Aspac expands from Coal Harbour to Point Grey to the River Green near Richmond's Olympic oval

By Malcolm Pary, Vancouver Sun

Going Greener: It took almost two decades for Hong Kong-based Raymond, Thomas and Walter Kwok's Aspac Developments firm to break loose from Coal Harbour, where its Harbour Green projects kept raising the bar on each other and earlier condo-tower projects. But director-since-2005 Raymond Li, 53, signalled the departure by developing The Wesbrook, a $100-million single tower on the University of B.C. Endowment Lands. Its 65 characteristically large units range from 1,600 to 4,400 square feet, said Magnum Projects principal Lily Korstanje, who added that 43 have sold at an average of $900 per square foot.

But Point Grey was merely somewhere to lodge the pole for Aspac's vault across the Fraser River. There, with pre-loading done, excavation will begin in June on the $420-million first phase of a project that may take 15 years and cost $2 billion in 2010 dollars.

Named River Green, the four-phase development will occupy 28 acres of riverfront land on either side of the Richmond Olympic Oval. Aspac outbid five other consortia in 2006-07 to pay the City of Richmond $141 million for most of the land. The remainder was acquired in a $60-million private assembly. The entire site would likely be worth $240 million today. That's partly because an advertising start for River Green's six-building, 450-unit first phase set Richmond land prices "on fire," Korstanje said.

She spoke in River Green's "story centre," which alone cost $9 million and is slated to become a restaurant/ banquet hall when its sales role ends. As for deal-making, which will begin officially at a grand opening June 19, Li expects to have 90 per cent of Phase 1 sold within a year at prices ranging from $500,000 to $3.5 million. High on the menu but low to the ground in the James Cheng-designed complex are true waterfront cabanas tagged at $3.2 million per. Although Richmond has few other large projects on offer currently, Korstanje blanched somewhat at the 12-month "pressure."

There'll be a breather, however, before Phase Two goes on stream, likely in late 2012. Aspac is negotiating the rezoning of its seven-acre, privately assembled site. Although the River Green property was the last-available parcel of Richmond riverfront, wouldn't the city's present recycling centre be attractive to developers as a potential low-rise site?

"Most definitely," Li said. "We should expand our success if we are lucky enough to get that land. But it's not residential, and we have no idea of the city's intention."

Li's personal intention is to improve his singing (he's a tenor) in the Burnaby Alliance Church choir, which he likens to the development game: "You need a conductor for both, and teamwork is vital." Still, despite carrying a practice seven-iron in his sporty Audi A5 2.0T's trunk, he seldom betters "a hundred something" at infrequent rounds of the Shaughnessy course. "My hobby is doing development."

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