New own­ers prom­ise Sun Tower restora­tion

HER­ITAGE One owner ac­quit­ted of mur­der in 1995

Vancouver Sun - - Business Bc - BY DER­RICK PEN­NER VAN­COU­VER SUN

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.”

VAN­COU­VER PUB­LIC LI­BRARY

The Sun Tower dur­ing the hey­day of neon signs.

WARD PER­RIN/VAN­COU­VER SUN

New high­rise de­vel­op­ments are be­ing built near the Sun Tower at Pen­der and Beatty streets.

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