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The Santa Fe redevelopment reveals its true colours

April 18, 2016
The repainted old south facade of the new Santa Fe is revealed.

The original colours of the old south facade of the new Santa Fe are revealed.

Monday, April 18, I revisited Francesco Aquilini’s Santa Fe redevelopment underway at 2975 Oak Street.

The notable feature of this project is that the south and east facades of the original 87-year-old three-storey concrete heritage building are being left in place and restored to their “original” condition and will wrap the southeast corner of the new 10-storey, 50-unit rental apartment building being built on the site.

The concrete frame of the new tower has reached its full height and work is underway installing the glass and metal curtain wall.

Of more interest to me, though, is the fact that the white Tyvek shielding has now been removed from the south side of the original three-storey concrete facade, to reveal the facade’s new/old colours.

Some yellowing is to be expected after 87 years

The newly-installed sash windows that U don't think anyone will be looking out of.

A closer look at the paint job and the newly-installed, just-for-show, sash windows.

At the end of its life in 2015, the original three-storey, 14-unit Santa Fe apartment building was covered with a peeling coat of white paint. Now its surviving facade is done up in a gleaming, fresh coat of two shades of yellowish cream.

The  1931 photo of the building in the Vancouver Archives [CVA 1399-617], taken two years after it was built in 1929, when it was still call the Van Arsdel Apartments, is black and white; it and doesn’t show the actual colours, just that the building had a two-tone paint job.

Someone connected with the Santa Fe redevelopment explained to me today that workers ascertained the original colours by carefully stripping away the successive coats of paint until they arrived at the building’s very first paint job.

Aside from the fresh paint, the south facade of the original Santa Fe now features brand new/old-style double-hung, eight-over-one, wood-framed sash windows, painted a dark brown.

Seen from the alley, the recreation of the shape of the back of the original as part of the new is visible.

From the alley, you can see how the new building echos the shape of the back of the old building.

One more thing that’s been revealed, that wasn’t shown in any of the drawings made public, is the way that the architect has recreated and incorporated the demolished volume of the back end of the original Santa Fe apartment building in the design of the new tower.


Also, new concrete steps are visible in the open entrance of the east facade. These more-or-less reproduce a set of original steps. My understanding is that this entrance will be for show and that behind restored and locked oak and glass doors, will recreate the foyer of the original Santa Fe apartments.

Besides apartments and condos, Aquilini’s building an empire

Original plans filed November 29, 2013, with the City of Vancouver for the redevelopment of 2975 Oak Street were by CEI Architecture on behalf of Aquilini Investment Group (AIG). By late 2014 I was writing of Aquilini Developments, one of six known components of AIG, as being both the owner of the property since 2012 and the company behind the redevelopment. (outside of the Aquilini family and close business partners, no one, not even the Vancouver Sun, knows the extent of the Aquilini empire.)

Since 2014, Aquilini Developments appears to have been replaced by Aquilini Development and Construction Inc.

The person connected with the Santa Fe redevelopment, whom I spoke to on Monday, explained that Aquilini has been making moves in order to better control the construction of his own development projects. Specifically, he’s been buying up all sorts of small construction companies.

Out of a rapid-fire list of companies, I remember that one was referred to as being called “360” (there are several B.C. companies so-named that are connected to construction).

Missed a spot there, just above the sill.

Missed a spot there, just above the sill on the right.

Another company I was told that Aquilini has purchased is Westeck Windows and Doors—the company that installed the sash windows in the concrete facade of the old Santa Fe. Click the images to enlarge them.

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