A cool welcome for Vancouver Trump Tower's grand opening

February 28th, 2017  |  Source: BBC.com

Vancouver's Trump International Hotel and Tower will be one of the first Trump-branded properties to open since the US president's inauguration.

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump will attend the grand opening of the hotel.

Two separate protest rallies are planned for the event.

The hotel and condominium tower developer has been under pressure for months to drop the Trump name from the project.

The $274m luxury hotel will have its grand opening on Tuesday with an official ribbon cutting and opening gala.

The 69-storey Canadian tower - designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson to have a distinctive sleek 45-degree twist as it rises upward - is the second-tallest building on the city's skyline.

The luxury hotel and tower in the city was jointly developed by Malaysia-based global property firm TA Global Berhad and Vancouver-based property player Holborn Group.

The Trump brand signed on to the project in 2013.

US President Donald Trump - then a real estate magnate and not a politician - attended the announcement of that partnership, accompanied by his children, Eric, Ivanka, and Donald Jr.

§Trump hands over business empire to sons

§Donald Trump: A list of potential conflicts of interest

But the controversy that surrounds Mr Trump has become a public relations nightmare for the developer. The site is the location of choice for anti-Trump protests in Vancouver.

Two rallies are planned to coincide with the hotel's big opening - one by Occupy Vancouver and another by two Vancouver high schoolers, Nora Fadel and Yasmin Ahmed, which will include a march to the US consulate.

Ms Fadel told the BBC she first pitched the "Resist 4 Peace" rally on Facebook on a whim but found people were interested in voicing their opposition to Mr Trump's administration.

"Vancouver has no place for negativity, no place for aggression, no place for such a name," she said. "There is no room to have Trump's name on that building. Vancouver is very diverse, is very positive. "

About 40% of the Vancouver population is foreign-born.

Politicians in the province of British Columbia have spoken out against Trump's name on the luxury development.

In December, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called for the name to be removed from the building, saying it had no more place on the city's skyline than Donald Trump's "ignorant ideas have in the modern world".

Thousands signed a petition calling for the name to be scrubbed from the development.

Holborn Group and TA Global chief executive Joo Kim Tiah recently told the Associated Press that he found it "extremely stressful'' when Mr Trump's statements about Muslims, Mexicans and women, among other things, made him unpopular in Vancouver.

"I was terrified," Mr Joo Kim said.

"The people who ran the city were not happy with me. I was scared, but I think they understand. They understand that I'm trapped into - not trapped, locked into - an agreement."

The developer said he had no legal grounds to back out of the licensing deal.

Donald Trump Jr told CTV News in 2016 that he believed Vancouverites would warm to the Trump brand with time.

And he dismissed a criticism by city councilor Kerry Jang, who called the tower a "beacon of racism", as a headline-grabbing "nonsense comment".

Still, despite concern from Mr Trump's opponents, Holborn scored a win when tower's units were sold out last year. At the time, the price of CA$1615 ($1225/£985) per square foot set a record for a Canadian condo project.

Like many similar projects worldwide - including the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto - the Trump Organization provides branding for the Vancouver development and manages the property, but does not retain a stake.

The Trump Organization is an umbrella company for Donald Trump's investments in real estate, brands and other businesses.

In January, Donald Trump said he had formally given "complete and total" control of the Trump Organization's businesses to his two sons in a bid to avoid conflicts of interest.

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