David Butterfield (1948 -2017) was a real estate developer whose drive for beauty, quality, and permanence set the modern standard for residential and mixed-use development in Victoria, particularly on the shores of her Inner Harbour. His vision is on par with that of Michael Williams, whose foresight has ensured Victoria’s Old Town retains its unique character.
Butterfield was born in Manhattan and was raised in Connecticut. His peaceful conscience led him to desert the US army in 1969 and move to Montreal where he met and married Norma Markel. The couple moved to Lund, BC where they lived off the land for seven years. It was there Butterfield discovered his lifelong love of carpentry and the couple began to develop their deep commitment to the understanding that people thrived through living and interacting in community rather than being compartmentalized in isolated suburban development.
The couple moved to Victoria in 1977 and began restoring heritage buildings. Moving from restoration to development, they founded South Island Development in the early 1980’s to implement the continuing development of their ideas for healthy habitation. After completing a number of social housing and office projects around Victoria, the couple developed the first of their two harbourfront brownfield projects, the Coast Hotel and Harbourside condominium complex.
In 1989, with the assistance of a number of environmental activists, they formed the Trust for Sustainable Development, a not-for-profit corporation devoted to the principals of economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable development. The Trust legally controls developments in which the Butterfields participate and distributes funds to charitable organizations in the areas where their developments take place.
In 1997, the Butterfields began work on their second Victoria harbour brownfield project, Shoal Point at Fisherman’s Wharf. They transformed the largely derelict and contaminated location into one of North America’s most sought-after residential addresses. Shoal Point, an environmentally advanced mixed-use development, received several design awards including being voted Canada’s best building in 2002 by the National Canadian Home Builders Association.
The Trust for Sustainable Development’s worldwide reputation as an expert in sustainable community thinking led to development projects in the United States and Mexico. Their projects have won awards from Prince Charles’ Society of Social Innovations, The Body Shop, the American Institute for Architects among others. Butterfield himself is a recipient of the government of British Columbia’s Building Better Futures Community Award for his commitment to community.
At the time of his death the Butterfield’s were developing Spirit Bay, a BC coastal resort town just west of Victoria. In his words: “It’s what the West Coast is really about, with so many rocky bays, headlands, little beaches, forest cover. And the water there is so alive,”
In keeping with the Trust for Sustainable Development’s mandate, Spirit Bay is designed as a sustainable community that provides significant economic benefit for their partners, the Beecher Bay (Sci’anew) Nation, upon whose land the development is built.
To learn more about Butterfield’s many accomplishments beyond the shores of the Inner Harbour click on the webliography links below.
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