Two of West Vancouver’s '60s-chic architectural icons have changed hands.
Villa Maris, better known as the Pink Palace, and Shoreland Apartments, both on Bellevue Avenue, have been sold to Toronto-based property management firm Starlight Investments, along with three other concrete highrises in Vancouver.
"We are very excited to be expanding our presence in the strong Vancouver rental market with a once-in-a-generation portfolio. These high-quality additions to our downtown Vancouver portfolio are an excellent fit with our existing core portfolio in Vancouver's West End and will allow us to leverage our regional infrastructure," said Daniel Drimmer, Starlight's president and CEO, in a press release.
For the last 50 years, the buildings have been owned by the Lachman family. In 2019, they announced plans to eventually redevelop the buildings, which were reaching the end of their lives. But, in June 2020, a split West Van council voted not to consider any proposal for the sites until Ambleside’s local area plan was finished – a process that was likely several years off.
Speaking for the Lachman family, Bill Lachman said the decision to sell the properties was primarily about their family’s needs changing, although West Vancouver council’s decision was a “very frustrating and discouraging experience.”
The proposal would have seen Shoreland, at 2190 Bellevue Ave., replaced with an all-rental tower, adding a net 100 new rental suites – 30 of which would be below-market and reserved for West Vancouver first responders.
“It was a great opportunity, because I was willing to do it. It wasn't something that the municipality would have to subsidize,” Lachman said.
After that was complete, the renters from Villa Maris, at 2222 Bellevue Ave., would have been given first right of refusal to move into the new rental building before the Pink Palace was demolished for strata condos.
“We were not going to do this project, unless the tenants were 100 per cent behind us. And they were,” he said.
The Lachmans hired starchitect James Cheng, who designed the Shangri La, to design an equally iconic replacement for Villa Maris with the promise that it would come in pink.
Ironically, Lachman said West Vancouverites didn’t always love the Pink Palace as it is. In the past, they had been asked to repaint it in tan “because people thought it was ugly.”
Although no one seems to remember who designed the buildings, they are rare Canadian examples of New Sensualism, a “Miami Beach” strand of modernism that emphasized leisure and exoticism over more serious designs, architectural historian Jeffrey Thorsteinson told the North Shore News in 2019.
Eventually, the buildings will need such drastic work that all of the residents will have to be evicted regardless, Lachman said. And if they are to be redeveloped in the longer term, there is no guarantee West Vancouver council will have such a progressive proposal to vote on, he added.
“One day, there will be a reckoning. What do you do with older buildings?” he said.
Lachman said a non-disclosure agreement prevents him from discussing many of the details of the sale, but he did speak very highly of the buildings’ new owners.
“We found someone who … understands that they're very special, so I think that's good news,” he said. “They are committed. They said they are keeping those buildings the way they are for a long time, and we felt they were the best.”
No one from Starlight returned North Shore News's interview request Thursday.