When injury brought an end to a highly promising
middle-distance running career, the now 40-year-old Gillespie simply
exchanged his spikes for more sedate business shoes and kept on running.
With 28 profitable real-estate development
ventures behind him and some spectacular new ones under way, Gillespie is
your quintessential modern-day business warrior with a strong sense of
decency and a desire to leave his construction and design mark on Vancouver.
"My message to any young person entering the
business world is they should focus on building strong, lasting
relationships with the people around them," he says. "When you
surround yourself with a small group of people, all of whom have a high
level of trust in one another, you will succeed."
With $1.2 billion in completed or currently under
development projects, Gillespie has been content to beaver away largely out
of the glare of publicity. At least up until now.
Teaming with Shaw Communications Inc. and
construction giant Ledcor Properties to build the $150-million Shaw Tower on
the Vancouver waterfront in Coal Harbour has thrust Gillespie into the
He wants to leave his mark through architectural
excellence, and long-term friend and architect James K. M. Cheng has
designed a spectacular flat-iron-style building that will dominate the
Construction on the ambitious 149-metre
residential/work tower, the highest in the city so far, is under way. The
40-storey tower will have 16 levels of offices.
Realtor Bob Rennie, who works with Gillespie on
his developments, says Gillespie is a very unassuming but extremely creative
person: "He really understands that architecture is important and
sells. When you look at a postcard from Vancouver in 2005 it will show the
Shaw Tower and the Five Sails of Canada Harbour Place. That will be one of
Gillespie's marks on the town."
Gillespie, who is also building the largest U.S.
mixed-use complex west of the Mississippi in Bellevue, Wash., says he
doesn't build purely for development sake.
"Land use, responsible land use, with
well-designed buildings is important. There are plenty of examples of crappy
land use," he says.
So how did a kid who grew up in Port Coquitlam and
became a runner get into the hurly burly life of a developer?
After a brief stint on a track scholarship at Cal
State -- 800 metres was his distance -- he got hurt and came home where he
trained with Dr. Doug Clement, whom he describes as a friend and mentor. Leg
surgery followed and he nearly made the Olympic team in 1984, coming third
at trials. "Only two went," he says.
Running career over, Gillespie turned to
completing a business degree at the University of B.C. and then an MBA at
the University of Toronto before learning the real-estate ropes at Schroeder
Properties in Vancouver.
"I decided to strike out by myself in the
early '90s," he said.
He struck up a relationship with Hok Meng Heah, a
businessman running Abbey Woods Development Ltd. -- the Canadian property
arm of Asian business baron Robert Kuok. "Mr. Heah taught me a great
deal about business," he says.
Teaming with Heah and the Kuoks was fruitful and
they went on to develop a series of high-profile and profitable projects in
Greater Vancouver, including the $100-million Residences on Georgia, the
$66-million twin tower Palisades downtown and the $32-million Ironwood Plaza
in Richmond among others.
When the Kuoks shifted their business activities
from property to high tech, Gillespie successfully engineered a buyout of
Abbey Woods and took the firm private. "I don't believe real-estate
companies should be public," he says.
Gillespie says he is not really in business to
make money. "I never dreamed I would be as successful as I have. But I
am in this because of a love for the creative process."
He admits his creative juices rarely stop flowing
and often wakes up in the night thinking about new ways to do things.
Is there any chance the U.S. might lure him away
permanently? "Never! To do business yes, but never to live."
The profit margins may be better in the U.S. but
Canadians are better in construction. "My experience in the U.S. has
only made me more patriotic as a Canadian," he says. -
by Ashley Ford
30 June 2002
Photo by Malcolm Parry 2009 November
Pacific's Terry Hui with Westbank's Ian Gillespie
: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sum
Poetry embraces Vancouver hotel tower
Verse by British artist wraps around
Fairmont's new downtown property
If you walk by the corner of Burrard and
Cordova next summer, you'll be able to admire the city's newest hotel tower
and read poetry at the same time.
The text of an original poem by British
artist Liam Gillick will wrap around the southern and eastern exteriors of
the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, running all the way up to the 23rd floor.
Project developer Ian Gillespie won't reveal the rest of the text, which
will be unveiled when the hotel opens next year. But he expects to spend
significantly more than the $767,000 budgeted for the public art component
of the Fairmont development.
Gillespie noted the Shaw Tower had a public art budget of about $400,000
but he spent more than $1 million creating an LED light-tube art
installation that extends along the entire height of that building.
"The piece I put on the Shaw Tower added more value to the building
than I paid and I know the value of the Fairmont piece will add more value
than I'm going to put into it," he said in an interview.
Gillespie, president of Westbank Projects Corp., said public art in
Vancouver needs some "pizzazz" and the poetry-on-building concept
is a step in the right direction.
"Much of the public art in Vancouver is very subtle, but this piece
is not subtle and the piece at [the Woodward's project at Hastings and
Carrall] is not subtle," he said. "I wanted them to grab you by
the throat and make a difference.
"You're going to walk or drive by that building and you won't forget
Westbank is also developing the Woodward's project and has commissioned
Vancouver artist Stan Douglas to create a large photographic mural of the
area's living history that will be displayed in the development's public
Gillespie said the recreated shot of a historical scene speaks to the
history of Woodward's in a "very dynamic way" and Douglas plans to
unveil the work at a New York exhibition in October.
He said people will be fascinated by Gillick's poem on the new hotel
"It's about the fact that whether you're a billionaire or a regular
Joe walking down the street, your perception of reality may be the
same," Gillespie said. "There's a bit of a social statement
He said art inside the new hotel rooms will "play off" the
theme created by the outside text. - 2008 August
By Bruce Constantineau
Westbank Project Acquires Abbey
AWD Acquisition Ltd., a subsidiary
of Westbank Holdings Ltd., completed the acquisition of 19,895,296 common
shares, or approximately 97.5%, of the outstanding common shares of Abbey
Woods Developments Limited tendered under its Offer to all shareholders in
August 2000. AWD Acquistion is a wholly-owned subsidiary
of Westbank Holdings, a private company controlled by Ian Gillespie and
engaged in commercial real estate development in British Columbia and the
AWD Acquisition Ltd. entered into
an agreement with six of the principal shareholders of Abbey Woods
Developments Limited which are affiliated with the Kuok Group, Far East,
pursuant to which those shareholders have agreed to tender the 12,550,000
Common Shares owned by them, representing approximately 61.5% of the issued
and outstanding Common Shares, to the purchase.
AWD Acquisition Ltd.
financed the purchase with support from HSBC Capital (Canada) Inc. for
$14,450,000 in acquisition financing. Westbank Holdings Ltd. also has
support from HSBC Bank Canada for the continuation of credit facilities to
subsidiaries of Abbey Woods Developments Limited in the amount of
approximately $43,000,000. A further commitment from North Point
Capital Corp. provides $8,000,000 in credit facilities for the reduction of
obligations of AWD Acquisition Ltd. and Abbey Woods Developments Limited and
its subsidiaries, as and when required.
The group privatized the company
Ian Gillespie, the Westbank Projects Corp. owner,
must be happy at the B.C. government teaming with Bentall Capital to build a
$495-million convention centre expansion on the Coal Harbour waterfront. The
low-rise complex won't mask -- and may enhance -- much of the sublime view
from the 450-foot Shaw Tower Gillespie is building in partnership with
Ledcor Properties and Shaw Communications.
The James Cheng-designed Shaw Tower, however, will
effectively wall in the Guinness Building, as well as slice a big arc from
the venerable Marine Building's already-reduced purview.
Such view-reduction is an ongoing game as tall
buildings rise in front of each other's prime locations. Such leapfrogging
got panned 30 years ago, when Architectural Institute of B.C. brass had
esteemed Chicago architect Nathaniel Owings stroll downtown and give members
a report card on their then-recent labours. After inspecting the
tall-for-the-time Guinness, Baxter and other buildings on Hastings Street's
north side, Owings faced the assembled architects -- as though they were to
blame -- and sternly asked why they'd blocked off the harbour-and-mountain
panorama. - by Malcolm Parry
Sun 22 June 2002
Construction to start at Coal Harbour site and end
Construction of what will become Vancouver's
tallest building, a $150-million, 40-storey residential-commercial tower, is
scheduled to start at the end of this month on a prime waterfront location
in Coal Harbour.
At 489 feet (149 metres), the Shaw Tower would
eclipse the downtown Bentall Four, Scotia Tower, Park Place and One Wall
Centre -- all 450 feet (139 metres) tall -- although the Wall Centre at
Burrard and Nelson stands on the downtown core's highest point of land.
"Shaw Tower will be an exciting addition to
our over-all Coal Harbour development and the skyline of downtown
Vancouver," said Graeme Stamp, executive vice-president of Marathon
Developments Inc., which recently sold the 1.3-acre property for $25.2
million to a consortium led by Westbank Projects Corp.
"This is the second Coal Harbour site we have
sold to Westbank Projects, and we are impressed by their commitment to
design excellence in their projects."
Owned by Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie,
Westbank just completed Dockside, a $17-million, 49-unit condo project at
Hastings and Nicola streets, in a joint venture with Wall Financial Corp.
Westbank, which earlier built the $100-million
Residences On Georgia and the $66-million Palisades twin towers downtown, is
developing the 532,000-square-foot Shaw Tower in partnership with Ledcor
Properties Inc. and Shaw Communications.
An estimated 450 jobs are expected to be created
by Gillespie's latest project during the 18 months it will take to build.
Designed by architect James
Cheng, the tower, located behind the Marine Building near Cordova and
Thurlow, is just south of the site proposed for the $495-million expansion
to the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.
"What we've got is the premier site in
Vancouver when you think of its location on the waterfront and its proximity
to the city's central business district," Gillespie said Tuesday.
Shaw Cablesystems, the country's second largest
cable-TV company, will be the anchor tenant, leasing 12 floors of office
space to house its B.C. regional headquarters, to be relocated from
"Shaw Tower will accommodate two large
customer service call centres, the engineering group, a fibre-optic network
design team and a retail centre, all focusing on providing our customers
with the highest level of support for all our products and services,"
said Peter Bissonnette, president of Calgary-based Shaw Communications.
Ledcor plans to occupy three floors as its
Vancouver headquarters, while Westbank intends to take half of one floor.
Rennie Marketing Systems has been contracted to
market the 130 strata-titled units on the top 24 floors, which will be
suitable for living purposes or working space.
"The Shaw Tower is a very progressive
development that will satisfy a very demanding, view-oriented demographic in
our city," said realtor Bob Rennie, who plans to launch his sales
campaign in July.
The live-work units will range in price from
$350,000 to about $5.5 million.
Project financing is being provided by the
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, TD Canada Trust and Bank of Nova Scotia.
- by Wyng Chow, Vancouver
Sun February 2002
Construction of the city's tallest building will
begin in the Coal Harbor redevelopment by the end of this month.
The James K.M. Cheng Architects Inc.-designed
tower, with 532,000 square feet of space at 149 metres is higher by a mere
30.5 centimetres than the 148.7-metre Sheraton Wall Centre.
Next in line are Scotia Tower and Park Place at
Wall Centre however stands on a 21-metre hill
making it the highest standing structure in the city.
Partners Ledcor Properties Inc., Westbank Projects
Corp. and Shaw Communications Inc. announced yesterday the $150 million,
40-storey Shaw Tower will anchor the eastern side of the billion dollar-plus
inner harbour redevelopment.
Early indications are it will be popular with
buyers. The $5.5 million penthouse has already been reserved by an offshore
It will occupy a half-hectare site bordered on the
west by the extension of Thurlow St,; and on the south by the extension of
Cordova St,, currently under construction by Marathon Developments Inc., and
on the north by the planned extension of Canada Place Way.
The building is also strategically adjacent to the
planned new Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre and future arts
complex and will link the central business district to the inner harbour.
The first 16 levels will be office space, while
the upper 24 levels will have 130 live-work units.
Sales agent Bob Rennie said that is marketing the
units, says the tower is unique in that it takes advantage of new,
progressive flexible zoning.
"Shaw Tower will offer the homeowner an
opportunity to hang their business license in their home and the flexibility
to use their space as office-only, residential-only, or any combination that
works for them, which wasn't possible before.
"Units will range from $350,000 to $5.5
It will be completed in late 2004 and is being
financed by Toronto Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia and Canadian Imperial
Bank of Commerce. - by Ashley Ford The
City's tallest building will have a unique
Shaw Tower architects had to envision street grid
When they begin a design project, architects
typically have a clear image of the streets that will frame their building.
But Vancouver's future tallest building, the 146-metre high Shaw Tower, is
now under construction, even though part of its surrounding street grid is
nothing more than air.
"This site was very challenging because the
ground plate doesn't exist right now," said architect James
Cheng of the 40-storey live-work building developed by a consortium led
by Westbank Projects Corp.
The Shaw Tower construction site is to the west of
the Marine building at Burrard and Hastings streets.
Just north is land owned by Marathon Developments
Inc. that is frequently mentioned as the future site for a $495-million
expansion to the Vancouver
Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Cheng said Marathon and the City of
Vancouver know the road system is needed for the future convention centre
expansion and a new performing arts centre and worked with him to fit the
Shaw Tower's needs into that grand plan.
Cordova and Thurlow streets will both be extended
to join a new overpass jutting down toward a waterfront road.
Canada Place Way will also extend to the new
elevated road system.
Underneath those roads, SkyTrain will run and
riders will be able to peer out from the underground line to the convention
centre's loading bays, service roads, parking lots and bus-only areas, Cheng
said. Marathon has finished the caissons to support the Cordova Road
expansion and other infrastructure work is ongoing to help keep the Shaw
building's construction on schedule. It is due to open sometime in 2004.
Cheng said aside from the complex road system
plans, the biggest challenge designing the building was integrating two
separate lobbies and two elevator shafts because residential tenants and
office tenants will have different entrances.
General contractor Kirk Chan from Ledcor estimated
that the Shaw project would create at least 450 full-time jobs during the
building's 18-month construction schedule.
- Glen Korstrom
in Vancouver 2-8 July 2002
At a time when new Vancouver downtown living seems
increasingly the same, there are some developments that stand out, that
provide something different. Dockside, a new Coal Harbour urban living
concept from the Westbank Projects and Wall
Financial team is one of these developments.
Assuring quality from the first
conception, these are the developers who created the award-winning
Residences on Georgia and One Wall Centre, downtown's signature buildings.
The architect is Richard Henriquez,
recipient of two Governor-General's medals for his; highly original
architecture, and designer of the brand new Coal Harbour Community Centre,
kitty corner from Dockside, and the lauded Presidio, 1277 Nelson and Sylvia
Now, more then ever, your
investment is safe, with the architecture, the clear and confident look, and
prestige location of Dockside. Dockside is the only project on the downtown
peninsula which permits a full one-third of all residential units to have
Dual Zoning, a rare re-sale advantage in today's technology era
Add to this the splendour of
Stanley Park only three blocks away, and the same distance to the shopping
options of Robson Street. The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club is steps away, and
the abstracted ocean-liner architectural Dockside ensure a building as
memorable as the residents set to make it their home.
has been a long-time supporter of home-grown talent Ian Gillespie and has
been a private
equity investor since 1999.
taken at the Vancouver Art Gallery.