The concept for the Kingswood Shaughnessy complex ‘incubated’ for 20 years

By Wyng Chow

The idea of building a luxurious condominium tower with Old World architecture and craftsmanship incubated in Vancouver developer Lorne Segal’s mind for two decades before he undertook the $40-million project.

Now that the 18 - unit Kingswood Shaughnessy is completed and ready for market after nearly five years of meticulous planning and construction, Segal is almost reluctant to part with it.

At very least, he may have to save a unit the castle-like building for himself and his family.

“It’s been a very personal building, an obsession,” he said in an interview. “The concept had been incubating in my mind for 20 years, inspired by my travels and studies throughout Europe and the U.S.”

Segal doesn’t expect to make a normal market return because of the costs involved in the elaborate 12-storey development at West 14th and Fir, on the outskirts of Shaughnessy.

“In a diversified portfolio, you do a variety of things,” said Segal, president of Kingswood Properties Ltd., whose previous credits include residential, retail and industrial projects in Greater Vancouver and other parts of B.C.

“Your sole motivation cannot be maximization of profit. Simply put, [the Kingwood] wasn’t the easiest way to make a buck. Ninety-eight per cent of other developers wouldn’t take it on. Life’s too short.”

Homes in the Kingswood range in price from$1.4 million for a 2,100-square-foot unit, to $5.9 million for the 5,540-square-foot penthouse, with an additional 3,304 square feet of wraparound terraces, including a rooftop swimming pool and outdoor kitchen.

Two ground-floor units, each with private landscaped gardens of more than 6,000 square feet, are priced at $3.75 million. Ten condo units are under $2 million.

Segal has hired Vancouver’s top realtor, Bob Rennie, to sell the units after Sotheby’s did some initial test marketing. West side realtor Heather Notman will work as the in-house agent for Rennie Marketing Systems.

“We are targeting 18 people who know and appreciate quality and craftsmanship, and can afford to pay for it,” Segal said, adding he expects a mix of local and international purchasers.

His inspiration for the Kingswood dates back to his days at Oxford, when he would go for post-mid-night strolls past buildings such as the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library and Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre and admire their architecture.

He also checked out residential developments including London’s Mayfair and Belgravia Square, Avenue Foch in Paris, and New York’s Central Park West.

After returning to Vancouver with his head full of images, Segal started his planning process, acquiring the Kingswood site in the early 1990’s.

“There were thousands of pages in [the project’s] preparation, hundreds of sets of plans,” he recalled. “I slept with tracing paper beside my bed. I’d wake up my wife in the middle of the night and we’d start working with marking pencils.”

Starting in 1996, Segal assembled a team of 37 architects and designers, and hundreds of artisans, including stone masons, millworkers, glass cutters and painters, and set up workshops on location. The underground parking area was turned into a millwork factory for three years to craft doors, fireplaces, domes, casings and archways.

Features of the competed building include extensive use of curved glass and stately columns, hand-set marble flooring, bathrooms with 24-karat, gold-plated faucets, Spanish alabaster lighting fixtures, custom-sculpted wool carpets cut to the size of the rooms, hand-carved walnut railings, and hand-painted domed ceilings.

Segal said he chose the location because of its proximity to amenities in the South Granville area, including antique shops, art galleries, book stores, restaurants, specialty stores and banks.

“There is a need for a high-end, small-scale development in a traditional neighbourhood,” he said. “We wanted to cater to people who don’t want to live downtown in a typical condo building with 150 units.”

Rennie said he plans to advertise the Kingswood next month in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as trying to attract “empty-nesters” downsizing from detached homes in Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, Point Grey and West Vancouver.

“These consumers demand security and privacy, plus luxury,” Rennie said. “Not unlike buying a Bentley, when all these qualities come together under one roof, price is no object.”