Trumps open Vancouver tower amid protests
Published Tuesday, February 28, 2017 9:18AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 28, 2017 5:50PM EST
Eric, Donald Jr. and Tiffany Trump were all present in Vancouver Tuesday to cut the ribbon at their family-branded Trump International Hotel and Tower, as a crowd protested outside.
The Trump brothers hailed developer Joo Kim Tiah as an "unbelievable guy" in their remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Neither brother took questions from the gathered media, but Donald Trump Jr. did crack a joke at their expense.
"I'd like to thank the press, he said. "Just kidding. It's great to see you here – I'm shocked."
It was the second real estate opening for the sons of U.S. President Donald Trump, since they assumed control of the privately-owned Trump Organization in January. The organization, which licenses its name as a luxury brand around the world, worked with Joo Kim's Canadian-based Holborn Group to complete the tower. The structure stands 69 storeys tall and cost $360 million to build.
Police were preparing for large crowds of protesters outside Tuesday morning, but only a few dozen were present at 10 a.m. PT, when demonstrations were slated to start. There were approximately 100 present by the time the Trumps arrived at 11 a.m., to open the building that has become a lightning rod for controversy in the city.
Several security fences were set up outside the tower Tuesday morning, and a number of police were also on hand ahead of the expected protests.
However, photos from the scene show a smaller-than-expected crowd.
A few Trump supporters were also present in the crowd.
More protests and marches are expected throughout the day.
Trump Organization tweets, deletes false claim
The Trump Organization sparked a flurry of anger on social media ahead of the grand opening on Tuesday, with an apparently false claim that many quickly dismissed as "fake news" or "alternative facts."
"The 69-storey tower will be the first property to open in the city in over six years," The Trump Organization tweeted Monday, in a tweet that was deleted sometime Tuesday afternoon. However, the comment was still present on the Trump Vancouver Instagram page.
The tweet is demonstrably false, as Vancouver is in the middle of a real estate boom that has seen several new residential towers open in the last six years.
"Now THAT's #fakenews," one user tweeted in response. "Have you heard of Vancouver?"
Former Vancouver chief planner Brent Toderian called the claim "so far from being true, it's laughable."
The Trump Organization repeated the claim in a press release handed out to journalists ahead of the opening news conference.
Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger attempted to amend the statement at the hotel's opening press conference, calling the tower "the first hotel to open in Vancouver in six years."
The Hotel BLU boutique hotel opened in downtown Vancouver on June 1, 2014. Prior to that, the Fairmont Pacific Rim opened its doors in 2010, while the Shangri-La Hotel opened in 2009.
City officials have repeatedly come out against the tower, with Mayor Gregor Robertson suggesting the developer change its name, and Councillor Kerry Jang condemning it as a "beacon of racism."
The Trump Organization does not own the tower.
Local politicians don’t have any jurisdiction over a building’s name, according to Toderian. Instead, he said the public will determine the hotel’s success or failure.
“This isn’t about the powers of city hall or the powers of the provincial government. This is about ordinary Vancouverites both voting with their feet or their dollars, but also using their voices,” Toderian told CTV’s Power Play.
Developer Joo Kim Tiah has said that despite calls for him to rebrand the hotel, he is "locked into" an agreement to use the Trump name.
"The people who ran the city were not happy with me," Joo Kim told The Associated Press. "I was scared, but I think they understand."
Joo Kim says he was "extremely stressed" when Trump launched his presidential campaign, because the hotel deal had already been signed. "I was terrified," he said.
Last April, a man protesting Trump's stance on immigration climbed the tower and hoisted a Mexican flag at the top.
The Vancouver tower will be the second Trump-branded project to open since January, when Donald Trump assumed the presidency and handed his business over to his sons. The organization opened a golf course in Dubai on Feb. 18.
Toronto’s 65-storey Trump International Hotel & Tower went up for sale in January for $298 million. Once sold, the building’s new owners will decide whether or not the keep the Trump brand.
The new tower is the second-highest structure in the city.
With files from CTV Vancouver and The Associated Press