Is it true that you did your ﬁrst big deal with Westbank over coffee with Ian at Tim Horton’s?
I ﬁrst met Ian about 12 years ago when he was doing business with Abbey Woods. Abbey Woods wanted Ian to explore doing a project on the Shangri-La site, but at that time it didn’t go anywhere because of the Asian market turmoil. Then we met again eight years ago. By then Ian was on his own and we met at Tim Horton’s and we made the Shangri-La deal on a piece of napkin. It was based on a strong gut instinct on my part.
Ian was also at the right place at the right time. We never intended to do a mixed-use project on the Shangri-La site. We always intended to do a Class-A office building. Ian brought the idea of mixed-use to the table.
You already run a very well respected development company in Vancouver. Why partner with Westbank?
Ian is deﬁnitely the most creative developer in town. At Peterson we always try to stay within the design guidelines relating to maximum density and maximum height, for example. But what Ian brought to the table that day was the idea that we ought to be able to get the tallest building in town and poke through the 450feet height limit. There was no guarantee but he felt that he had a pretty good chance of delivering that.
We have different styles and I think that’s why we are good partners, in the sense that we complement each other. If we had the same style then I think there would be more conﬂict in trying to work together.
Ian has a good eye for design and good skills ﬁnancially plus all of the things we don’t have. I’m not trying to be humble, I’m just stating the facts and that’s why we have done so many projects together because there are things that only Ian’s shop can deliver on.
There are many moments when Ian and his team have really delivered to save a project. On the Woodward’s project we almost lost Simon Fraser University and somehow Ian put it back on track, so that was pretty big. And at Fairmont, without Ian being on top of everything, I don’t think we could have opened the hotel in time for the Winter Olympics in 2010. Because, aside from being creative – I mean that guy – once he rolls up his sleeves, he is so committed.
He has such passion for design; I have to say he has single-handedly raised the bar for building design in Vancouver. We are deﬁnitely proud of Ian and have huge respect for his team’s skills and level of delivery.
As partners do you ever disagree?
We have our moments, but I do believe in Ian. Like I said, when he rolls up his sleeves, I am not worried. Some other developers, including myself are not as hands-on as Ian. I think there is a mutual respect and I feel almost like we’re brothers. We can count on each other, you know? We will keep doing projects together.