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Trump tower opens in Vancouver but welcome isn’t warm

Jeremy Hainsworth And Rob Gillies
Associated Press

Vancouver, British Columbia — The furies unleashed by Donald Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency are shaking Vancouver, where a gleaming new Trump International Hotel and Tower is about to open.

The mayor wants its name changed. A city councilman calls it “over the top, glitz and glamor” that clashes with Canadian values. And the property developer who built it sounds traumatized by the whole affair.

The 69-story building designed by one of Canada’s most renowned architects h as drawn praise for its sleek, twisting design. Prices for the condominiums have set records.

But Trump’s politics, especially his criticism of immigrants, has caused such outrage that the mayor won’t attend the grand opening next week. Even the Malaysian developer has had second thoughts about the partnership.

Joo Kim Tiah, who like the U.S. president is the son of a prominent businessman who got into global real estate, said he found it “extremely stressful” when Trump’s statements about Muslims, Mexicans and women, among other things, made him extremely unpopular in Vancouver, one of the world’s most diverse and progressive cities. Unfortunately, it was well after he signed the licensing deal to use the Trump brand.

“I was terrified,” Joo Kim of Holborn Development told The Associated Press. “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 would have had no legal grounds to back out of the licensing deal, the terms of which have not been publicly released. “There would be severe legal implications,” he said.

The hotel and residence will have its grand opening on Tuesday, with Trump sons Donald Jr. and Eric in attendance.

Located along an upscale six-lane downtown thoroughfare, the tower is the second-tallest in Vancouver and offers majestic mountain and ocean views. A one-bedroom apartment, at 699 square feet, starts around $1 million and the average 1,153-square-foot two-bedroom condo went for $1.7 million but has since gone up. Hotel rooms in the slow season start at around $228 ($300 Canadian).

The chief White House ethics lawyers under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have criticized Trump’s turning over control of his business to his sons, saying it does not eliminate potential conflicts of interest. Legal experts also say Trump’s overseas businesses could violate the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. constitution, which bars public officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments or companies they control without the consent of Congress. A liberal-funded watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against Trump citing the clause.

The Vancouver tower is the second Trump-branded property to officially open since he took office, coming shortly after a golf course in Dubai. The Canadian project has generated much more debate, however, because of its location in a place that prides itself on multiculturalism. Forty-eight percent of Vancouver’s residents are foreign born.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, among others, has urged the developer to drop the Trump name. “Trump’s name and brand have no more place on Vancouver’s skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world,” he said in a letter.

City councilman Kerry Jang said the tower, which he calls a “beacon of racism … intolerance, sexism and bullying,” is out of place not just because of the views of the person whose name adorns it but for a style that he said clashes with low-key Canada. “It represents a brand that’s over the top, glitz and glamor,” Jang said. “It’s not our thing. “

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark also said the Trump name doesn’t represent the values of a city that is known for its support of environmental causes and open drug policies.

Donald Trump Jr. brushed off his father’s Vancouver detractors in an interview with CTV television last year, calling them “ridiculous” and “disgusting.” On Thursday, White House aide Hope Hicks directed all questions about the tower to the Trump Organization, which did not respond to requests for comment from the AP.

Joo Kim said he was saddened by the criticism, noting that people of 30 different ethnicities work at the hotel.

Silver and gold ingots of chocolate stamped “TRUMP” are displayed in hotel room minibars, part of the sumptuous decor in the $275-million ($360-million Canadian) tower.

Building general manager Philipp Posch said Trump and his controversies have little to do with the company. “President Trump, what he does is separate,” said Posch, who also opened Trump’s Chicago hotel. “I focus on getting the beds ready and putting a chocolate on your pillow for turndown.”