A 6,000-sq.-ft. space on the second floor of a luxury condo building in Yaletown that had been the “exclusive” domain of the penthouse owner — Concord Pacific president and CEO Terry Hui — should be allowed to be enjoyed by all residents, according to a City of Vancouver order
But it is unclear if this order will bring an end to a dispute that has dragged on for years.
The building in question, The Erickson, is a 17-storey building with 60 units on northern False Creek’s seawall where the most expensive unit, the penthouse, is currently assessed at $16.5 million and a fifth-floor unit is listed asking $5.3 million.
The development permit originally submitted by Concord and approved by the city for The Erickson showed the vast space on the second floor as a common amenity area. But when the strata plan was later filed with the land title office after the building was completed in 2010, the area was designated for the sole use of the penthouse owner.
The space is partially finished in marble and currently vacant. There is a reception area and spaces for a theatre and other rooms. An elevator, that is not commissioned, would run from the parkade to the penthouse with a stop to this second floor, private 6,000-sq.-ft. lobby area, according to strata president Michael Farmer.
In an order sent to the strata on Aug. 27, the city said that within 30 days, the building must restore and maintain access to the second floor area for all residents or make an application to amend the original development permit. Otherwise, the matter will be turned to the city prosecutor and charges could be laid in provincial court where a conviction could mean a fine of not less than $500 a day.
The strata responded by telling its members that “after five years of negotiations,” it is “no longer viable” to work with the developer or the owner of the penthouse to change the development permit and it is “taking steps to restore and maintain access to the second floor area for all tenants.”
However, in an email to Postmedia last week, Hein Poulus, a lawyer acting for Concord, said: “The City’s letter has just come to our client’s attention. This is not a title dispute: the second level was never marketed or sold as amenity space. Our client will take steps to amend its development permit, as suggested in the City’s letter (and will pay for it) and is confident that the issue will be resolved in that fashion.”
Farmer said the discrepancy between what the city approved in its development permit and what was filed to the land title office after the building was completed was first noticed years later in November 2016.
“Since 2017, five councils have tried to resolve the issue focused” on Concord amending the development permit,” he said. “None of the five councils has been able to resolve the issue.”
“It is our understanding that the strata owners must be the party who responds to the (city’s) order. It would not seem appropriate that Concord could now unilaterally respond to (it), as there are 59 other affected owners in The Erickson,”said Farmer.
Farmer added there was a “small, but vocal minority of residents, who want to re-key and take over the second floor immediately.”
Over the years, various options have been explored, records show.
In early August 2017, a lawyer for Concord attending a strata annual general meeting, “defended the 2nd floor designation by his client as repairable with the city by using extra Floor Space Ratio, or FSR, which he maintained is still available, both in this building or other buildings owned by Concord Pacific,” according to strata minutes.
FSR is basically the density or the gross floor area that the City allows to be built on a parcel of land. Developers can build more and make more money from a plot of land if the city approves a higher FSR and it’s a commodity they sometimes trade between properties.
The land title for the penthouse has been in Hui’s personal name since 2010, and the address given is that of Concord’s Vancouver head office.
The strata has been in separate, but related talks with Hui because his penthouse was not completed when the building was constructed. It sat as an empty shell for years, but in May 2021, the strata reported in its minutes that Hui received its permission to apply for a building permit from the City for the build-out of his two-level penthouse, including an in-suite pool and private elevator.
The city said the case involving its order to the strata at The Erickson crosses multiple departments and it is “currently pursuing active enforcement against this strata to meet the conditions of the development permit.”