The Austin: A project with family attraction

(THE VANCOUVER SUN) — If anything, the story of The Austin is a story about family. It’s about the Beedie family, the clan that built an empire of real estate offerings, and spread its wealth through a legacy of philanthropy. But it’s the story of another family, too.

When The Austin opens its doors in 2014, Justin Wright, 21, will move into a one-bedroom unit on the 14th floor. Dawn Wright, Justin’s mother, will move in to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home. And Justin’s grandparents, Barry and Sharon Greiner — Dawn’s parents — will make their new home in another two-bedroom corner unit on the opposite side of Justin’s.

For many families, side-by-side living may be too close for comfort, but the arrangement suits Justin’s just fine. For the last five years, the family has been living in a custom-built 5,000-square-foot-home it split into two households. When it came time to downsize, The Austin seemed perfect. “My grandparents have lived in West Coquitlam for 60 years, so they wanted to stay here,” says Wright, who graduates from Simon Fraser University this fall. He’s already secured a job and anticipates a future as an accountant. Staying within blocks of their current home made sense. “We wanted a comfy homey neighbourhood-y feel,” says Wright.

When Jason becomes established and moves out, his condo will be used as a family investment. Tied to the community and looking to downsize: the Wright/Greiner family isn’t alone. Nearly 70 per cent of the 133 homes sold since the presentation centre’s Jan. 28 opening.

The show suite stands up the slopes of Austin Avenue, within walking distance of the Vancouver Golf Club and a short jaunt to Lougheed Mall and the SkyTrain. Many of the Austin’s attractions lie indoors, with the sleek finishings on bathroom and kitchen cabinets, the airy open-concept kitchen, dining and living rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows that capture the diverse views. It’s those views that have commanded the most attention among buyers, says Robert Fiorvento, director of developer Beedie Living.

The presentation centre includes a panoramic mural of every view available from the fifth floor in the 19-floor tower, and a touch-screen monitor gives a more precise vision of the sterling views. Fiorvento credits the pace of development in the area for the views that Austin homeowners will enjoy. “There hasn’t been anything developed in this area for 35 years, as far as multi-family structures, “ he says. Above the street retail space, homeowners will enjoy a 9,000 square-foot outdoor living space with a fireplace, shared barbecue area, green space and a playground. Steps away, residents will be able to frequent a gym, yoga centre, guest suites and recreational area.

Beneath the residents’ outdoor living areas, plans are afoot to build some 4,000 square feet of retail space, a public outdoor fireplace on street level. The junior one-bedrooms will include a deck and most of the other units have two outdoor spaces. Fiorvento says he’s seeing interest from members of the Vancouver Golf Club, from first-time buyers, couples and people like Justin’s family — Coquitlam residents whose single-family homes have risen dramatically in value over the years, allowing them the financial freedom to downsize.

The familial bond seems to be a recurring theme with The Austin. Developed by Beedie Living, a branch of the Beedie Group, it’s one of three large residential projects currently under Ryan Beedie’s purview, an empire that includes land, construction, property management and leasing.

Ryan, just 42, learned to love building and development at the knee of his father Keith, who constructed his first building in Marpole in 1945 when he was 19 years old. After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Keith Beedie launched a construction company in the 1950s. By the next decade, he’d expanded from contracting to development. The Beedie Group grew to become the largest landlord for industrial space in B.C. In the mid-1990s, Keith’s youngest son Ryan took over responsibility for development, and became president in 2001. He began to refocus the company with industrial strata projects and residential properties in Beedie Living, the residential arm of the Beedie Group.

Ryan Beedie recently helped raise $700,000 to build the $8.5 million North Shore hospice; in early February, Ryan announced his family’s donation to his alma mater Simon Fraser University. The $22-million gift, the largest in SFU’s history, led to the renaming of the university’s school of business to Beedie School of Business, and will bolster its endowment fund, offer student scholarships and research grants.

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