KUOK Group

 


Every tycoon finds Vancouver intriguing because of its vast potential with so much developable lands and ample growth opportunities.   But somehow the place never rates tops in any Asian based portfolio because expectations on yields that are more in line with that in Asia.   Still, we commend the Kuok group for their patience on their initial investments in the 90's.   Now they are re-entering the market as operators of a 119 room hotel in Downtown Vancouver.   Even under construction as it is now, it stands unique and proud.   >>  VANCOUVER SKYLINE

After a retreat from Vancouver last decade, the Malaysian Kuok group which owns the South China Morning Post and other investments including the Shangri-la Hotel chain.    Their strides back to Vancouver made big headlines.

Vancouver's own Shangri-La
15 floors of the city's tallest tower will be used to accommodate the luxury hotel

A world-class luxury Shangri-La hotel is being developed on a prime downtown site as part of a $350-million 60-storey commercial-residential tower that will become the tallest building in Vancouver.

The 120-room hotel will occupy 15 floors of the landmark 664,500-square-foot project, at Georgia and Thurlow, which will also include a penthouse condominium unit with an asking price of $13 million -- more than double the record $6.02 million paid for a Coal Harbour condo last fall.

The hotel will mark the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts' first expansion into the North American market. Renowned for its five-star quality accommodation and service, the luxury chain, founded in 1971, currently owns or manages 42 properties around the Asia-Pacific, including Australia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan, as well as the United Arab Emirates.

In addition, the group has 28 new projects under development in other locations, including India, The Maldives, Oman and Qatar.

In November 1994, during the first Team Canada trade mission to Asia -- led by then-prime minister Jean Chretien and nine provincial premiers -- the Canadian business delegation stayed at the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong.

"We are very thrilled about coming to Vancouver," said Giovanni Angelini, Shangri-La's chief executive officer and managing director.

"It's an exciting gateway city for Asians to come to, and is a very logical move on our part. It is a wonderful opportunity for Shangri-La to enter the North American market with this landmark hotel and our dedicated partners.

"It is an important step in the group's expansion plans outside Asia- Pacific to develop Shangri-La hotels in international gateway cities around the world, targeting the prime North American market, plus the fast-growing outbound traffic from China and the rest of Asia."

Following Vancouver, Angelini said the group will explore other North American destinations, such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Although the Shangri-La group is a publicly-traded company in Hong Kong, the controlling shareholders are the Malaysian-Chinese Kuok family, whose patriarch, Robert Kuok, owns Hong Kong's English-language South China Morning Post, one of the world's most profitable newspapers.

The group's portfolio also includes commodity trading, beverages, logistics, shipping, edible oil refining and plantations.

The new Vancouver investment will also mark the Kuok's return to B.C. They were previously involved in residential and commercial property projects in the 1990s around the Lower Mainland through their company, Abbey Woods, but sold the firm's assets several years ago to Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie.

Now it is Gillespie's Westbank Projects that is developing the Georgia and Thurlow property, in a joint venture with Ben Yeung's Vancouver-based Peterson Investment Group.

Yeung said he has owned the strategically-located site since 1994, and has previously turned down half a dozen development proposals.

"Shangri-La handpicked this location in a building designed to change Vancouver's skyline forever," said Gillespie, whose upscale Shaw Tower in Coal Harbour is nearing completion.

"Their decision speaks volumes to the business confidence shown for our city, with the 2010 Olympics on the horizon."

Hospitality industry sources say Shangri-La's imminent entry will mark the first new hotel brand to come to Canada in the past five years, ever since the U.S.-based Fairmont Group acquired the Canadian Pacific Hotel chain.

Inspired by the imaginary land featured in author James Hilton's legendary novel, Lost Horizon, published in 1933, the name Shangri-La encapsulates the serenity and service for which the hotel chain is internationally renowned.

Angelini said training for its 23,000 employees is the chain's top priority, resulting in the group earning numerous international awards and recognition over the years from guests, prestigious travel publications and industry partners.

The Vancouver facility's 120 deluxe rooms and suites will range from 550 square feet to 750 square feet -- among the largest in Canada -- while other amenities are to include a 6,000-square-foot spa, three full restaurants, business centre, fitness facilities and outdoor pool, 24-hour room service, same-day laundry and valet service, satellite television, data ports and wireless broadband Internet services.

Angelini said he is aiming at achieving Vancouver's highest year-around average room rate "above $250." In the past several years, the Wedgewood and Pan Pacific hotels have managed to charge the highest year-around rates of about $200.

Designed by noted Vancouver architect James Cheng, the 642-foot-high Westbank-Peterson tower will also comprise 227 "live-work" units (with special zoning that allow home business operations) on floors 16 to 40, along with 66 condos from floors 41 to the top.

Realtor Bob Rennie has been awarded the marketing contract for the project.

While pricing has not been finalized, Rennie said the live-work units will range from about $375,000 to $1.2 million, and the condos from about $1.5 million to $13 million for the 9,000-square-foot penthouse, which is to include a private outdoor pool.

The building will also house an upscale Urban Fare grocery store, owned by the Jim Pattison Group.

Ledcor Group is slated to start construction on the entire project early next year. At 642 feet high, the tower will exceed the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel, currently the city's tallest building at 496 feet.

The Shangri-La is targeting an opening date in summer 2007, with the live-work and condo components following about five months later. - by Wyng Chow      VANCOUVER SUN      11 June 2004

VANCOUVER'S SHANGRI-LA

Development is about to start on Vancouver's tallest building, which is to include a Shangri-La hotel. The chain is known for its opulence around the world (examples on left).

The 120-room hotel (right) will occupy 15 floors of the landmark 664,500-square-foot project, at Georgia and Thurlow, which will also include a penthouse condominium unit with an asking price of $13 million.

Ran with fact box "Vancouver's Shangri-la", which has been appended to the end of the story.

 


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