Once the home of Richards on Richards (a nightclub), Madame Cleo’s (probably licenced by the city as a ‘body rub parlour’), The C-Fox radio station, and the most expensive house in the Downtown area, Richards is all but finished. The 228 unit condo project designed by Lawrence Doyle Young and Wright pretty much completes the south-east side of Richards Street. The new owners haven’t moved in quite yet, but the landscapers are tidying up, and it won’t be long before the patio tables and barbeques start to appear on the balconies.
Originally the site was acquired by Chandler Developments, a company who disappeared from the city not that long after they arrived when it became apparent that some units in one of their developments had more than one person who had paid their deposit and thought they were the rightful owner. More accurately, the site was assembled except for two hold-out lots.
Linda Rupa bought her home for $16,000 in 1962. Previously, it was a speakeasy for a bootlegger. “When I came in here, I had 17 phones, two private lines to the States and a big poker table upstairs,” she recalled, once she had agreed to sell to the Aquilinis for $6 million. She had previously turned down Chandler’s offer of $3 million. Describing herself as a “just a Safeway’s girl” (she worked at the store for many years) when asked how she planned to spend the money she said “”I don’t really need that much. I’m a very simple living person. I bought myself a nice tube of lipstick. I’ll get a new quilt at Sears, they’ve got them on sale.”
The project is only 18 storeys high because a view corridor to the north shore mountains crosses the site, limiting the permitted height. The former owner was probably surprised and pleased that, rather than tear the two houses on the site down, the developers moved them and turned them through 90 degrees to create a row of five houses facing Helmcken Street. The scheme also shows how far the Downtown South area has evolved from the earlier 3-storey townhouse and tower days. Here there are townhouses, but they form the base of an eight-storey podium.