Major office and rental housing project will provide Vancouver's Chinatown with a much-needed boost

Jun 15 2022, 10:51 pm

If a proposed major mixed-use redevelopment near the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Street and Prior Street is approved, it could provide Vancouver’s struggling Chinatown businesses with a major lift.

Later this month in a public hearing, Vancouver City Council is expected to consider the rezoning application for the proposed redevelopment of 456-496 Prior Street — located immediately adjacent to the future St. Paul’s Hospital campus.

Aside from the new hospital and its associated medical/research office buildings, this project is the largest private, market-driven, job space-intense development within close proximity to Chinatown — specifically the historic business district’s southeastern blocks — and it also promises to increase the area’s population of working residents.

Strand Development’s rezoning application calls for 246,000 sq ft of office space within the upper levels of the five-storey podium, 14,200 sq ft of retail/restaurant space on the ground level, and 262 secured market rental homes within the two towers emerging above the podium. Both towers, including the podium, reach a height of 210 ft (64 metres) with 19 storeys.

According to the developer, these spaces could house up to 1,500 office workers, 150 retail/restaurant workers, and 600 residents. These are very significant figures for this part of the city.

Furthermore, over half of the homes will be units sized for larger families — defined as units with two bedrooms or more. This supply of rental housing could particularly be beneficial for hospital workers.

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver, with the future St. Paul’s Hospital buildings shown to the right. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver, with the future St. Paul’s Hospital buildings shown in the background. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver, with the future St. Paul’s Hospital buildings shown to the right. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

There is no question that this dense, critical mass of new workers and residents will not only provide Chinatown businesses with more customers, but it will increase foot traffic in the district’s streets, effectively improving public safety.

This project’s benefits will be compounded by other future projects in the general vicinity that will have the same positive impact, including several other office projects — privately driven or by Providence Health Care as part of a future major phase of the St. Paul’s Hospital campus.

The St. Paul’s campus alone — the new significant hospital building that will open in 2027, and the future phases of 800,000 sq ft of medical/research office space — will employ an estimated 10,000 workers on-site upon full buildout.

“We are very supportive of the new St. Paul’s Hospital and the new surrounding residential and commercial developments,” Jordan Eng, the president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association, told Daily Hive Urbanized in an email.

“It will create significant economic spinoff for the businesses in Chinatown. In particular, Strand Development’s project will create a large residential base in short walking distance.”

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

450-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Artistic rendering of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver, with the future St. Paul’s Hospital buildings shown to the right. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

As well, the developer is offering an in-kind value, on-site community amenity contribution (CAC) of $5 million from designating 6,500 sq ft of floor area for dedicated community uses, which will be owned by the City of Vancouver upon completion.

Additionally, the area’s public spaces will be drastically improved by the design’s inclusion of a large internal publicly accessible courtyard and mews. This plaza-like courtyard also serves as a mid-block pedestrian connection — improving accessibility between the hospital to the southwest, Trillium Park to the southeast, the Strathcona neighbourhood to the northeast, and Chinatown and the future Hogan’s Alley redevelopment to the northwest. The south side of the building faces the future emergency department entrance of the new hospital.

Overall, the redevelopment calls for 490,000 sq ft of total floor area, establishing a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 4.68 times larger than the size of the 90,700-sq-ft lot. The project’s design firm is Francl Architecture.

Three underground levels will provide 503 vehicle parking stalls and 748 secured bike parking spaces.

The site is currently occupied by a 1949-built warehouse building and a 1930-built building that was previously the longtime home of White Monkey Design, a prop-making studio for the local film and television industry. White Monkey Design has relocated to South Burnaby, closer to the region’s major film production studios.

456-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

The development site of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver, with the future St. Paul’s Hospital buildings depicted to the left. (Francl Architecture/Strand Development)

456-496 Prior Street Vancouver Strand Development

Site of 456-496 Prior Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

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