Boatswain's call launches "The Heritage District"

For Immediate Release
(VANCOUVER, B.C. June 29, 2005)

In a ceremony presided over by former mayor Philip W. Owen, a naval officer sounded a "Boatswain's call" here tonight, to inaugurate "The Heritage District on Hastings West", a neighbourhood offering the most prestigious concentration of luxury retail stores in Western Canada, including some of the world's most renowned brands.

Guest of Honour Philip W. Owen, a former mayor and veteran retailer, commanded Petty Officer Robert Longley of HMCS Discovery to launch the Heritage District by sounding a Boatswain's Call. Master of Ceremonies Gary Bannerman is at the left. The event was held at the Terminal City Club

Mr. Owen was assisted by prominent historian Chuck Davis who related some of the history of the street and particularly the 1929 start of construction of the renowned Marine Building. Excavation for that structure commenced when the mayor of the day, W.H. Malkin, blew a golden whistle. Malkin, like Owen, was a noted retailer and wholesaler.

The Hastings Waterfront Business Association was incorporated late in 2004 to represent member businesses, expected to grow in time to include adjacent streets and nearby waterfront locations. Their choice of a marketing brand honours the prestigious history of this area.

The launch event was co-hosted by WHERE Vancouver, who organized an afternoon historic walk of the neighbourhood by hotel concierges and hospitality hosts, conducted by Chuck Davis.

Association president Gisa Straith said, "our ambition is to be far more than a collection of high end retailers. We want to make Hastings West and adjacent areas a subject of city pride, a people place enjoyed by everybody."

Most of the architecture on this stretch of Hastings dates back to an era when it was the heart of both financial institutions and port-related commerce. Just about every bank built a sturdy stone building. But the modern renaissance commenced with the private sector construction of Harbour Centre and the federal government's redevelopment of the old post office and Winch Building to become The Sinclair Centre.

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell (on right) chats with historian Chuck Davis (seated) and marketing executive Peter Alpen.

Luxury retail prominence was initiated in 1987 when Alberto and Maria Leone opened their celebrated 28,000 square foot fashion store in the Sinclair Centre. Paralleling this, the evolution of Simon Fraser University's downtown campus injected more vitality. By the time Henry W. Birks and Sons moved back to Hastings in 1994, several other luxury retailers had taken root. The Birks store, at Granville and West Hastings, is across the street from its original Vancouver location.

Board members of the Hastings Waterfront Business Association are shown with Guest of Honour Philip Owen (second from right) and Petty Officer Longley. They are, from left to right, Robert Remy (Mount Cashmere), Yvonne Zawadzki (Birks), Shawne Goodison (Escada) and Gisa Straith (Chanel).

Today, joining Leone and Birks, the marquee names are a mix or world brands and local retailers of distinction: Cartier, Chanel, Cookworks, Escada, Montecristo, Mount Cashmere, Palladio and Roche Bobois, among others.

Owen named "Honourary President"

Former Vancouver mayor Philip W. Owen was named "honourary president" of the Hastings Waterfront Business Association at an event here today launching "The Heritage District on Hastings West," an association of luxury retailers that aspires to become the Rodeo Drive of Western Canada.

Mr. Owen had been invited to the meeting as "guest of honour," to join with prominent historian Chuck Davis in a ceremonial function highlighting the neighbourhood history and recalling a 1929 event, when the mayor of the day, W.H. Malkin, blew a "golden whistle" to start the excavation for what would become the Marine Building. This week, Mr. Owen instructed a naval representative to sound a Boatswain's call, a tribute to the Marine Building and waterfront heritage.

Following this ceremonial launch of the new district, Gisa Straith, president of the association, paid tribute to Philip Owen and his long service to the city in both private and public sectors.

"Our street is far more than retail. We think Philip Owen's long track record is an inspiration - a clear demonstration that what is good for the city at large is also good for business. He is one of us in the sense that his retail background evolved into a distinguished legacy of public service and achievement," Ms. Straith said.

The son of a prominent lawyer, the late Lieutenant-Governor Walter Owen, few - if any - can match Philip Owen’s dedication to downtown, both as a private businessman and in elected office. He and partners opened a retail store on Seymour Street in 1962. He subsequently joined Eaton’s as a fabric buyer and was posted to New York from 1966-1972. When he returned to Vancouver, he established his own textile business which expanded to six stores, including branches in Toronto and New York, but Owen’s heart soon became committed to local issues. He became president of the Downtown Businessmen’s Association (now Downtown Vancouver Association) and served for almost 20 years on the board of what is now Easy Park. Elected to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Public Recreation in 1978, he would serve there - including a term as Chair - until 1986 when he ran successfully for City Council.

Philip Owen became Vancouver’s 42nd Mayor in 1993 and by the time he retired from office in 2002, he had become the longest-serving consecutive term mayor in Vancouver’s history. Owen was instrumental in long-term policies that fostered the integrated growth of residential, commercial and retail properties downtown, a dramatic positive development that has seen the city population grow from 430,000 to 560,000 in 10 years. He has also been recognized nationally for leadership in the Four Pillars approach to managing social issues.

Among the many honours that have come his way was the 2002 Appreciation Award of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. After Philip Owen announced that he would not seek re-election in 2002, DVBIA president Stuart Swain, of Cadillac Fairview Pacific Centre Ltd., said: “The mayor’s decision not to seek re-election caused us to reflect upon how important he has been to downtown Vancouver. . . . we’ve known Mayor Owen to be sincere, thoughtful and committed, a man of great integrity.”

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or Tel. Gisa Straith at 604.682-0522

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