Instead of moving on from Burnaby to seek his fortune, one local developer decided to stay where he was born and raised to give something back to the community.
Peter Censorio grew up in the Burnaby Heights area where his family planted their roots. He attended Capitol Hill Elementary, graduated from Alpha Secondary School and even worked at the Hastings hotspot, Anton's Pasta Bar, in his youth.
Now 42, he's working on revitalizing the neighbourhood through his development business, Censorio Group, which he established in 2003.
"We started out as an interior design company, we're a very designed-focus group so we took that and basically started with single-family homes in 2003 and moved into family stuff in Burnaby," Censorio said.
After working in interior design and making a name for himself, the Burnaby resident worked with major players on the development scene and made the transition into development. After honing his skills, he built 40 cottages on the Sunshine Coast.
Censorio said he's concerned with preserving the area he grew up in and his latest development, Altezza, is just the start.
The Altezza spot is at 4710 Hastings St. and is a low-rise building, with 18 units. It also has retail space currently filled by Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie and Adele-Rae Florist.
"I've always looked around the neighbourhood," he said. "I remember the building with the first video store, first pizza place. . There's a lot of memories going down there, and so being able to do something, I wanted to give it back."
Censorio said the Heights is equivalent to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, as far as esthetics and placement go - but it has a way to go before it can be that famous.
He said his goal is to keep the small mom-and-pop shops that made the Heights the place it is today in the neighbourhood, and is doing so by making more affordable yet modern retail space available.
When the owner of the floral shop Adele-Rae was starting to look for new space, it was a chance encounter with a representative from the Censorio Group that would lead her to the new spot in Altezza.
Kathy Hanson said someone came in to her former shop, near Hastings Street and Gilmore Avenue, to drop off brochures about the condos in Altezza and one of her staff members asked if they had retail space, as well.
"Within a few hours we got a call, and Peter himself said, 'I'll come, and I'll take you,'" she said. "So he came and picked me up and drove me down here and showed it to me. And just talking with him, it just felt right."
Hanson said the landlord wanted to raise the rent to a cost she couldn't afford, but she wanted to stay in the Heights neighbourhood.
"It all seemed so right for me," she added. "And then I got to stay in the Heights. I could afford the rent."
Although she's downsized from about 2,500 square feet to 1,200 sq. ft., Hanson said her business, which was bought by her mother in 1963, will adapt to the change.
"He's been really accommodating, really," she said. "He's not done it for a long time, either. But he's really good and happy. His mom lives in the building . and actually a couple of my regular customers that I've had for years that have lived elsewhere have moved in."
While maintaining an urban village theme, the Censorio Group also gets its inspiration from European design.
"We're doing a project in New West right now, and it has all Italian appliances," he said. "We're putting in built-in coffee machines. It's those little things that make a bit of a difference."
Altezza is also architecturally inspired by Censorio's Italian heritage.
"The quality, you see it," he said. "It has more of a Tuscan theme, definitely a European theme - there are a lot of Europeans that live in this area. Europe is always leading in fashion, it's always a step ahead -we always take the general characteristics of design and put our own little twist on them."
On the horizon, Censorio said he's working on another development across from the Altezza building, is developing a building in New Westminster's downtown area and hopes to move his offices from Vancouver to the Heights so he can walk to work.
For more information, visit www. censorio.com.