A local developer invested a significant amount of his own money to show his patriotism. Photo: The Province
It's hard to miss a new addition to Vancouver's skyline this week as the world's largest Canadian flag has been hung on the outside of a major downtown development project. It was put up there by Bruce Langereis, owner of Delta Land Developments.
Now the patriot in me would love to believe that Langereis put the flag up simply as a way to express his love for Canada. After all, Vancouver is about to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Canadian pride will bubble over in a few short months. You can expect to see the red and white flag all over the city as normally reserved Canadians go wild once we win our first ever gold medal on home turf.
However, the cynic in me also has to wonder if the developer didn't realize that putting the world's largest Canada flag on his development property might attract significant free publicity to help condo sales. I'm pretty confident that the website residencesatgeorgia.com (which conveniently appears just below the flag) will get reprinted in newspapers and broadcast on television screens across the world.
I've met Bruce on several occasions and he is considered one of the most genuine and community-oriented developers in Vancouver. His Hotel Georgia heritage restoration project is clearly a labour of love in addition to a business venture. But with the global recession still in full swing, all this publicity can't help but draw attention to his project and boost sales.
While I don't quibble with the fact Langereis invested his own money to put up the flag, I would hope that other entrepreneurs wanting to show their patriotism might consider a few other ideas.
Imagine if the next developer wanting to jump onto the community spirit bandwagon decided not to put money into a building wrap, but rather, chose to invest those funds in the City's StreetToHome Foundation established by Mayor Sam Sullivan. The Foundation is committed to helping end homelessness by linking arms with the private sector and building the kind of housing Vancouver's most vulnerable so desperately need.
The business leader could hold a news conference and ask for the mayor to be in attendance. They could announce a six figure contribution and challenge other business leaders to join them in ending homelessness on Vancouver's streets. Perhaps they could set a target of raising $5 million bucks in advance of the Games which could be matched by Provincial and Federal infrastructure funds. Hard to imagine how this wouldn't capture the media or public's attention.
Another option would be to divert the equivalent cost of a building wrap as a contribution to pay for the operation of all of Vancouver's local food banks for the duration of the 17 days of the 2010 Olympic Games. Now imagine the kind of world-wide publicity this type of philanthropy would attract. Not to mention it would also serve to make a huge difference in the lives of so many people and the organizations that help to serve them.
I think Langereis is a good fellow doing some great work in Vancouver. I don't begrudge him for a minute all the free publicity he's obtained for what is widely considered a spectacular project in Vancouver. As a patriotic Canadian, I'm also thrilled with what he's done with our flag.
However, I hope other developers/business leaders contemplating a community contribution before or during the Games consider all their options. A significant investment in social housing or a local food bank may well serve to provide other nations with a better glimpse of what it truly means to be a caring and compassionate Canadian. What do you think?