The eastward expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) of downtown Vancouver continues with the latest proposal for a new 450-ft-tall, 22-storey office tower, just southeast of Victory Square.
Quadreal Property Group and PC Urban have partnered to redevelop 534-550 Cambie Street, currently occupied by four lots with three buildings of heritage significance constructed in 1912, 1925, and 1929, respectively, and a surface parking lot.
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The site is within close proximity to a number of transit services, especially SkyTrain’s Stadium-Chinatown Station.
Designed by local architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, the newly submitted rezoning application calls for 258,245 sq. ft. of office space, and 5,764 sq. ft. of ground-level retail space.
The facade of the 1925-built, two-storey, Cleland-Kent warehouse building will be restored and retained for integration into the new building, and used as the storefront of the larger of the two commercial units.
“An increase in both height and density are sought to optimize job space close to rapid transit within the rapidly evolving CBD Extension Area. The proposal meets policy directives of increasing job space in the CBD Extension in a form that enhances the existing urban fabric,” reads the application.
“The dynamic building form is the result of a sensitive and responsive approach towards urban design and heritage retention. Building form is decidedly of its place — sculpted to provide respectful and complementary urban renewal around both Victory Square and the retained Cleland Kent building on site.”
The design concept is described to be a merger of the heritage character of the nearby Gastown district, and the contemporary elements of the so-called “Crosstown” district, where the development site is located.
However, it should also be noted that the tower’s sculpting within the upper half section is due to the perceived need to reduce shadowing on Victory Square, and the need to avoid mountain view cones that penetrate diagonally through the property.
The tower’s design is impacted by view cone E1 from the mid-point of the Cambie Bridge, and view cone 9.1 from the intersection of Cambie Street and West 12th Avenue next to Vancouver City Hall. This creates two different height restrictions and regulates the massing and form for the project.
View cone E1 limits the western half of the site to a height of up to 315 ft, resulting in a triangular-shaped top for the remaining floors above the 13th storey. The rooftop of this midsection on the 13th floor is used as an outdoor amenity space.
View cone 9.1 limits the eastern half of the site, the triangular-shaped floors, to 450 ft.
As a result of the view cones, the office floor plate sizes vary considerably between 15,132 sq. ft. for the lower half of the tower and 9,250 sq. ft. for the upper half.
“The 22 storey office building‘s architectural expression is a sculpted form achieved by a process of subtraction in response to contextual constraints. What meets ground as a rectangular form is transformed through a terraced low rise base, angular high rise tower form to create a ‘crystalline’ building that addresses the site and its relation to Victory Square,” reads the design rationale.
“Sculpting the upper portion of the building yields a building form that balances the generation of job space with the preservation of the quality of space within Victory Square.”
Other outdoor amenity decks are located on the 14th and 15th floors, with indoor amenity spaces on the 14th floor including co-working, meeting rooms, and lounge space.
Five underground levels will accommodate 128 vehicle parking stalls and 204 bike parking spaces.
The total floor area is 264,000 sq. ft., creating a floor space ratio density of 17.4 times the size of the 15,164 sq. ft. lot.
There is enough employment space in this building for roughly 2,000 jobs, which will help bring new life to the area and its businesses.
Other major office tower projects approved or under construction that are also driving the eastward expansion of the CBD include The Post (the Canada Post redevelopment with Amazon offices), 402 Dunsmuir Street (Amazon), Deloitte Summit at 400 West Georgia Street, and the Creative Energy steam plant next to BC Place at 720 Beatty Street.
There are also future plans to develop office towers at the northernmost parcel of the Larwill Park site, where there is currently temporary modular housing, immediately north of the future home of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Although COVID-19 has had a major impact on employee occupancy of office spaces in downtown, with workers currently working from home, this is widely believed to be temporary. Commercial investors continue to show immense confidence in the downtown office market, which continues to see a very low vacancy rate.