More than two years after the 2010 Winter Games flame was extinguished in Vancouver, and the Village was dogged with controversy and miserable condo sales, the area, located on the waterfront along the seawall between Telus Science World and Granville Island, has come alive.
A vibrant community, largely made up of young families, empty nesters and city professionals, has emerged, which was evident on Saturday as hundreds of residents filled the village square for an event to mark the grand opening of London Drugs, the latest in a string of new retail amenities aimed at revitalizing the Village.
Earlier this summer, the upscale supermarket Urban Fare and the Tap and Barrel restaurant and pub moved in, following on the success of trendy cafes and shops like Terra Breads and Legacy Liquor.
In February 2011, the Village was relaunched and rebranded by Rennie Marketing with new show homes, a name change and price reductions that averaged 30 per less than those that were in place in 2010.
Condo marketer Bob Rennie said more homeowners have been buying the units in the last few months, rather than those seeking investment opportunities.
He said as a result there are a lot more young families with children moving in, breathing new life into the place.
"We have a lot of first-time buyers and empty nesters," he said. "It's people who don't want to live downtown and like that it's not a car dependent community ... It takes 18 minutes to walk to Granville Island."
Of the 737 units in the Village, only 186 are left, said Rennie. He noted that as of Saturday, they had sold 26 units, ranging from $395,000 to $3 million, since July. He speculated that the rest of the units will be sold by the end of next year.
Brenda Racanelli, who was taking part in Saturday's festivities in the square, said she had just purchased a ground level 950-square-foot, two-bedroom condo facing the waterfront on Athletes Way for $670,000. While still on the pricey side, she noted that it was much lower than the initial asking price which was somewhere in the $800,000-range.
Racanelli's parents also bought a condo in the Village a year ago and she thought it would be nice for her three-year-old son to be closer to his grandparents.
She thinks it will be a great place for her son to meet other children, as he grows up in what she believes is a safe community.
"I've been noticing more kids in the area, there's a real neighbourhood feel," she said, adding that she's approached the Creekside Community Centre to work on creating a Halloween trick or treat route for all the kids in the Village.
"You start seeing the same people all the time and you're saying 'hello' more than you would in some other neighbourhoods."
The community centre
Cuddling her nine-month-old baby girl, Rejoice Kryza, who rents a unit in the Village, said it was the number of families and the beauty of the waterfront that drew her to the complex. "There's the community centre, and to see so many businesses now come out, well that's what we need," she said.
In the last year that she has lived there, the mother of three children said she's seen the community change a lot. "There wasn't much going on when we first moved here, but now every weekend there's activities and so many people come here, rain or shine — and, you know, with these big birds it's so beautiful — like a postcard. The Birds, two massive art sculptures by artist Myfanwy MacLeod have become synonymous with the square.
On Saturday, kids with Spider-Man balloons and face-paint raced around the square, sugar high on candy-floss and Popsicles, while other people swayed to booming dance music.
Residents and curious passersby from the seawall stopped to check out the various booths, chow down on complimentary hotdogs or line up to get a free cartoon drawing of themselves by local artist Ted Couling, working at the radio station Jack FM booth. "This place has really come to life," said Couling, as he put the finishing touches on a caricature of a reporter chasing a story in the Olympic Village. "It used to be so dull and quiet." On Saturday, the Village square was anything but quiet.
Once a shipyard and industrial wasteland, the Village is now a bustling hub for outdoor enthusiasts — the cycling, strolling, and rolling types, as well as those who would prefer to sit on a sunny patio with an ice cold beer.
Raucous laughter could be heard from an oversized patio at the new and popular Tap and Barrel, which was packed with sun seekers, friends cheering each other with sudsy beers and colourful summery cocktails.
Like many of the local residents, Laura MacCormack, a mortgage broker who has lived in the area for six years, described the Olympic Village as a "ghost town" post Games.
"I felt like at any moment a tumbleweed would roll by," she said. "The energy in the village was strange then. And now, two years later, it has started to come to life with the seawall being complete, the new community centre, Urban Fare, Legacy Liquor store, Terra Breads ... there is a new sense of community."
Steve Szilvassy, who has lived in the area near the Village for 11 years with his wife Marta, said they never took walks along the seawall like they do now. "It was so dead here. There was just some junk and old cars," he said. "Now we can enjoy the walking and go grocery shopping."
Wearing twisty party balloons on their heads, the elderly couple was whooping it up Saturday in the square with their three-year-old granddaughter Graye.
London Drugs and Urban Fare, two retailers that originally signed up as anchor tenants at the village, renegotiated the terms of their leases after the original site developer Millennium went into receivership last November.
The companies announced last summer they had reached agreement on leases after the residential occupancy rate reached 65 per cent at the site.
Clint Mahlman, senior vice-president of London Drugs, said Saturday that he had never before seen residents so enthusiastic about a store opening.
"If people have never been down here, I think their perceptions are going to be blown out of the water about what they thought or understood in the media," he said.
The massive $1-billion project, which was used for the athletes' village for the Vancouver Olympics last year, has been plagued by controversy and financial problems.
The city took over financing after the original lender froze funding. Ernst & Young took over in November 2010 after the developer, Millennium, went into receivership.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Olympic+Village+sheds+ghost+town+vibe+with+video/7181025/story.html#ixzz2HV9Sr5To