88 West Pender in the International Centre
Opened 1999
Chinatown revitalization takes on new village:
$150-million development eyes global tourist bucks

Wyng Chow
Sun Asia-Pacific Reporter

April 9, 1998

Details of a $150-million commercial-residential project, which backers say will revitalize Chinatown and help gentrify the surrounding area, were revealed Wednesday.

Vancouver-based Henderson Development (Canada) Ltd., wholly- owned by Hong Kong property tycoon Lee Shau Kee, is banking on its 300,000-square-feet International Village complex becoming an international tourist attraction.

The project also includes a 27-storey, 191-unit condominium tower and underground parking for 800 vehicles.

"Once it's completed in early 1999, the entire area will change," Henderson president Allen Lai said in an interview.

The development, which is generating about 300 construction jobs, is situated on a city block bounded by Pender, Keefer, Abbott and Taylor.

It's located immediately west of Block 17, consisting of the new $6-million senior housing complex being built by the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, and the $5-million social services centre being built by the United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society, or SUCCESS.

One block northwest of International Village is the old Woodward's building, where another developer is contemplating a condo project.

Two Vancouver councillors said Wednesday they are impressed by the amenities offered by Henderson's development.

"It will be the catalyst to revitalize Chinatown and provide the economic stimulus to allow Pender Street to compete with the Asian malls being built in Richmond," said Coun. Alan Herbert.

Added Coun. Gordon Price: "It's going to have an impact on the whole area, including Chinatown, Gastown and the Downtown Eastside. It's going to be the glue to bring all those neighbourhoods together."

Herbert said Lai is receptive to the idea of displaying a collection of Vancouver's heritage neon signs, including the ones that hung for decades outside the former Ho Ho Chop Suey Restaurant, in Chinatown, and the Dragon Inn on Kingsway.

"The new stores, entertainment facilities and neon display will attract people from all over," Herbert said. "This will make Chinatown as exciting an area as it ever has been in the past."

Lai said Henderson's latest project will be unique because of its international flavour. At ground level, there will be a combination "Granville Island market-Chinatown store concept."

The second floor will be highlighted by a "fashion boulevard," offering retail space for 40 outlets to sell designer and other clothing from places such as New York, London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Sydney and Montreal.

Artists' wood carvings depicting these international renowned fashion centres will be displayed along the promenade, Lai said.

The complex is also designed to accommodate six large restaurants offering Chinese, Japanese, Italian and North American cuisines. Meanwhile, an international food court will feature two "dai pai dong" -- street-style cooking made famous in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The third floor will house "Tinseltown," a 12-screen, 3,200-seat state-of-the-art movie theatre complex being built in partnership with the U.S.-based Cinemark chain.

International Village marks the second phase of Henderson's developments in Vancouver. Three years ago, Paris Square, a residential-commercial tower, was completed at a cost of $75 million.

Lai said down the road, Phase 3 will include three residential towers, as well as a school, daycare facilities and a community centre.

Among other projects, Henderson is building a $120-million commercial-residential complex in Coquitlam, and an $80-million residential complex in Surrey.

They are among some $500 million worth of investments that Henderson chair Lee -- who is Hong Kong's wealthiest person -- has made in Canada.

His current net worth was estimated this week by Forbes magazine at more than $14 billion Cdn, making him Asia's richest individual.

Originally part of the Hong Kong consortium put together 10 years ago by fellow tycoon Li Ka-shing to purchase the former Expo site, Lee still maintains a penthouse in False Creek.

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