Vancouver Sun: Vancouver’s boom spurs Victoria commercial renaissance

From the Vancouver Sun
Published on: April 19, 2016 | Last Updated: April 19, 2016 2:42 PM PDT

Downtown Victoria showing Forst Street, centre, with Abstract Development's new Black and White condo project higlighted. [PNG Merlin Archive]
Downtown Victoria showing Fort Street, centre, with Abstract Development’s new Black and White condo project highlighted.

Victoria’s Upper Fort Street is going through a commercial renaissance that local businesspeople and real estate experts say is linked to the skyrocketing cost of commercial and residential real estate in Metro Vancouver.

Located on the edge of Victoria’s downtown core, upper Fort Street had long been associated more with antique auction houses and dealers than with interesting places to eat and shop. But that’s now changing, said Suzanne Bradbury, the co-owner of Fort Properties and co-chair of the Fort Street Business District.

“In the last four years what we’ve really seen is improvement in the quality and variety and strength in the businesses that have popped up in that area,” she said in a recent interview.

“Fort Street used to be known as Antique Row and I would say a lot of the businesses were geared toward the tourist population,” Bradbury said. “That has totally changed.”

Some of the antique dealers remain, “but the majority of the businesses have really come awake to the existing residential and working-class population that lives in the downtown core,” she said.

Six months ago former Vancouverite Willow Hillard opened a women’s clothing shop called Folk Apparel at the corner of Fort and Blanshard streets. “What brought me here was the changing dynamic,” she told the Sun, noting she operated a store previously on Cook Street. “I wanted to be closer to the downtown.”

She agreed that the flavour of the street has changed in the last few years. “It has gone from an afterthought part of town to a destination.”

Hillard said her business is targeted at career women in their 30s and 40s who come into the store on their lunch breaks from downtown offices. “I’ve heard from several customers who come in that they’ve just moved from Vancouver and are getting to know the city,” said the mother of five.

Hillard said typical feedback she gets from Vancouver transplants is that life and business in Vancouver had become too expensive. “I moved here six years ago for exactly those reasons,” she said. “I started having kids and I even had a store in Vancouver and I just didn’t see it to be affordable or sustainable as I wanted it to be, so I moved here.”

Victoria-based Abstract Developments recently relocated their head office to the corner of Fort and Cook streets, in a space previously leased by the provincial government.

“We were in sort of deep Victoria-Oak Bay before, but our staff really liked what the (Upper Fort) area had to offer,” said Abstract CEO and founder Mike Miller.

He said the staff like being able to eat and shop on the street while still being just outside of the “hustle and bustle” of the downtown core.

Miller said many residents from Vancouver are taking a serious interest in Victoria’s Upper Fort area. Next week, the sales launch for Abstract’s new condo development, Black and White, which will be erected kitty-corner to their new office on Fort Street.

He said about 15 per cent of their pre-sale registrations have been from Vancouver residents keen to either cash-out by selling their big-city home, or escape the city’s big costs.

“We’ve seen a few trickles (of people relocating from Vancouver) before in the last 12 months, but really since the New Year there’s been a massive trend of people from Vancouver coming here,” he said. “You have the people who are retiring, who are leaving their west-side (Vancouver) home, cashing in for a lot of money and saying … I’m either going to go to Squamish or Kelowna or Victoria.”

He said they’ve also seen interest from millennials seeking jobs in Victoria’s growing technology industry.

“The tech sector in Victoria now … is reported to be a $4-billion industry,” said Dave Ganong, the managing director of Colliers International, Victoria. “That industry then ranks as our Number 1 industry, above tourism.”

He said there about 27,000 people working in Victoria’s tech sector, with most of them concentrated in “brick-and-beam” B- and C-class buildings in the downtown core that been vacated in a wave of relocations to newer buildings by provincial government tenants.

In the last five years more firms from Silicon Valley are seeing Victoria as a cheaper alternative to Northern California, Seattle and Vancouver, Ganong said.

“In Yaletown you’re looking at probably anywhere from 50-per-cent to 75-per-cent more expensive (commercial rents) … than you would be in Victoria,” he said, adding that the tech sector in downtown Victoria has helped nearby Upper Fort to blossom into a “trendier” district.

Victoria’s residential market is feeling the side effects of Vancouver’s costly surge. “There is a major move by people in Vancouver that are looking at selling their house in the west side that they’ve been in for 20 to 25 years for more money than they could have ever imagined,” Ganong said. “We’re finding a lot of those people are now coming over to Victoria.”

View article on the Vancouver Sun


Black and White’s Grand Opening – Join Us!


Black and White


A truly modern vision has arrived to Victoria with Black and White by Abstract Developments. With junior, 1- 2 bedroom homes, and a penthouse collection, it’s a redefinition of timeless and the creation of a new mode of contemporary living in Victoria. In a vibrant location and central setting, it’s the new hub of Victoria’s Upper Fort district. It’s Black and White.


Black and White’s public unveiling is just around the corner! We look forward to opening the doors to our beautiful Presentation Centre on Saturday April 16th from 12pm- 5pm! Join us for refreshments and your exclusive first look at Black and White’s exquisitely crafted residences.

Saturday, April 16th

Time: 12 noon to 5:00pm

Place: 1010 Fort Street, Victoria  

Our sales team is always happy to assist and will be available to answer any questions you may have during your visit!


At the corner of Fort and Cook, Black and White balances texture and colour to create a remarkable six-storey community that’s walking distance to boutiques, independent cafes, restaurants, yoga studios and every daily essential. This boutique collection of residences, created by Victoria’s leading visionaries Cascadia Architects, Abstract Developments and award winning designer Sandy Nygaard, is a progressive piece of architecture that represents the revitalization of Upper Fort. Black & White’s design seeks to combine the project’s stunning exterior elements into the interior design. Light and dark combine to create harmony and contrast in the interior spaces. The understated, sophisticated design combines wide-plank White Oak hardwood flooring with 9-foot ceilings and large triple pane windows that let in an ample array of light. Airy, bright and spacious, each suite strikes a distinctive balance between contemporary and classic- the signature of an Abstract Space.


Abstract Developments doesn’t just construct homes; we help build communities.

Our meticulous, time-tested development process spans years. Black and White is your rare opportunity to experience living in an Abstract space, stylish and contemporary with iconic architecture in an enviable location. For your exclusive first look or to RSVP to the grand opening event contact our sales team directly at 778.265.3464 or email info@liveblackandwhite.comYou can also register for updates with Black and White online at

London Arbour Living Rooms

Decluttering: benefits and tips for a more organized home

Now that the New Year is well upon us, it is time to put some order back into our lives. With this in mind, we are interested in how home design professionals and minimalist devotees keep their homes organized. After reading Apartment Therapy’s What NOT to do when decluttering your home and The Green Minimalist’s 21 ‘More’ benefits of decluttering, we pulled our favorite tips and benefits to keeping your home tidy and clean.


Tips on what NOT to do when decluterring your home.


Organize first; buy second.

Before making that trip to the store to buy an assortment of containers and dividers to organize your home, start by organizing and getting rid of any belongings that do not hold a special meaning to you. By doing so, you will be able to assess what you actually need to organize your home.


Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Organizing your entire home in one day will feel overwhelming to anyone no matter the size of your space. Begin with one room or a section of the room and schedule time over the entire week to get everything in order. This will help you feel a sense of accomplishment throughout the whole process.


Complete each task – completely.

Further to point number two; ensure you complete each room completely before moving on to the next. If you don’t, you run the risk of running out of steam at the end of the process thus leaving some of the task undone.


Benefits of starting the year off with an organized home.


More time for you!

Once you have organized your home, office, or any space you use daily, you will be more efficient in your day-to-day activities. This will make life easier and will give you more time to put towards relaxing and unwinding after a long day.


A more pleasant view.

Once your home is organized, your environment will feel more clean, pure and zen. Your daily views will be of a home that is well put together and this will translate into a light feeling and a smile on your face.


More space.

This one is pretty straight-forward. Less clutter, more room! Make sure you use this opportunity to bask in the feeling of having a more spacious living environment. Take it all in. It feels great!


More discipline and control over your life.

When your have everything in order, you are able to accomplish more in a shorter period of time. You know where everything is and you can access it quicker, making you more productive and able to achieve more. You are also able to discern that tasks need to be accomplished and better plan ahead.


More time for your family.

This new found productivity will allow you to get your task list done in less time, giving you MORE TIME to enjoy the fun stuff with family and friends. Imagine spending your Saturday afternoon exploring in nature instead of tidying the house.


More mental room for your progress.

This one is a good one. I don’t think people understand how much clutter can affect their overall mood and attitude on a daily basis. When you are better organized, you increase your ability to analyze and make progress on your overall lifestyle. If you are always busy simply trying to make ends meet, how can you get better at anything? Trust me, your will be more motivated than ever to work on every part of your life once you live in an organized space.


A better appreciation for your belongings.

Upon going through this exercise, you will come to have a better appreciation for the things you decide to keep. It isn’t an easy task, but when you honestly ask yourself what items you TRULY need in your home, you will realize that these things are not simple things, but they have a special meaning to you.


Increased Financial Freedom

This is a great one too. When you grow your appreciation for the belongings you currently have, you will no longer need to replace them for the newest version. You will realize that they have meaning. Trips to the mall will become less frequent as you will develop the need to be organized and realize with time that LESS IS MOST DEFINITELY MORE.



Jute and evergreen sprigs

Holiday Design Inspiration

With holidays ahead, we spoke to design partner, Sandy Nygaard, principal of Nyggard Interiors to find out her favorite holiday design tips and tricks and what trends she’s loving this season.

Best described as natural simplicity, Sandy’s approach to holiday incorporates key elements from the outdoors to create a seasonal aesthetic, rich in colour and texture. Here are some of our favourite recommendations;

• Keep things as natural as possible; fresh evergreen bows, holly clippings and natural accents like cinnamon sticks, clove balls and pinecones add dimension to the table or a fireplace mantle, and welcome fresh winter aromas indoors.
• If your space doesn’t lend itself to a real tree, consider a lit or LED tree; they’ve become much more widely available and come in a variety of sizes and styles. Sandy’s is from Restoration Hardware; it’s the perfect Charlie brown style tree and because it’s powered by batteries, there are no cords to fuss with.
• Frasier Fir home fragrances by Thyme; a crisp scent with Siberian Fir, sandalwood and cedarwood that boasts the most amazing scent of Christmas, and doubles as a phenomenal gift.
• If you’re planning your design and don’t know where to start, websites like Pinterest and Houzz are a great place for inspiring visuals. Sandy also recommends wondering through home stores like Chintz & Company.
• Sometimes thinking simple creativity is the best approach; no glitz and glam required. Instead, small touches like jute ties, twigs and cinnamon sticks create a feeling of heart-warming authenticity, and they’re easy to incorporate into the home.

Want more ideas like Sandy’s?
Try exploring modern Christmas décor ideas on Pinterest.


Natural Holiday DecorNatural Holiday Decor Jute and evergreen sprigs



6 Gold Awards and 9 Silver; A Great Night at the 2015 Care Awards

Excitement and inspiration filled the room at the Empress Hotel this past Saturday night as more than 50 awards were presented to 275 members of the Victoria Residential Builders Association at the 2015 Care Awards.

Abstract Developments and other industry leaders gathered to celebrate this year’s most noteworthy residential projects. “We were honored to not only partake in the evening but to be a finalist in fifteen different categories this year,” states Sam Ganong, Abstract’s VP of Development. Abstract won a total of six gold awards and nine silver in single and multi-family categories such as Best Interior Design – Residential – Condo for Village Walk and Best Single Family Detached Spec Home over 2500 sq. ft. for Vue Four – West Coast Contemporary Homes. “We are exceptionally proud of our projects and would like to thank all the partners involved. Receiving a Care Award is a remarkable distinction. Congratulations to all the 2015 finalists and winners!” continued Ganong.

The VRBA Care Awards Night is the premier industry event showcasing Canada’s leaders in sustainable West Coast design and construction. Attendees include the best builders, developers, designers and tradespeople of Vancouver Island. Coveted awards such as Project of the year – Single Family was awarded to “Hawks Nest” by KB Design and Jason Powell Construction and Project of the Year – Multi-Family going to “Retirement Community in Campbell River” by Denford Construction Management Ltd. Abstract’s leadership team, Mike Miller, Sam Ganong and Kyle Ryan were on hand to accept Abstract’s honours during this annual celebration.

For more highlights of the evening:



2015 Care Awards Winners Announced; Abstract Named Finalist In 15 Categories.

On Thursday the Vancouver Island Residential Builders Association (VRBA) announced its roster of finalists for the2015 Care Awards, a celebration of Canada’s leaders in sustainable west coast design and construction. This year our team at Abstract is esteemed to be recognized as a finalist in fifteen (15) categories for five different projects; the most of any builder, developer or designer.

“The Abstract Developments brand has a proven reputation built on a residential portfolio of award-winning projects, “ said Mike Miller, President & Founder. “This year looks to set the tone for a new record for our company, not only in terms of the number of categories, but also for the nomination of our first mixed-use condo development, Village Walk. We couldn’t be more humbled about this news.” said Miller.

Over the years Abstract has received 34 gold awards in national, provincial and regional categories, with seven gold awards each in 2007 and 2008 for our Armada and Radius homes, which have since become internationally recognized.

The CARE Awards showcases exemplary work in new builds and renovations, from commercial multi-family developments, to smaller scale kitchen and bathroom remodelling projects. The winners will be announced at the CARE Awards Gala on Saturday, October 17, taking place at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. The public will select the winner of the People’s Choice Award from finalist photos displayed at Hillside Centre from September 4-18, and online at from August 24 to September 27. We invite you to check out the contenders and make your vote!

View the CARE Awards Media Release



Village Walk Is Now Sold Out!

With a variety of developments underway, our team at Abstract is working constantly to create the right homes in the right neighbourhoods around Greater Victoria. With more than 65 single and multi-family developments to date, there are a lot of great successes to look back on, but one is near and dear to our team more than any other; the now sold out Village Walk.

The seeds were planted for this recently completed mixed-use development nearly seven years ago when President and Founder Mike Miller, received confirmation he had successfully purchased three consecutive lots on the prominent corner of Foul Bay Road and Oak Bay Avenue. A long but worthwhile process; Mike had big plans for this property. Initially two buildings became home to Abstract’s staff offices. Fast forward six years and today, to what has recently become an award-winning development called is complete. Home to 34 residents, this landmark stands proudly, adding complement and new vibrancy to the surroundings of Oak Bay Village.

As our first condominium offering, Village Walk has become the standard to which other Abstract developments are compared. “Coming from a long background developing and building custom homes, it was natural for me to apply as much effort in choosing the highest quality materials and placing the same attention to detail into each decision, as if it were my own,” said Miller. “Village Walk is our first condominium development and we are extremely pleased with the end product”.

Village Walk residents Glen and Marisa Swendseid echo that sentiment:

“Village Walk initially appealed to us for its boutique low rise design with just 22 residences, combined with the convenient Oak Bay Avenue location and neighbourhood setting, perfect for walking. After experiencing the inside of the building and residences, our interest was solidified; the quality and attention to detail was like nothing else we had seen in new condos in Victoria. In considering our new home, Danielle and the rest of the sales team were phenomenal to work with. They were prompt, professional and knowledgeable with our initial questions, through to move-in and beyond. If we ever decide to move from Village Walk, we would definitely consider another Abstract home.” said Glen and Marisa

Our entire team at Abstract wants to thank our Village Walk homebuyers; the surrounding Oak Bay and Victoria communities and the City of Victoria for their support in making this dream a reality. Marking the the end of what has been a long and exciting venture is bittersweet for Mike and our staff.  Every project we complete fuels our passion to build iconic living spaces that change the way people live.

Abstract currently has two developments under construction: The Emerson and Element. Location is always the main consideration in our development planning. We want to offer the convenience to their lifestyle with the possibility to walk to all the necessary amenities. We seek to develop in vibrant neighborhoods where you can find some peace and quiet but still be close to your everyday needs.


Next up for Abstract is Maddison, a 22-residence boutique condominium development also located on Oak Bay Avenue, at Richmond Road. With several new local restaurants and specialty retail shops including Red Barn Market emerging around the area, Maddison will again be an exceptionally positioned home for many new residents. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting development over the coming weeks.

Be one of the first to preview this project!
Register at:


Fort Street Parklet Pilot Project

June 19, 2015

Our Vice-President of Development, Sam Ganong, was onsite today for the official launch of Victoria’s first parklet initiative, located on the 700 block of Fort St. in the downtown core. Fabulous Fort, a collection of Fort Street businesses have come together with several Victoria businesses volunteering their time and expertise to create a beautiful urban outdoor public space.

A parklet is essentially a small urban oasis created by replacing several parallel parking stalls with a patio and seating. Often you will find a combination of greenery such as trees, flowers, and shrubs in order to bring a serene feel to the space. Parklets are intended to provide a space for people to stop, sit and enjoy the city around them. They foster a sense of community and add natural landscapes and bio-diversity to the heavily paved downtown environment.

The ribbon cutting ceremony led by Mayor Lisa Helps, Teri Hustins and Suzanne Bradbury, co-chairs of the Fort Street Business Association brought numerous downtown residents and professionals to the street side for a glimpse at this new project

Sam shared his excitement about the parklet: “From the moment we were approached, we’ve been passionate about this initiative. Urban place making is a key consideration in smart development and we, at Abstract, recognize the value it has in contributing to a vibrant, healthy, happy and ultimately livable city. We were honoured to have been one of the key contributors to this project.”

Parklet programs have been very successful in cities like Vancouver, San Francisco, and Portland as a way to make streets friendlier to pedestrians and to generate economic vitality. Fort Street as a whole is flourishing with more and more businesses being drawn this location for its vibrancy and dynamic energy.

As a new member of the Abstract team, this experience allowed me to see first hand how Abstract invests in, and values being an active part of the community. It was great to see the community come together to support this initiative and hopefully the Fort Street Parklet will inspire other districts and neighbourhoods to follow suit.

I recommend stopping by to have a cup of coffee and a treat from The Dutch Bakery if you are in the area.

-Sara Poutanen, Marketing Coordinator

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