Friday, May 14, 2010

Social Engineering at its Best at Quattro 3

I recently had an opportunity to meet Mr. Charan Sethi of the Tien Sher Group of Companies (the developer of Quattro 3) in the Whalley area of Surrey. Many members of the general public think that developers are simply cash-grabbing money grubbers that are only concerned with the almighty Loonie. While a few bad apples seem to spoil the bunch, Charan Sethi is just not that kind of developer.

I knew a little bit about Quattro and their latest Quattro 3 offering from the press and some information I obtained from presentation centre staff. What I did not know was that Charan Sethi has one huge passion for doing the right thing and making Whalley a model community. Charan “gets it”. I could have listened to the man and his vision all day and our time together just flew right on by.

Charan believes firmly that developers in an area like Whalley have a social responsibility to attract people that will change the neighbourhood in a positive way. You can throw together some cheap units, cash out and leave, or you can stay and become a “social engineer”. Charan has clearly taken the social engineering path.

Quattro is a development built on a foundation of quality and affordability. It is a delicate balance to provide quality materials and furnishings, while keeping the price within reason for an area like Whalley that is in transition. As I walked the property with Charan from Quattro 1 over to 2, he was constantly pointing out features that he sprang to upgrade.

Firstly, the buildings are architectural interest built into them from the exterior with crafted top edgings in place of simple square corners. Every run has an inset or other unique feature. Many of the accent items like the decorative overhang of the parkade were specified by the architect to be of wood materials. But it became evident to Charan that black painted steel would be more attractive and much more durable. The decision was simple and the steel that I saw was very attractive. Of equal quality is the playground area, which is a community amenity. The playground features cushioned groundcover, heavy-duty equipment and safety rails. As a CPTED practitioner I was thrilled to see that Charan sought professional Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) advice and the outdoor common space is a model as a result. At Quattro 2, Charan provided $30,000 in additional property enhancements AFTER it was already turned over to the Strata. What developer does that?

Expensive paving bricks replace cheap asphalt driveways to the parkades and even the refuse area (read garbage dumpster) was being treated with a very classy wooden gate as we walked the grounds. Once inside the very secure Quattro 2, my eyes were treated to a Yaletown-style foyer with sleek, club-style dark Formica panels with glass accents. Just off the main lobby was a gym and community room (there is one in each building from Quattro 1-3). Quality gym equipment filled this room. I asked my friend, Township of Langley Councillor Grant Ward to join me. Grant just could not resist hopping on the huge, heavy-duty elliptical machine with those two new knees of his. The only quote I can attribute to him was “wow” and we heard that often as we toured the property.

When its all said and done, Charan Sethi and his Tien Sher Group will invest over over $800M in new development in Whalley. Charan is planning some high-rise towers on the old Flamingo Hotel site just across the street from Quattro 3. The commercial podium and several buildings on that site will receive an expensive green roof treatment. Speaking of green, Charan has provided bike storage in each Quattro buildings. No big deal you say? How about 12 very affordable studio suites that leverage Skytrain just 10 minutes away to eliminate parking stalls? But as Charan wouldn’t be content to stop there, he committed to the City of Surrey to provide 2 car share vehicles at his expense for this building.

Charan has a few more social engineering tricks up his sleeve. He saw that in other developments the presence of large balconies resulted in everyone in the complex remaining within their space. So, Quattro 3 will have Juliet balconies to encourage people to gather outdoors in the lush landscaped common area ground with lawn furniture to chill out or read in. With many young families moving into Quattro, the playground is well-used. Charan’s “social planning” was inspired by the piazzas of Italy where Italians gather after work and enjoy the outdoors until the wee hours of morning. I recall my visits to Rome and how remarkable it was that working people could stay out in the piazza until 2 or 3 in the morning on a work night!

Charan can't wait to continue his vision with future developments in the Whalley area as he works on crafting the Yaletown of Surrey. Not just high-rise suites with a view, but even some garden apartments to help people age-in-place will be coming to future Tien Sher developments. Until then, the display centre at Quattro invites you to see their display suite and options for interior furnishings. All tasteful and professionally designed. I couldn't help but photograph almost everything I saw that day. So instead of a few photo inserts I thought you might enjoy the slide show of the Quattro experience.

We are planning another "Sustainability on the Edge" event for possibly October, 2010. I've asked social engineer and developer Charan Sethi to keep October free as much as possible and be one of our special speakers. Keep watching this blog as October draws nears. You will not want to miss this one!

In the mean time, check out the display suite and visitor's centre at Quattro 3 for yourself. More information can be found here.

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