Vancouver Sun article

Cove Gardens featured in the Vancouver Sun

Louise and Ian Harder hadn’t planned to move from their Kitsilano apartment, where they had lived for 18 years, until they took notice of a new townhouse development taking shape at the turn of the road into Deep Cove one day earlier this year.

“It wasn’t something we had planned at all,” Louise says. “We watched it going up and we thought, hmm, maybe… So when the first open house weekend came, we hopped in the car and went to look at it.”

The rest, as they say, is history, with the couple becoming the first to buy in Cove Gardens, an eight-home townhouse development at the corner of Caledonia and Gallant Road that now serves as a welcoming West Coast Modern-style gateway to Deep Cove village.

It helped that the couple spent the last 12 years indulging their passion – water-skiing – and had spent every weekend driving from Kits to Deep Cove where they keep their Ski Nautique power boat. Thanks to Metro Vancouver’s quirky geography, it takes only 10 minutes to buzz by boat to the Vancouver Ski Club’s home in Coquitlam’s Bedwell Bay, as opposed to at least an hour through traffic by car from Kits. Louise has just retired and is getting even more involved in water-skiing, serving as the ski club’s president.

Developing Cove Gardens had its share of ups and downs, says Hesam Deihimi, principal of the Milori Family of Companies. He and his brothers purchased the former corner gas station-cum-bike and kayak shop in 2009. In doing so, they found out how Deep Cove’s community is fiercely protective of the village. The locals wanted to ensure that the picturesque views of the cove waters and the landmark hiking destination, Quarry Rock, were maintained.

Following a first ill-fated design concept from one architecture firm, Milori faced further challenges when North Vancouver district planning staff sponsored a public process to consider the village’s future. In the end, they made a decision to downzone the site and other adjacent village properties. In simple terms, that meant that the allowable density was reduced and restrictive height allowances were imposed.

That forced Milori to go back to the drawing board and to ultimately hire veteran architect Stu Lyon and his firm gBL Architects.

The document prepared by the planning department was prescriptive in terms of defining how the mass of the buildings would be located on the site and three specific building heights, which Lyon said was quite unusual.

But necessity is the mother of invention and the challenge led Lyon’s team to develop three different “building blocks” that sat on the concrete slab with the parking below.

“The thing we liked about that is that it gave us an opportunity to design the project more within the kind of scale we saw as appropriate for Deep Cove, so that they were not block-like buildings.”

Some of the units are one level, some are two level and some are on three, conforming to a 20-foot back-to-front hill slope. That massing also permitted Lyon to exercise some creativity with the space between the buildings, which they made more attractive by designing interior courtyards with greenery. It also allowed the team to create a pleasing exterior appearance with just four of the eight units fronting on Caledonia Avenue, a street of single-family homes.

“We were also able to give everybody water views, which is very important,” Lyon said.

Equally important was the ability to install windows on two or three sides of the townhomes. “The quality of light in Deep Cove is very different,” said Lyon, noting that daylight is a precious commodity, particularly during the shorter days of winter.

The design also addressed concerns of the neighbours above the project by breaking up the metal roof profile. The low pitch of the rooflines also tends to work better with modern design values, Lyon said.

The exterior features minimal aluminum window casings, stonework at street-level entrances and the liberal use of horizontally oriented clear cedar strips, offset by spare use of aluminum panels. Garage entrances sometimes receive little attention, but given the prominence of Cove Gardens as the village’s gateway, Lyon added stone facing and more cedar.

Inside, the appointments are equally impressive. The units feature a lighter maple or walnut in the entry, kitchen living and dining areas. The homes are heated by multi-zoned hydronic in-floor radiant heating on all levels fed by tankless and efficient on-demand hot water systems.

Some of the units feature a folding door system on to the courtyards, with the doors clad on the interior with clear fir and on the exterior with extruded aluminum. Other units have fir interior french doors.

The kitchens have white quartz backsplashes with complementary one-and-a-quarter-inch-thick quartz counters. The stainless steel appliances include Bosch gas cooktop, wall oven, refrigerator and dishwasher with a Panasonic microwave built into an island. Kohler fixtures are in the kitchen and bathrooms.

White oak-top cabinetry is expanded to nine-foot ceiling height with soft-close door and drawer mechanisms. Six of the eight units are equipped with contemporary linear gas fireplaces, framed by a striking striped Turkish marble facade.

Atop the three-level units with commanding views of the waters of Deep Cove and Indian Arm are master bedrooms with vaulted ceilings and a comfortable outdoor balcony. Ensuite bathrooms feature soaker tubs with Bianco marble stone tiles and walk-in showers with frameless glass shower doors. Cabinets are “floating” custom oak style with co-ordinating medicine cabinets.

Space is maximized through use of built-in closets and shelving. The bedrooms have wool carpeting.

A next-door neighbour, Barri Harris, said that from her perspective, the developers did a really beautiful job on the complex.

“I was concerned about massing and that my backyard would be in total darkness,” she said. “I think that they worked really hard to be sensitive to that in their design.”

“People often say to me, ‘How do you feel about this big condo being built next to you?’ My feeling is if they were going to build anything, this is the nicest thing I could possibly envision.”

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