The much-anticipated Trapp+Holbrook development is getting underway on Columbia Street.
The Salient Group is redeveloping the Trapp Block at 668 Columbia St. and the Holbrook building at 660 Columbia St. and constructing a building that will include 196 new homes and retail space on Columbia and Front streets. The project also involves the retention of the facades of the Trapp and Holbrook buildings.
Robert Fung, president of the Salient Group, said work is underway to dismantle the three buildings on the site, both inside and out. In addition to removing hazardous materials and dismantling the buildings' interiors, the project involves the removal of their front facades - a process that's expected to take three to five months.
"It's really the beginning of the overall construction process and doing the dismantling of the building," he said. "It's tricky and painstaking."
The Salient Group's original plan was to retain the existing Trapp Block, but that wasn't feasible because of structural issues. When it was determined that the buildings' interiors had shifted over time, the Salient Group proceeded with plans to retain the buildings' facades.
While the work on the two buildings will take place simultaneously, the different facades mean the buildings will be handled in different ways.
According to Fung, the terra cotta tiles on the Trapp Block will be removed individually, inventoried, cleaned and stored. The Holbrook façade will be retained in situ and stored until it's placed on the new structure.
"The Trapp Block is a wood-frame and masonry warehouse and commercial structure with a distinctive tan terra cotta front facade, located in New Westminster's historic downtown core," said a statement of significance about the building. "It was one of the tallest structures built on the south side of Columbia Street during the Edwardian era and remains a landmark in the area."
According to the statement of significance, the heritage value of the Trapp Block is directly associated with the Edwardian-era development of downtown New Westminster, marking a formative period in B.C.'s resource-based economy. The first part of the building was erected in 1902.
The Holbrook Block, located at 660 Columbia St., was built in 1899 and had an addition in 1913. A statement of significance states that the building is valued because of its use as a hotel and saloon since 1899 (in its final years it was the Windjammer) and is significant because of its late Victorian architecture.
Lisa Spitale, the city's director of development services, said the Trapp Block project has been important to the city because it demonstrates facades can be saved on heritage buildings, and it brings more residents to Columbia Street, which contributes to the downtown's overall viability and helps support local businesses.
Fung is thrilled with the "huge support" the project has received from people both inside and outside New Westminster.
"Really exciting," he said. "It's great. The sales of the building have been really good."
Fung anticipates that Trapp+Holbrook will be fully sold by the time it opens in late 2014 or early 2015.
"We are not 100 per cent but it has gone very well," he said about sales. "We are past 60 per cent."
Fung believes that the 196 new units will bring people to the area who will have a positive impact on the city.
"I think the project is going to be very positive for the downtown," he said of bringing residents to Columbia Street. "That brings its own energy. The retail does bring new energy too."
Since buying the Trapp Block in 2005, Fung has seen positive changes in the downtown.
"The biggest change is in the energy of the area and the way people in New Westminster envision the area themselves," he said. "It's not dissimilar to what has happened in Gastown."
The Salient Group is well-known for numerous revitalization projects in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood, some involving new construction projects and others blending heritage components with new construction.
Fung said Gastown went from an area that people felt was antiquated to an area that's full of energy. He sees a similar change happening in downtown New Westminster, citing the City of New Westminster's investment in the area, both through projects like the civic centre and processes like the downtown community plan, as well as the River Market and other interesting new retailers in the area.
The Salient Group held an online contest to get input into the types of retail people would like to see in the Trapp+Holbrook's commercial space.
"We have had fantastic feedback," Fung said. "The overall feeling was people envision Columbia Street as a neighbourhood street - an urban neighbourhood street. They are looking for food - restaurants, cafes, bakeries, services and other similar things."