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Good article comparing TO and Vancouver. See bolded part.
Gotta love Harry's obligatory comments.


The price to put up paradise
Developer agrees to $12.5 million deal


VANCOUVER — Ian Gillespie might be building Vancouver's tallest skyscraper. But he's had to scrape and bow before city planners to do it.

In retrospect, he says the $12.5 million package he signed to win approval for his Shangri-La condo/hotel project was a tad "too much," noting that construction costs have since risen.

"But, in the whole scheme of things," he says, "it's only a few million dollars."

The truth is, Gillespie didn't have much choice. That's the price of doing business in downtown Vancouver, where — unlike Toronto — it's a privilege and not a right to build. Literally.

Developers earn that privilege in different ways. First, the design has to measure up. Second, it must prove beneficial to the city, which often means coughing up money and other tangible benefits on top of the usual development fees. "No one has the right to build anything," says Larry Beasley, Vancouver's co-chair of planning.

No approval, no permit. Period. And unlike Ontario, there is no British Columbia Municipal Board to overrule Vancouver's decisions. Developers can appeal to a board of variance staffed by city appointees, but they rarely do. The city is boss.

That power is derived from the Vancouver Charter — a document Mayor David Miller is eyeing as a template for any City of Toronto Act. Signed in 1953, the Vancouver charter is like that city's own declaration of rights. And it enabled the city to plant the seeds in the 1970s of the system its has now:

All of downtown is zoned "discretionary" — every building needs individual permission.

That decision is made, not by politicians, but by three top-ranking bureaucrats who form the development permit board.

Among the few projects that do hit council floor, few stir much debate. Councillors usually follow Beasley's lead, says Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell.

"I know nothing about planning," says Campbell. "For me to say we should put a 600-foot tower here is ludicrous. I have no idea."

The system's power is clearly stamped on the Shangri-La.

The process began when Gillespie presented his idea for the city's tallest building to Beasley and his staff. Beasley judged that it didn't cut into the "view corridors" laid out by council to ensure that, from given points in the city, the mountains are always visible.

Beasley, who was recently named to the Order of Canada for his work as a planner, also decided that the basic design augmented the skyline.

But that wasn't a decision he left to himself. It was up to the Urban Design Panel.

This 12-member group is made up mostly of architects, along with landscape architects, engineers, one developer and a civilian planner. It gives a professional opinion of overall design, effect on the street and, sometimes, the benefits package offered by the builder.

On paper, the panel's decisions are advisory. In practice, it can halt a development, at least until it comes back in a new form.

And, importantly, its members are all appointed by their professional bodies, not the city.

For the Shangri-La proposal, the city flew in two more architects with expertise in skyscrapers — one from Singapore, the other from New York — to join the deliberation on the design.

The panel supported the building, with reservations. It didn't think the pedestrian square was interesting enough — and it criticized the public garden.

James Cheng, one of Vancouver's most prolific architects, changed his plans.

"As a practising architect, I learn a lot from my peers' comments and recommendations, and they improve my building," says Cheng.

Not in Toronto

There would be no point to a Toronto Urban Design Panel because the city is not allowed to dictate design. It is governed by the Ontario Planning Act, which lets it vet things like driveways and fences, but not architectural details like colour or features.

"Here, you can do whatever you want," says Toronto's former chief planner Paul Bedford. "That's why you get a hell of a lot of ugly buildings in the city."

Vancouver architects agree. All five interviewed for this article said categorically that while Toronto has the money, it doesn't have much to show for it.

"While Toronto has a few jewels, generally speaking the developers in Toronto haven't contributed to Toronto," says Cheng. "They make lots of money, but they make the ugliest residential buildings in the world."

That's mostly true, says Toronto developer Harry Stinson, builder of the 51-storey One King West tower and the proposed 88-storey Sapphire.

But it's out of exhaustion, not choice, he says.

"It takes so long to build a back porch in this city, that it's just not worth it. Developers throw their hands up and build a box."

All this and money too

In Toronto, developers pay the city in time. In Vancouver, they pay in appropriate designs and in public benefits — what Beasley calls civic equity. If you want to pack more building into a block, or break height restrictions, you have to make it worthwhile.

Beasley also chairs Vancouver's Public Benefits Committee — another body staffed by city managers.

Like all Vancouver developers going before this group, Gillespie had to outline his expected costs and gains.

In most cases, the city is looking to receive 50-70 per cent of the "land-value lift" — the amount a property's worth increases because of the added density, regardless of the building atop it.

The form of payment is up for discussion — public art, child care centres, or money.

The son of two environmentalists, Gillespie liked the idea of planting 57,000 trees in a B.C. forest to compensate for carbon emissions during construction. And he loved the idea of working with the Vancouver Art Gallery on an outdoor sculpture garden. Then came a $4.8-million restoration of an adjacent heritage church and a $1 million donation to affordable housing — all on top of $4 million in regular development levies.

In the end, he signed a $12.5 million package — 91 per cent of the expected land-value lift.

"That's the best one we got," says Beasley. "We're very, very proud of that."

Gillespie has no complaints.

"[City planners] are a partner in the deal," he says. "Their stake is trying to make a better city. They think of it as their product. They take ownership."

And if other developers are grumbling about the system's demands, it's quietly.

"If you're a microbe on a sulphur spore at the bottom of the ocean, you learn to eat sulphur. We adapt," says Jon Stovell, another Vancouver developer.

"Most developers will grudgingly admit that the stuff they have to deal with on a regular level is worth it in the end, because it makes the city a better place to live, and that's made the real estate business better."

The prices show just that. Waterfront condominiums on Vancouver's Coal Harbour go for $1,200 a square foot, compared to $400 on Toronto's waterfront. In Yorkville, the rate is $600 to $700, according to Remax's Jamie Johnston. Gillespie is selling Shangri-La units for up to $1,400.

Now Gillespie is in talks about building a Shangri-La in Toronto. He figures those suites will go at $1,000 a square foot. But it's unlikely he'll have to shell out as much to the community.

Developers looking to build bigger and denser properties than normal in Toronto are also required to sign deals. They're called Section 37 agreements, after the part of the planning act that allows for them.

But they aren't regulated, and they are done under the threat of a developer's right to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, Toronto planners say.

Plus, they're paltry, compared to Vancouver's. Toronto councillors smile like Cheshire cats if they can finagle $1 million to plant trees in new boxes along Bloor St.

They make it their business to oversee development in their wards. A building might fit the city's official plan, but if the community is opposed, the local councillor will push to derail it.

"Our system suffers from a surplus of pseudo-democracy," says developer Stinson. "The local politicians basically perform for the cameras."

That power is not one they are likely to give up.

"They like to be seen getting things for their communities. If it's all done by bureaucrats, they're not getting the credit," says Barbara Leonhardt, Toronto's director of urban development policy and research. "The ward system drives that kind of behaviour."

Vancouver doesn't have wards. Ten councillors are elected "at large," each representing all 550,000 residents.

"They see the entire picture and view the city as a whole, as opposed to `Don't cross Yonge St. because you're in my ward,'" says Bedford.

So to transplant Vancouver's model here would also require a major overhaul of the city's council structure.

Still, Beasley has flown to Toronto a number of times to discuss with politicians and planners the parts of the Vancouver model they can adopt, and make part of a "Toronto model."

"There are principles about the system which can be replicated, given enabling legislation — discretion, public access and peer review," he says. "I always say you get the city you decide you want. It's that simple."

-----------------

This was also really interesting. I wonder how many more capital improvements they can do at Dundas Square beyond Metropolis (which is private anyway)

The take in two cities

Some recent major building projects in Vancouver and Toronto, and what they gave to the city in addition to standard development charges.

826-848 West Hastings St.

37-storey, commercial/residential
$7.9 million to restore two heritage buildings on-site
$5 million to restore another nearby heritage building
$1.1 million for "cultural and social objectives," including $187,000 to public art.

TOTAL: $14 million

811-821 Cambie St.
22-storey tower, commercial/residential.
$3.36 million to city's affordable housing fund.
$525,000 to heritage restoration.

TOTAL: $3.9 million

Trump International Hotel & Tower

Bay and Adelaide Sts.
70 storeys including hotel and condos.
$2 million for city community services and facilities.
$300,000 for capital improvements to Dundas Square.
Donation worth 1 per cent of construction costs for public art.

TOTAL: $2.3 million-plus

Minto Midtown

2195 Yonge St.
Two condominium towers: one 52 storeys, one 39 storeys.
$1 million for affordable seniors' housing.
$200,000 for pedestrian tunnel to subway.
TOTAL: $1.2 million

The Met

21 Carlton St.
43-storey condominium.
$300,000 to nearby community centre.
$250,000 for improvements to a local parkette.
$250,000 for capital improvements to Dundas Square.
Donation worth 1 per cent of construction costs for public art.

TOTAL: $800,000-plus
 

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416 said:
Good article comparing TO and Vancouver. See bolded part.
Gotta love Harry's obligatory comments.


The price to put up paradise
Developer agrees to $12.5 million deal


VANCOUVER — Ian Gillespie might be building Vancouver's tallest skyscraper. But he's had to scrape and bow before city planners to do it.

In retrospect, he says the $12.5 million package he signed to win approval for his Shangri-La condo/hotel project was a tad "too much," noting that construction costs have since risen.

"But, in the whole scheme of things," he says, "it's only a few million dollars."

The truth is, Gillespie didn't have much choice. That's the price of doing business in downtown Vancouver, where — unlike Toronto — it's a privilege and not a right to build. Literally.

Developers earn that privilege in different ways. First, the design has to measure up. Second, it must prove beneficial to the city, which often means coughing up money and other tangible benefits on top of the usual development fees. "No one has the right to build anything," says Larry Beasley, Vancouver's co-chair of planning.

No approval, no permit. Period. And unlike Ontario, there is no British Columbia Municipal Board to overrule Vancouver's decisions. Developers can appeal to a board of variance staffed by city appointees, but they rarely do. The city is boss.

That power is derived from the Vancouver Charter — a document Mayor David Miller is eyeing as a template for any City of Toronto Act. Signed in 1953, the Vancouver charter is like that city's own declaration of rights. And it enabled the city to plant the seeds in the 1970s of the system its has now:

All of downtown is zoned "discretionary" — every building needs individual permission.

That decision is made, not by politicians, but by three top-ranking bureaucrats who form the development permit board.

Among the few projects that do hit council floor, few stir much debate. Councillors usually follow Beasley's lead, says Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell.

"I know nothing about planning," says Campbell. "For me to say we should put a 600-foot tower here is ludicrous. I have no idea."

The system's power is clearly stamped on the Shangri-La.

The process began when Gillespie presented his idea for the city's tallest building to Beasley and his staff. Beasley judged that it didn't cut into the "view corridors" laid out by council to ensure that, from given points in the city, the mountains are always visible.

Beasley, who was recently named to the Order of Canada for his work as a planner, also decided that the basic design augmented the skyline.

But that wasn't a decision he left to himself. It was up to the Urban Design Panel.

This 12-member group is made up mostly of architects, along with landscape architects, engineers, one developer and a civilian planner. It gives a professional opinion of overall design, effect on the street and, sometimes, the benefits package offered by the builder.

On paper, the panel's decisions are advisory. In practice, it can halt a development, at least until it comes back in a new form.

And, importantly, its members are all appointed by their professional bodies, not the city.

For the Shangri-La proposal, the city flew in two more architects with expertise in skyscrapers — one from Singapore, the other from New York — to join the deliberation on the design.

The panel supported the building, with reservations. It didn't think the pedestrian square was interesting enough — and it criticized the public garden.

James Cheng, one of Vancouver's most prolific architects, changed his plans.

"As a practising architect, I learn a lot from my peers' comments and recommendations, and they improve my building," says Cheng.

Not in Toronto

There would be no point to a Toronto Urban Design Panel because the city is not allowed to dictate design. It is governed by the Ontario Planning Act, which lets it vet things like driveways and fences, but not architectural details like colour or features.

"Here, you can do whatever you want," says Toronto's former chief planner Paul Bedford. "That's why you get a hell of a lot of ugly buildings in the city."

Vancouver architects agree. All five interviewed for this article said categorically that while Toronto has the money, it doesn't have much to show for it.

"While Toronto has a few jewels, generally speaking the developers in Toronto haven't contributed to Toronto," says Cheng. "They make lots of money, but they make the ugliest residential buildings in the world."

That's mostly true, says Toronto developer Harry Stinson, builder of the 51-storey One King West tower and the proposed 88-storey Sapphire.

But it's out of exhaustion, not choice, he says.

"It takes so long to build a back porch in this city, that it's just not worth it. Developers throw their hands up and build a box."

All this and money too

In Toronto, developers pay the city in time. In Vancouver, they pay in appropriate designs and in public benefits — what Beasley calls civic equity. If you want to pack more building into a block, or break height restrictions, you have to make it worthwhile.

Beasley also chairs Vancouver's Public Benefits Committee — another body staffed by city managers.

Like all Vancouver developers going before this group, Gillespie had to outline his expected costs and gains.

In most cases, the city is looking to receive 50-70 per cent of the "land-value lift" — the amount a property's worth increases because of the added density, regardless of the building atop it.

The form of payment is up for discussion — public art, child care centres, or money.

The son of two environmentalists, Gillespie liked the idea of planting 57,000 trees in a B.C. forest to compensate for carbon emissions during construction. And he loved the idea of working with the Vancouver Art Gallery on an outdoor sculpture garden. Then came a $4.8-million restoration of an adjacent heritage church and a $1 million donation to affordable housing — all on top of $4 million in regular development levies.

In the end, he signed a $12.5 million package — 91 per cent of the expected land-value lift.

"That's the best one we got," says Beasley. "We're very, very proud of that."

Gillespie has no complaints.

"[City planners] are a partner in the deal," he says. "Their stake is trying to make a better city. They think of it as their product. They take ownership."

And if other developers are grumbling about the system's demands, it's quietly.

"If you're a microbe on a sulphur spore at the bottom of the ocean, you learn to eat sulphur. We adapt," says Jon Stovell, another Vancouver developer.

"Most developers will grudgingly admit that the stuff they have to deal with on a regular level is worth it in the end, because it makes the city a better place to live, and that's made the real estate business better."

The prices show just that. Waterfront condominiums on Vancouver's Coal Harbour go for $1,200 a square foot, compared to $400 on Toronto's waterfront. In Yorkville, the rate is $600 to $700, according to Remax's Jamie Johnston. Gillespie is selling Shangri-La units for up to $1,400.

Now Gillespie is in talks about building a Shangri-La in Toronto. He figures those suites will go at $1,000 a square foot. But it's unlikely he'll have to shell out as much to the community.

Developers looking to build bigger and denser properties than normal in Toronto are also required to sign deals. They're called Section 37 agreements, after the part of the planning act that allows for them.

But they aren't regulated, and they are done under the threat of a developer's right to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, Toronto planners say.

Plus, they're paltry, compared to Vancouver's. Toronto councillors smile like Cheshire cats if they can finagle $1 million to plant trees in new boxes along Bloor St.

They make it their business to oversee development in their wards. A building might fit the city's official plan, but if the community is opposed, the local councillor will push to derail it.

"Our system suffers from a surplus of pseudo-democracy," says developer Stinson. "The local politicians basically perform for the cameras."

That power is not one they are likely to give up.

"They like to be seen getting things for their communities. If it's all done by bureaucrats, they're not getting the credit," says Barbara Leonhardt, Toronto's director of urban development policy and research. "The ward system drives that kind of behaviour."

Vancouver doesn't have wards. Ten councillors are elected "at large," each representing all 550,000 residents.

"They see the entire picture and view the city as a whole, as opposed to `Don't cross Yonge St. because you're in my ward,'" says Bedford.

So to transplant Vancouver's model here would also require a major overhaul of the city's council structure.

Still, Beasley has flown to Toronto a number of times to discuss with politicians and planners the parts of the Vancouver model they can adopt, and make part of a "Toronto model."

"There are principles about the system which can be replicated, given enabling legislation — discretion, public access and peer review," he says. "I always say you get the city you decide you want. It's that simple."

-----------------

This was also really interesting. I wonder how many more capital improvements they can do at Dundas Square beyond Metropolis (which is private anyway)

The take in two cities

Some recent major building projects in Vancouver and Toronto, and what they gave to the city in addition to standard development charges.

826-848 West Hastings St.

37-storey, commercial/residential
$7.9 million to restore two heritage buildings on-site
$5 million to restore another nearby heritage building
$1.1 million for "cultural and social objectives," including $187,000 to public art.

TOTAL: $14 million

811-821 Cambie St.
22-storey tower, commercial/residential.
$3.36 million to city's affordable housing fund.
$525,000 to heritage restoration.

TOTAL: $3.9 million

Trump International Hotel & Tower

Bay and Adelaide Sts.
70 storeys including hotel and condos.
$2 million for city community services and facilities.
$300,000 for capital improvements to Dundas Square.
Donation worth 1 per cent of construction costs for public art.

TOTAL: $2.3 million-plus

Minto Midtown

2195 Yonge St.
Two condominium towers: one 52 storeys, one 39 storeys.
$1 million for affordable seniors' housing.
$200,000 for pedestrian tunnel to subway.
TOTAL: $1.2 million

The Met

21 Carlton St.
43-storey condominium.
$300,000 to nearby community centre.
$250,000 for improvements to a local parkette.
$250,000 for capital improvements to Dundas Square.
Donation worth 1 per cent of construction costs for public art.

TOTAL: $800,000-plus
Let's see; the Hazelton, Trump, Sapphire, Ritz-Carlton, Maple Leaf Square, new boutique hotel on College, and now Shangri La? How many new hotels does TO need? Americans aren't coming here anymore. So who will stay in these rooms?
 

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Wow! That was almost a perfect way to start off my morning. :tiasd:
So there have been plans of a Shangri-la hotel in Toronto but nothing more...
 

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DRTO said:
Let's see; the Hazelton, Trump, Sapphire, Ritz-Carlton, Maple Leaf Square, new boutique hotel on College, and now Shangri La? How many new hotels does TO need? Americans aren't coming here anymore. So who will stay in these rooms?
most of toronto's companies are owned or affiliated with americans...so there will always be americans coming to toronto...i think toronto has the head offices of more fortune 500 companies than any other city in north america
 

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Vancouver architects agree. All five interviewed for this article said categorically that whileToronto has the money, it doesn't have much to show for it.
"While Toronto has a few jewels, generally speaking the developers in Toronto haven't contributed to Toronto," says Cheng. "They make lots of money, but they make the ugliest residential buildings in the world."
Some of Toronto buildings are ugly, but hell, Vancouver is the city of green towered clones, I certainly don't envy them.



 

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It should be noted that only the City of Vancouver has a Charter. All other municpalities within the GVRD are governed by the Local Government Act - so you won't see Burnaby, Ricmond or Surrey able to garner such extensive amenities from developers.
 
G

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DRTO said:
Let's see; the Hazelton, Trump, Sapphire, Ritz-Carlton, Maple Leaf Square, new boutique hotel on College, and now Shangri La? How many new hotels does TO need? Americans aren't coming here anymore. So who will stay in these rooms?
Sure they are...tourism is on the rebound.
 

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partybits
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Lol, looks no different than our harbourfront.
But you have to admit, VanCity has got a much better city planning dept. I would love to have the city have more powers to be able to cut through red tape, get more from developers, and enforce better architectural standards.

One thing that concerns me though. Considering how NIMBY some Torontonians are, by giving power back to the city rather than OMB for example, could this simply spell the end of tall towers in Toronto?

Great article by the way, thanks for the thread
 

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"get more from developers, and enforce better architectural standards. "

but wouldn't these 'extras' eventually effect the price per square foot?
 

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SD said:
Sure they are...tourism is on the rebound.
We don't know if that's the case yet. Toronto's tourism has been stagnant for quite a while. Our underdeveloped waterfront doesn't help either.

valantino said:
"get more from developers, and enforce better architectural standards. "

but wouldn't these 'extras' eventually effect the price per square foot?
Not really. The reason why it costs more is because demand is almost always through the roof. Think how small the Vancouver downtown peninsula is, and you'll understand why prices are so high. Many demands by the Vancouver Planning Board comes with many goodies in return (extra height, extra density, etc.), so it's not really passing extra costs to consumers.

gbelan said:
^the city doesnt have a problem approving tall towers
But they often end up stubbier than planned. A clear example of this is NY Towers. The architecture is distasteful and bland, but it would turned out so much better if it was a point tower instead of being stubby and fat like it is now.
 
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rt_0891 said:
We don't know if that's the case yet. Toronto's tourism has been stagnant for quite a while. Our underdeveloped waterfront doesn't help either.

Yes we do. Tourism was up last year.
 

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SD said:
Yes we do. Tourism was up last year.
From overseas, but American numbers are still way down from a few years ago. It doesn't help when you have people like Carolyn Parrish burning American flags. Staying out of the Iraq war also made many Americans question Canada's friendship, especially when Britain agreed. Then you add the higher dollar, and post 9/11 anxieties about travelling abroad, and this is why American tourists are staying away from TO in droves. I also think Montreal and Vancouver are preferred over TO as Canadian destinations right now.
 

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"while Toronto has the money, it doesn't have much to show for it. While Toronto has a few jewels, generally speaking the developers in Toronto haven't contributed to Toronto," says Cheng. "They make lots of money, but they make the ugliest residential buildings in the world."



Really...if that's so true, then when I compare the two, does Toronto win hands down in every way? I see a lot of boring architecture in Vancouver and NO jewels at all. At least Toronto can offer the kind of diversity of the urban built form to buffer the boring stuff. And beyond architecture, Downtown Vancouver is no match for downtown Toronto in any way. Beyond downtown, Vancouver is just a suburban yawn...Toronto can be a better planned urban environment outside of downtown, than Vancouver is in it's downtown.

If the proof is in the pudding, then I'll take Toronto's approach to planning, over the planning-by-commitee in Vancouver any day.





KGB
 

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DRTO said:
I also think Montreal and Vancouver are preferred over TO as Canadian destinations right now.
It's invetitable. Canada just doesn't market Toronto enough, & clearly, the feds wants Toronto to rot in hell.
 

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KGB said:
Really...if that's so true, then when I compare the two, does Toronto win hands down in every way? I see a lot of boring architecture in Vancouver and NO jewels at all. At least Toronto can offer the kind of diversity of the urban built form to buffer the boring stuff. And beyond architecture, Downtown Vancouver is no match for downtown Toronto in any way. Beyond downtown, Vancouver is just a suburban yawn...Toronto can be a better planned urban environment outside of downtown, than Vancouver is in it's downtown.
This will take time. Vancouver didn't start booming till 20 years ago.. before, it was derided as the world's biggest mill town... and then they had to suffer through those horrid NDP regimes, so it will take a while for Vancouver to gain the urbanity that Toronto has right now. Toronto will always be ahead.. just because of its sheer size, and the large number of buildings that are going up. Even worse is that Vancouver's NIMBYs are far more powerful than Toronto, if they're not sprayed and neutered, Vancouver's screwed.
 

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A Shangri-La sounds great, but if they're going to sell units as well, maybe they could do it in combination with maybe Sapphire. I don't know how many luxury condo/hotel projects the city can take all at once.
 

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hhhhmmm i wonder how many stories and how many meters it will be if proposed/built?
 
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