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The Olympic village sales strategy: Rennie

November 30th, 2010 · 9 Comments

Trying to get a struggling real-estate project to start smelling like a rose again is one of the more difficult jobs in marketing. The Olympic village hasn’t suffered from just cost overruns and being built on an incredible timeline and some tussles with the city over design and green stuff.

It’s also become everyone’s favourite political football, the subject of talk shows and columns and blogs. Other projects in this city have struggled and changed direction as the recession squeezed them. But they got to do it under, mostly, the comforting shadowy place out of the limelight. The village never has had that chance. Elements of the village that are present in many, many other projects around the ctiy suddenly became the subject of controversy.

In spite of that, Bob Rennie and the receiver are going to try to make the village start smelling sweet again, as he details here.

I wish them well. I was down at the village last night (a lovely night for a visit, with a southeast gale blowing and persistent fine rain falling) with my SFU housing-policy students and housing professor David Hulchanski, visiting from the University of Toronto. Every time I walk down there, I’m struck with (mostly) how beautiful it is.

The parks are designed with meticulous attention to detail and are oases of visual pleasure in the middle of buildings. I love the feel of the buildings: the way they frame spaces and streets. And I like most of the materials, not awful glass, glass, glass like we see everywhere else, but limestone and chartreuse fritted glass and deep charcoal panels highlighted with brilliant orange rectangles. They feel like real buildings.

(I also acknowledge that my superficial self is deeply drawn to the German cabinets in the presentation suite.)

The plaza is like nothing else we have in the city, a European-style square lined with porticos at the base of buildings that are exactly proportion to make it feel enclosed. It has the view I like the most in the city, not just of the glassy downtown spires across the water, but the low bulk of Chinatown, our historic city. Even the increasingly spider-monster roof on BC Place looks attractive, its giant girders a work of art against the glass.

(NB. I actually think those roof girders are a startling blight on the city skyline, something that has ended up being nothing like what people thought they would be, but it’s a testament to the view from the plaza that they’re softened.)

The only building I really don’t like is the Arthur Erickson one, which looks like stacked sardine cans and seems kind of squashed or stunted as well. But it’s out on the edge, so I can ignore it. (Bob R. has to hope everyone doesn’t feel the way I do, since those are the biggest, most luxurious and most expensive suites.)

Well, someday it will be a jewel. I understand the next development on the city’s land built to the west will likely be more modestly priced, perhaps with some ground-oriented artist studios along the narrow streets. Maybe some of us will actually be able to afford to live there.

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