New owners promise Sun Tower restoration
HERITAGE One owner acquitted of murder in 1995
The Sun Tower, one of Vancouver’s premiere heritage buildings, has been sold to new owners who promise to restore it as “one of the most beautiful architectural jewels in the city.”
“When I saw it was for sale, I was ready to jump for it,” said Phil Kim, owner of Sun Capital Corp.
Before becoming a developer, Kim was one of six men charged, along with Peter Gill and Bindy Johal, in the murders of criminal gang members Ron and Jimmy Dosanjh.
All five were acquitted of charges in 1995, but Kim, Gill and co-accused Mike Budai were later ordered retried on appeal after juror Gillian Guess was convicted of obstruction of justice for having an affair with Gill during the first trial. (Bindy Johal was killed in a 1998 nightclub shooting before a second trial could begin.)
Charges against the remaining men were stayed in 2002 after B.C. justice officials concluded conviction would be unlikely.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t relate [the case] to this day,” Kim said Tuesday.
“What needs to be clarified is I’ve never been in trouble with the law before or since [the case],” Kim added.
“This was somebody saying something about me. Obviously that’s why I was cleared.”
As for the business of the Sun Tower, Kim said the 1912 building “has this sense of Europe more than those [other historical] buildings” including the Marine Building, Hotel Vancouver or even the Dominion building.
Kim joined James Hong, owner of real estate firm Argo Ventures Inc., to buy the building. The transaction closed Monday. No parties would disclose the purchase price, but its value was assessed at $6.16 million on its 2008 property assessment by the BC Assessment Authority.
Kim said he and Hong will spruce up the building, clear out renovations that have covered over much of the building’s interior character and turn it into “more modern, funky, loft-kindof offices.”
With downtown office vacancies at historic lows, Hong said “it is a great time to own office buildings in Vancouver, especially ones as unique as the Sun Tower.”
Down the road, he and Hong will look at the possibility of investing in a full heritage restoration.
The Sun Tower is a designated heritage building, and Kim said they would work with the City of Vancouver on a plan that could involve some assistance.
“To restore [historical buildings] is not a profitable proposal for landlords,” he said, so the city helps out by offering things such as density bonuses that owners can apply to other projects or breaks on property taxes.
“As a developer you would never say no to a situation [in which] you can improve your building and also have somebody help you do it,” he said. “But at the end of the day we would be happy owning this building and just making sure it’s taken care of.”
For the previous 40 years, the Sun Tower was owned by Vancouver’s Moscovitch family, with Dale Moscovitch selling it to Kim and Hong. Heritage consultant Donald Luxton called the 17storey Sun Tower “one of the top [heritage buildings]” in Vancouver, with a “phenomenal history.”
Designed by architect William Tuff Whiteway, and built by Louis D. Taylor, publisher of the World newspaper, the tower opened in 1912 as the World Building. Briefly, it was the tallest building in the British Empire.
It was the Sun Tower and home of The Vancouver Sun from 1924 to 1964, and Luxton said it has also been known as the Bekins Building, headquarters of Bekins Moving and Storage.
Clare Stevens, an agent with the selling realtor, Barclay Street Real Estate, said there were nine offers made on the Sun Tower.
He added that interest in the neighbourhood around the Sun Tower at the corner of Pender and Beatty streets is growing, with some 14 new highrise residential buildings being built within three blocks of it.
“That’s not counting Woodward’s one block away,” Stevens added. “So recreation is definitely underway down there.”
The Sun Tower during the heyday of neon signs.
New highrise developments are being built near the Sun Tower at Pender and Beatty streets.