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Keeping Fairview that way

May 16, 2013
Building managers in the midst ... of a task. Diane hands Margo a plant.

Diane (left), and Margo (right) are managers of apartment buildings which sit side-by-each. The two buildings have the same owner.

It goes without saying that money is a major reason Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood looks as good as it does but a lot of care goes into how that money is spent.

The area bounded East-West by the streets Burrard, and Oak, and North-South by Broadway and 16th Avenue, is almost 100 percent apartments and condos. Like other less shiny areas, most of Fairview’s apartment buildings are old — several going back to the 1920s. What distinguishes Fairview is money, in the form of high rents and how it is spent on up-keep and maintenance.

Every apartment building, it seems, is aggressively well-maintained, whether it’s sweeping, or repainting, or replacing balconies.

Money and love — but mostly money

Graffiti on buildings isn’t tolerated for a moment (dumpsters and street furniture are a different story). Problems large or small are equally made to disappear quickly.

Many of the long-time building managers I have gotten to know, like Diane and Margo (pictured above) clearly care about their buildings, but this isn’t unique to Fairview managers — it could be argued that what is unique is that they they have the kind of budgets and resources to deal with almost any problem instantly.

I have to add that many of us homeless, and not-so-homeless, binners who troll the alleys of Fairview, also take pride in the neighbourhood and quietly do our part to keep it clean and tidy.

I haven’t seen a building managed by an owner — so far they’ve all been employees. An interesting fact about Fairview building managers, is that many manage multiple building in the area, generally within walking distance of one another.

Fairview building owners are feeling pressure from newer, so-called pedestal, 12-storey towers — two more of which have recently popped up in Fairview, replacing three-storey apartment buildings.

The pedestal towers automatically have all the up-to-the-minute mod cons, while the older three-storey buildings don’t. They have to be upgraded to stay competitive. This occasionally means (according to building owners) performing a “renoviction” — emptying a building, doing a top to bottom renovation of fittings, and then virtually doubling the rent for new or returning tenants.

An area living on borrowed time?

It occurs to me, as I’m writing this that Fairview still has a lot of the qualities which I liked about Vancouver when I moved here in 1980.

I fear however, that the clock may be ticking on a lot of this — the older, wood-frame, three-storey apartment buildings, the mom-and-pop-style building management.

There are a number of real high-rent, high-character buildings which will always be in demand, but there are more run-of-the-mill buildings which will, I think, go sooner rather than later.

I’m referring to a lot of the post-Second World War three story walk-ups — buildings with no special character, small windows, old-school fittings, and fifty coats of paint — there’s a limit to how much lipstick you can put on the pig before it becomes a waste of lipstick.

As for the building managers, they seem so folksy, so old-fashioned neighbourly and hands-on, that they almost have to be too good to last.

I hope that’s not the case. if you have the money, or if you’re homeless, it’s a nice, liveable neighbourhood. They (and we) try to take good care of it. Click the image to enlarge it.

From → People, Worldwide

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