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New design for 'origami' tower at Waterfront Station to be revealed next week

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Kenneth Chan May 11, 2018 4:56 pm 5,704

Cadillac Fairview is still pursuing to build a new office tower on a small site next to Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver, and a revised design for the project is expected to be released next week during the municipal government’s Vancouver Heritage Commission (VHC) meeting.

The Toronto-based investment and development firm originally proposed the project at 555 West Cordova in 2014 as a 26-storey, origami-shaped office tower wedged on a portion of the parking lot between the transit hub and The Landing building.

Waterfront Tower 555 West Cordova

Original 2014 design for Waterfront Tower at 555 West Cordova Street, Vancouver. (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)

Waterfront Tower 555 West Cordova

Original 2014 design for Waterfront Tower at 555 West Cordova Street, Vancouver. (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)

Dubbed ‘Waterfront Tower’, the design by internationally-renowned Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture – the same firm behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – was rejected by the City of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel due to the panel’s perceived issues with the building massing, specifically with how the lower portion of the structure “overhangs” and “obscures” the old train station building.

While the UDP rejected the initial design, it was previously approved by both the VHC and the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee.

Fast forward to 2018, this is what we know so far about the new design.

According to the agenda for next week’s meeting, the latest iteration of the design will have a total floor area of 532,000 sq. ft. and a height of 374 ft. The new FSR density is 6.46, representing a FSR reduction of two to accommodate the changed design parameters. No renderings have been released at this time.

Waterfront Tower 555 West Cordova

Original 2014 design for Waterfront Tower at 555 West Cordova Street, Vancouver. (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)

There is every indication this is a difficult site to work with due to not only the shape and size of the lot, but also its proximity to Gastown, adjacency to the heritage train station, and highly restrictive view cones that limit height, despite being next to a transit hub.

“When we slid the building towards the station, we then found ourselves in the predicament of having to basically manipulate the structure and architecture in order to get a feasible floor plate that can rise above the station and become a tangible project,” architect Gordon Gill with the project team previously told Daily Hive. “We did that and tried that, but the UDP basically said stop. This is too close to the station, it’s crowding it, it’s uncomfortable and we don’t like it.”

Waterfront Tower 555 West Cordova

Original 2014 design for Waterfront Tower at 555 West Cordova Street, Vancouver. (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)

Following the rejection, the developer hired local architect James Cheng on an advisory capacity to create new urban design principles for Gill’s team to follow.

“I helped them identify the nature of the site,” said Cheng. “It’s the junction of downtown and Gastown and we should recognize its unique location. It also has a unique view for the public to see the water. These are very important attributes.”

Within the constraints of the new design principles, the building will be pushed back towards the rear of the development site next to Waterfront Station and rotated 90 degrees to open up the space on the West Cordova Street frontage to create a large plaza area. With the rotation, the building is positioned in an east-west axis instead of a north-south axis.

In addition to the shifting and rotation, the design of the building’s lower floors in relation to the cornices of both Waterfront Station and the adjacent Landing office building have changed. The ground level is now porous, as requested by the UDP, so that the public can walk through the site and see views of the harbour and mountains.

This design is expected to move into the formal development application phase later in the year.

During the same meeting next week, the VHC will also review the new commercial-only design for the redevelopment of the old Canada Post building, which will accommodate retail and ample office space, including a new Amazon office with 3,000 jobs.

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Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com

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