New owner has new vision for old Doman building

The aging Duncan Financial Centre has a new ower and a new eco-look in the works as a commercial and retail complex.  - Peter W. Rusland
The aging Duncan Financial Centre has a new ower and a new eco-look in the works as a commercial and retail complex.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

The landmark Duncan Financial Centre’s getting an extreme makeover — and maybe a new name — from new owner, Howard Meakin.
The Vancouver developer recently bought the 1970s building — erected by the late local timber baron Herb Doman — from Western Forest Products.
Meakin’s stoked about gradually putting a new face on the three-story, 40,000-square-foot complex getting eco-efficient interior and exterior upgrades for upper-story commercial, and ground-floor retail tenants.
He hopes to have the first phase of revamping finished by early July.
“It’s a steel-and-concrete building that has good seismic qualities too,” Meakin told the News Leader Pictorial.
He paid around $3 million for the building “and we’re spending more than that on (renovating) it.”
Landlord Meakin — known for his work rebuilding Vancouver’s Gastown area — saw the Trunk Road building as a sound investment, praising Doman’s foresight.
“It probably was ahead of its time out on the highway, but all tenants want accessibility and (highway) exposure.”
Parking too.
That’s why Meakin’s rejigging the building’s vehicle stalls and using landscaping to hook his property to the adjacent Coronation (Shopper’s Drug Mart) Plaza mall.
“We’re visually tying into the Coronation Plaza behind that’s recently acquired the (Robertson) road allowance behind us, so our parking and landscaping will tie in with theirs,” Meakin said, planning classy canopies front and back of his building.
He sees the whole area as getting a boost that will include a new 24-hour fitness business in Coronation mall.
Meakin knows fitness is a big deal with office workers so bike racks and showers are also planned for his building.
“We’ll probably put a coffee shop on our ground floor too.”
The aim is to attract new commercial and retail tenants while keeping some current renters, including Scotiabank.
“The retail market is and has been a little soft during the past 1 1/2 years because Cowichan Commons has added about 500,000 feet of retail space to the (valley) area,” said Meakin.
“And with the recession, retail has not done quite as well as it had several years ago.”
But it’s a different story in the commercial space race.
“For good-quality office space, that’s elevatored and air conditioned, there’s a steady market but it has to be first class.”
Scotiabank’s sure staying on board.
“There’s no need for us to go any place,” said branch manager David Strong.
“These will be vast improvements,” he said, citing the complex’s new landscaping scheme plus exterior glazing.
The building’s former owners, WFP, plan to leave the centre — possible by fall — “and we’ll be divide that space into smaller units,” he said.
WFP now occupies the top floor, and some 30 per cent of the second.

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