Vancouver business leaders, city officials and a sister city mayor from Japan gathered at downtown’s newest housing development, Prestige Plaza, on Wednesday to acknowledge the site’s past and marvel at its future.
Both agendas were accomplished during a simple unveiling of the project’s small rain garden and courtyard.
The morning ceremony included a dedication of the space to the late George Propstra, philanthropist and founder of Vancouver’s Burgerville restaurant chain. Prestige Plaza sits where Propstra and his heirs operated a hamburger stand for nearly a half century at the corner of East Mill Plain Boulevard and D Street.
Propstra’s daughter Kathy Mears and her husband, Tom Mears, acknowledged the gesture on behalf of the family-owned Holland Inc., Burgerville’s parent company.
“We are paying tribute to George today,” said Elie Kassab, developer of the $16 million apartment project.
A crowd of about 100 people turned out for the ceremony, refreshments and tours of the two-building complex, along with the courtyard and rain garden. The courtyard is dominated by three life-size bronze figures depicting a girl stepping into a puddle, a boy pouring water over his head and another girl washing her hair, the work of Battle Ground artist Jim Demetro.
The garden filters water from the entire development to percolate through plantings into the earth, a design that impressed Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, a civil engineer by profession.
“I’ve never seen such a creative use of a stormwater management system,” he told the gathering.
He also praised Kassab, president and owner of Prestige Development, for bringing the apartment project to fruition despite its rocky beginnings during the economic downturn. Kassab continued to pursue project financing as credit froze during the recent recession. The Vancouver City Council helped the project along as a way to add vibrancy to the downtown core by granting a property tax abatement in 2011, the mayor noted. It’s expected to save the property owners about $1 million over 12 years.
“This project is an example of how we can do good work in our community,” Leavitt said.
Okuda Toshiharu, the mayor of Vancouver sister city, Joyo, Japan, also attended Wednesday’s event, telling the crowd through an interpreter that he was also intrigued by the rain garden’s design.
Similar designs will be encouraged in his city, said Toshiharu, who is here for the 2014 Sakura Festival at Clark College, which honors the friendship between the two cities.
“People who think about nature are good friends of mine,'” Toshiharu said through translator Tomoe “Fuji” Fujimoto.
Prestige Plaza’s one- and two-bedroom units rent for between $1,150 and $1,500 per month. The project also features live-work and commercial spaces. Units have upscale touches, such as granite counters and hardwood flooring. The complex includes a fitness center, LED lighting, high-speed Internet access, outdoor patios and reserved parking.
Kassab started acquiring the two-block site in 2007, when he purchased Vancouver’s old police headquarters from the city for $200,000. In late 2010, he bought the former Burgerville site for $750,000 from owner Holland Inc. He financed the apartment complex with a private construction loan in late 2012.
Holland still hears from restaurant regulars who miss the downtown venue, said Kathy Mears. She added that the company continues to search for a new spot in the changing downtown core.?The company’s mobile restaurant, the Burgerville Nomad, served cheeseburgers at Wednesday’s event.