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A visit with the two brothers building the Olympic village

March 29th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Here’s my latest column in Vancouver magazine, where I got to spend some time with Peter and Shahram Malek of Millennium Developments — the developers at ground zero in the current financial/housing/Olympics twister. Everyone in town has been playing backseat driver to these two and speculation continues to be rampant about the end cost of the village and whether we, the taxpayers, will take a bath or not.

In the meantime, it was a great chance for me to try to understand this breed of developers in town who want more than just to make money. They want to make money, don’t get me wrong, but they also want to make their mark on the city. I think Vancouver gets more of them — those (almost always) guys who start out in the suburbs and then move into the downtown so they can play in the big leagues — because there was until recently just so much going on here.

Awaiting your comments.

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  • glissando remmy

    It’s all about the shoes, Frances!
    One of my favourite movies of all times is this Iranian gem called “Children of Heaven” by Majid Majidi. This tender and loving story is about a brother and sister whose life is still sweet in spite of social and financial hardship. As the brother loses his sister shoes, the two of them come up with an ingenious solution to replace them. I don’t want to spoil the storyline… just in case someone wishes to watch a 5 stars rated (Glissando at the movies) movie.
    Well, despite being worlds apart there are similarities between the aforementioned kids and the Malek brothers. They are the distinct kind of a united proud family with great respect for each other, and even greater respect for their parents; they value hard work and recognize the value of money or the lack of it.
    These values are more or less nonexistent in the typical contemporary North American family. The only values one can pick up comes from shitty reality shows like: The Price is Right; The Apprentice; The Bachelor; The Survivor ; Weakest Link; The Greed, the Gluttony and the Fornicator; More for me; Me, me, me!…
    But I digress!
    I have to paraphrase Stuart Lyon’s words “They are very good people—gentlemanly, conscientious, very design-conscious and community-conscious” on this one. Yes the Maleks are sometimes the epitome of a 20 minutes hardboiled egg; hard shelled but fair, curious, picky and self-righteous but who wouldn’t be, try walking in their …shoes!
    Great read although!
    It was about time for someone to put the spotlight onto this Millennium Development Duo. Only time will tell if they are going to end up walking tall in their Italian leather shoes or run barefooted in disgrace.
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.
    For what is worth, I still think that Millenium Development’s proposal for the Woodward redevelopment (Stuart’s design) was the best showing (sorry, Gregory and Ian)

  • david m.

    a good read. i really hope these guys pull it out.

  • tyee

    Good article, Frances, but you fail to mention three Millenium projects that are in trouble. The success of Nanimo’s new convention centre depends on Millenium completing the new hotel. This project is at a standstill. So is the $400m Evelyn Drive project in West Vancouver. Some contractors claim they have not been paid for work completed. As mentioned earlier, Millenium’s attempt to rezone a site for a 400′ tower on the North Vancouver waterfront failed because of a groundswell of opposition from residents in the new high rises in Lower Lonsdale. The tower designed by Henriques (see the topic on reopening the view corridor debate) was slated for a site with a height limit of 75′.

  • fbula


    Thanks for the comment. You raise a point that is always a dilemma when I write about people who are at the centre of controversy and debate. Given that there’s a lot written about them already, what balance do I strike between new information and information that’s already been much reported? (This has arisen in other features I’ve done besides this one.) I have reported in the Globe about the problems with the Evelyn Drive project and there’s also been a lot of reporting about the Nanaimo project (though to my understanding, they don’t actually own that or have any kind of equity position, so, while it’s not great for Nanaimo, it isn’t an asset that’s in trouble). The North Van project story, while interesting, isn’t linked to their financial problems.

    With both of those other projects, I didn’t have anything new to add — everything that can be reported has been reported — so I chose to focus on new information, positive and negative, that I’d been able to dig up. Perhaps a line in there just to mention the other projects would have been good. On the other hand, not sure that it would have significantly change anything.

    At any rate, something for me to continue wrestling with.