The new Exchange Tower being built at the Old Stock Exchange building in downtown Vancouver was originally scheduled to reach completion this year, but construction could be far from over now that there are plans to outfit the lower floors of the building as a hotel.
On behalf of building owner and developer Credit Suisse, Iredale Group Architecture has submitted a proposal to the City of Vancouver to convert the 1929-built heritage building – floors 2 through 11 – from office to hotel uses. Approximately 110,000 square feet of office space will be removed from the 369,000-square-foot AAA office building to fit in 202 hotel rooms and guest amenities.
Newly built floors within the $200-million, 31-storey tower will remain as office space.
The main entry into the office levels will be located on West Pender Street while the primary hotel entrance will be located on Howe Street. Four elevators will serve the office levels, and another three elevators will be used separately for the hotel.
Front desk and lobby space as well as a full-service restaurant and bar are located on a second level mezzanine, overlooking the office lobby entrance, within an expanded floor area of the heritage building.
Exterior hotel signage will be installed along the Howe Street facade of the tower.
At this time, there are no details on the hotel operator or the proposed star quality of the accommodations, but given its size it would be ideal as a boutique hotel. It is unclear whether the project is connected to Executive Hotels & Resorts’ recent acquisition of the Edward Chapman building next door at 833 West Pender Street.
The overall tower was designed by internationally-renowned architect Harry Gugger.
Construction on the Exchange Tower began when the local office market was red hot. There was significantly more demand when the project was first proposed in 2011 – when the office tower boom was in its infancy.
But ever since, office vacancy in downtown Vancouver has creeped upwards, hovering at 7.2% at the end of 2016, which is an improvement from the previous year when vacancies reached almost 10%.
So far, just one business – National Bank – has been publicly confirmed as an office tenant of the Exchange Tower. But the Montreal-based banking institution will only occupy 45,000 square feet of space.
Over the last few years, a growing number of companies have downsized and moved to smaller spaces; the office market is in transition due to a flood of new office supply, creating conditions that make it a lessee’s market.
The conversion of the tower’s heritage floors into a hotel might also have to do with the space’s suitability as premium office space. Wide structural pillars, supporting the 20-storey addition to the building, are scattered across each floor plate of the heritage building, creating awkward office configurations.
The conversion of the Exchange Tower into a partial hotel would provide much-needed accommodations capacity to Vancouver’s booming tourism industry. The city saw a record 10 million overnight visitors in 2016, and hotel room occupancy reached a high of 94.1% during the summer.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver’s recent opening added 147 luxury hotel rooms to the local supply.
Two new hotels – Marriott’s the Douglas and JW Marriott – will open at the Parq Vancouver casino resort complex next to BC Place this fall, providing a combined 569 hotel rooms.
A 120-room hotel is also proposed for the former archdiocese headquarters on Robson Street near BC Place.
However, some hotel room supply will also be lost from the anticipated closures of the Empire Landmark Hotel and the Coast Plaza Hotel in the West End.