Thursday 27 July 2017

Trump Tower set to open in Vancouver in spite of protests

The Trump Tower in Vancouver has faced strong local opposition
The Trump Tower in Vancouver has faced strong local opposition

Natalie Obiko Pearson and Hui-yong Yu

The twisting, glass tower with stunning views across Vancouver's harbour and the snow-capped peaks beyond is where the postcard-perfect image ends for the first new hotel to bear the name of US President Donald Trump since he took office.

Vancouver's mayor, during the contentious run-up to the Republican primaries to the south, said the tycoon's brand doesn't belong in a city that prides itself on openness. The tower's wealthy Malaysian developer faced demands to re-brand the project while protestors engaged in two separate demonstrations for the property's official debut last Tuesday.

Trump's sons Donald Jnr and Eric as well as Joo Kim Tiah - scion of one of Malaysia's richest tycoons and head of Vancouver-based developer Holborn Group - attended the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, located on a downtown thoroughfare where a giant silver 'Trump' logo faces a modest brick church.

"We felt this was a market that held great potential for our brand," Donald Trump said in 2013, when the C$360m (€256m) condominium-and-hotel project was announced.

Yet from the outset, locals questioned whether the Trump tower's over-the-top opulence are suited to a city known for an outdoorsy, laid-back lifestyle, where residents wear ski jackets to upmarket restaurants.

Of the property's 217 luxury residences, 214 units were sold by last May at an average price of C$1,615 (€1,150) per sq ft. The price paid represented a Canadian record at the time for condos, according to the Holborn Group.

Controversy around the tower mounted after Trump declared his presidential candidacy in June 2015, vowing to ban Muslims from entering the US and to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.

"Trump's name and brand have no more place on Vancouver's skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world," Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson wrote in December 2015 to Tiah, backing a petition signed by more than 50,000 people demanding that the Trump name be removed from the tower.

Robertson's letter called Trump's positions "hateful" and at odds with the tolerance that's helped Vancouver rank among the world's most liveable cities.

About 40pc of Vancouverites were born outside of Canada, with China being the biggest country of origin.

(Bloomberg)

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