can’t replicate it. Townley and Matheson designed the building as the bus station for the regional long-distance coach company, Pacific Stages, Ltd. The passenger depot was constructed by E J Ryan for $150,000.

Ivor Neil’s Terminal City Motor Co had initially operated a car hire business, but added some buses. Under a new name, Pacific Stages Transportation Ltd, he expanded to offer service between Vancouver and Port Moody and Coquitlam. Buying up other companies he eventually served the Fraser Valley and south as far as Seattle.

Sensing potential competition to their bus and streetcar network,  BC Electric Railway Co acquired the business in 1925 creating the BC Motor Transportation Co. “Operating All Classes of Motor Vehicles, Including Pacific Stages, Yellow Cabs, Sightseeing Cars, Flat Rate Cars, Drive Yourself Cars and Baggage Transfer.” Their new premises saw services headed to West Vancouver, Horseshoe Bay, through Surrey, to Mission, and even to Harrison Hot Springs, as well as to Seattle. The Vancouver Archives have images of the building’s construction in 1926. The teardrop styled buses in the picture above were built in Vancouver by Hayes.

There was a barber, beauty salon, shoe shine, travel bureau, cigar stand and the Fountain Lunch to provide services to passengers and the surrounding area. Continued service expansion meant a new terminal was built a few blocks to the east in 1946. BC Electric contined to use the building for a while, with their General Sales division occupying the building in 1950. There was also an auditorium, that we suspect may have been created from the bus garage area at the back of the main floor.

In 1957 there was a dramatic makeover of the building. In March the BC Electric staff moved to BC Electric’s new office building, and by December a larger building had been completed here by adding additional floors to the shell of the transit centre. The BC Engineering Company moved in; consulting, design and construction engineers. They were a wholly-owned subsidiary of BC Electric, and their new offices had a bright two-tone blue scheme designed by Townley and Matheson with C B K Van Norman. The company became International Power and Engineering Constultants (IPEC) and later H A Simons, a specialist engineering company specializing in designing mills took the space.

After a further reclad of the building by new, and financially dubious owners in 1997, it was bought by Churchill International Property Corp for $11.19m at the end of 2004. TransGlobe of Toronto paid $15m for the building in 2006, and today it’s still office space on a site with a major re-development potential. Underneath, the base of the building has a nearly 100 year old frame.

Image Sources: Vancouver Public Library and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-82



Posted 9 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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Fraser Building – 540 Seymour Street

540 Seymour 1974

Here’s a modest building seen in this Archives image when it was in its early working years – just 26 years old. Although it’s only two storeys, it’s still standing today and it would be eligible for a pension, as it turns 65 this year. In the image you can see a sheet music retailer, Modern Music and a Scottish Imports store.

When it was built back in 1948 the retail store included an E A Morris tobacconists store, while the rest of the building had a variety of office tenants, including Traders Finance Corpn Ltd, Precision Housing Co Ltd, J H Read construction structural engineers and a couple of stock broking firms. Precision Housing and J H Read shared an office and they shared with a third tenant, and it’s that tenant that gives the building some significance. CBK Van Norman, the architect, had his offices here, and he was the designer of the pre-fabricated Precision Housing system in the 1940s.

We’re reasonably certain that the Fraser Building wasn’t just Van Norman’s office – we think it was a Van Norman designed building. Although the plans, which are in the Archives, are still protected by copyright (as the building is still standing) they seem to match the building. The building doesn’t currently appear on the ‘Post 40s Register’ of important more recent buildings.

Today it’s had some changes to the store fronts, there are different screens below and above the windows, and the colour scheme has been reversed (at least, from the way it looked in 1974). But for the most part it’s still looking pretty good (for a pensioner).

Photo source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-402


Posted 15 January 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Customs House – West Pender Street

Customs House 1

We successfully lined up two images of this building. It’s another of CBK Van Norman’s buildings, built in 1955 and demolished in 1993. A solid ten-storey reinforced concrete building, it occupied an irregularly shaped site immediately to the south of the Marine Building at the junction of West Pender and Burrard Street. After various design iterations through 1949 and 1950 it was eventually completed in 1955. Aluminum framed windows alternated with granite spandrels and the composition was framed by end piers of Haddon Island stone.

Customs House 2The Federal Government decided to replace the building in the early 1990s, but the replacement building wasn’t completed until 2002. Designed by Architectura for Canada Lands and Public Works Government Services Canada, the 19 storey tower incorporates a number of energy-efficient and green building features and houses several Environment Canada activities as well as Department of Fisheries and Oceans offices. The building recycled some of the black granite from its predecessor, and the lower portion of the building along West Pender is almost a replica of the earlier structure.

It is now named after Douglas Jung, the first Canadian Member of Parliament of Asian decent (although Jung was born in Victoria). Although too late to change the decision on the Customs House, the move to demolish the building led to the creation of a Post ’40s register of buildings that can be considered for heritage status once they are 20 years old.


Posted 8 January 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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The Burrard Building

Burrard Building

CBK Van Norman was one of Vancouver’s most respected architects of the International Modern style. He was born in Ontario in 1906, studied in Manitoba, and worked for Townley and Matheson in Vancouver from 1928-1930 and sometimes with McCarter Nairne from 1930 to 1950. From 1955 to 1968 he practiced exclusively under his own name and designed some important Vancouver buildings, some of them already lost (including the Customs House). Van Norman was also part of the design team for the Royal Centre; his contribution to the design was the buttresses on the corners being used for the air conditioning and other systems.

The Burrard Building, built between 1955 and 1957, is still with us. The architect described the building as offering “a modern functional office space, a prestige address, and a choice downtown location”. With no local firm capable of building it, Van Norman hired the Utah Company of America to build his 200,000 square foot building and then was met with delays as the complicated skin took longer to assemble than expected. The original curtain wall design was switched to allow air conditioning to be installed, and the replacement design involved 18 by 10 foot panels , eight inches thick, attached directly into the steel frame.

Burrard Building 1956 brochureIn 1988 Musson Cattell designed a new skin for the building which changed it from a strongly horizontal oriented tower into a more contemporary glazed box. Interestingly, this actually reflects quite closely what Van Norman showed on a 1956 brochure for the building – in some ways the building today more closely resembles it than the 1950s version as built.

The building is still popular with tenants, and vacant suites are generally leased quickly. Although the site is one of very few Downtown that has no viewcones crossing it – and hence no height limit for a replacement building – leases on the few suites on offer today are for up to 10 years, suggesting the owners are in no hurry to cash in on its redevelopment potential.


Posted 7 January 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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