Nicknamed the ‘Earl of Shaughnessy’
While Vancouver government officials have been chasing away foreign home buyers, one Chinese immigrant is hard at work restoring one of the city’s most famous heritage houses.
His driving force: A love for the hit ITV drama series “Downton Abbey.”
Leaving Beijing for the “clean air” of Vancouver, Mingfei Zhao, 60, has picked up the tab on restoring ‘The Rosemary,’ the 14,000-square-foot (1,300 sqm), Arts and Crafts-style manor built by liquor magnate Albert Tulk in 1918. The self-confessed billionaire put down CAD11 million (USD8.4 million) for the property, located in the city’s leafy Shaughnessy neighbourhood, in 2013.
“I liked it because I was watching Downton Abbey at the time,” Zhao told CBC. “I liked the show very much. It may be not be a true story but I really like the society, the culture and relations between people.”
To date, Zhao has spent CAD6 million (USD4.6 million) on restoring the antique home, which served as a nunnery for more than 50 years and a shooting location for several movies.
Heritage consultant Donald Luxton applauded Zhao’s initiative, a cautionary tale, as it were, on making racial denunciations against foreign property buyers in the city. “It’s unusual that someone so recent to Vancouver would purchase a piece of its history and agree to take this project on,” he said.
“I think it means we have to be careful when we make generalized statements about people who recently moved to this city about what they do or don’t do. This is a very positive benefit.”
Zhao plans to move into the house with his son within the next year and half. “As new landed immigrants, we should make some contributions to protecting and repairing heritage architecture,” he said.
We bet Countess Violet would agree.