One of Vancouver’s landmark towers, The Berkeley at Davie and Denman is about to become even more distinctive with Douglas Coupland murals.

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One of Vancouver’s most recognizable residential buildings is about to become even more of a city landmark.

Murals with colourful geometric shapes by artist Douglas Coupland are planned for the four sides of the 16-storey tower at Davie and Denman, which is undergoing an extensive renovation.

Berkeley Tower, built in 1958, was originally painted green and yellow. It is now owned by Reliance Properties, which bought the property near English Bay for $43 million in 2016.

Jon Stovell, president and CEO of Reliance, said everyone knows the building because of its unusual colour and its placement at an angle on the site.

“It’s always been a landmark building,” he said. “But we felt the colours were dated and, frankly, not very attractive. We were trying to find a way for the building to be knowable by virtue of its appearance.”

Stovell said that while the mural proposal has been approved by the city, it is still subject to public comment and a final permit.


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“It’s great to be supporting a local artist, a Vancouver favourite son, and great to be giving back to the community and having a building offering a bit of pleasure for people who don’t live in it.”

The murals on The Berkeley Tower will be painted with the same kind of colour-fast material used in the Vancouver Mural Festival. The roof has a different black-and-white checkerboard pattern.

Coupland wasn’t available for an interview, but said in a news release that he was inspired by seeing ornate buildings elsewhere around the world, including in cities along the coast of Spain.

“The building will redefine English Bay’s skyline and become a mandatory tourist stop for photos,” he said. “I want people to daydream about living at The Berkeley.”

Multi-talented Coupland has written 13 novels, including “Generation X“. In 2014, his solo exhibition “everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything” was at The Vancouver Art Gallery.

Public art works by Coupland in the Lower Mainland include the Terry Fox Memorial at B.C. Place Stadium, Digital Orca near the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, and Golden Tree on Cambie at SW Marine Drive.

When renovations are completed, The Berkeley Tower will have 59 suites.

A handout rendering of The Berkeley at Davie and Denman before the renovations featuring a Douglas Coupland mural.
A handout rendering of The Berkeley at Davie and Denman before the renovations featuring a Douglas Coupland mural.

Stovell said it is ironic that the city’s current zoning for the site doesn’t allow for residential — only commercial space. If Reliance had torn down the building, it would not have been allowed to build another high-rise rental tower.


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“By renovating, we were able to keep 59 suites available for renting,” he said.

Stovell said he expects the first tenants to be in by March. Rental rates have not yet been set.

In 2018, a Postmedia story estimated that the market rate for a corner suite with a view of English Bay was about $3,300 per month. At the time, tenants were paying far less — in some cases as little as one-third.

Berkeley Tower became embroiled in the politics of housing affordability shortly after it was first sold in 2008 and the previous owner planned to evict tenants to renovate the building.

Eventually, once Reliance took over, the Vancouver-based developer agreed to triple the compensation package for tenants — it ranged from a high of under $20,000 to slightly more than $5,000. The average was $10,000, The Vancouver Sun reported.

Stovell said no tenant was evicted for the current renovation.

“It was very important to us that we go over and above what was required by law to make sure the tenants were treated as fairly as possible,” he said in an interview.

In 2018, Councillor Jean Swanson said the compensation for tenants wasn’t enough, and would contribute to the broader loss of affordable housing stock in the city.

“(Cash payments are) not going to help the tenants in other buildings that are being renovated,” she told Postmedia.


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