Vancouver City Council approves 22-storey office tower near Victory Square

Dec 30 2021, 4:14 am

With almost no debate, Vancouver City Council recently swiftly and unanimously approved a proposal to build a 22-storey office tower just south of Victory Square in downtown Vancouver.

The redevelopment of the mid-block site at 534-550 Cambie Street is a partnership between PC Urban and Quadreal Property Group, which is also behind the nearby Canada Post redevelopment for Amazon.

There would be a total floor area of 263,000 sq ft, establishing a floor area ratio (FAR) density of a floor area that is 17.4 times larger than the size of the lot.

The heritage facade of the 1925-built Cleland-Kent building on the north side of the land assembly will be retained and incorporated into the design, providing a sharp but complementary contrast with the contemporary new-build design.

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Site of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Site of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Site of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

About 5,800 sq ft of retail is planned for the ground level, including a cafe on the south side of the Cambie Street frontage, and a large retail unit within the heritage shell.

The architectural team with Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership described the tower’s design as a building that begins as a rectangular podium, before taking on an irregular shape for its upper half.

The tower’s design is impacted by View Cone 9.1 from the intersection of Cambie Street and West 12th Avenue next to Vancouver City Hall, and View Cone E1 from the mid-point of the Cambie Bridge. This creates two different height restrictions that regulate the massing and form for the building.

View Cone 9.1 limits the peak height of the building on the eastern half of the site, while View Cone E1 places a greater limit on the western half.

The tower’s ultimate peak height is 302 ft, established by View Cone E1’s limit, but there is further sculpting on the volume affected by View Cone 9.1 — reduced all the way down to level 13. This aggressive sculpting beyond view cone considerations was performed to reduce shadowing on Victory Square, with special consideration for eliminating any shadowing on November 11 between 9:45 am and 11:30 am, when Remembrance Day ceremonies are held.

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of the tower at 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver, from Victory Square. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

View cone impact on 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Uses of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

As a result of this air space moulding, 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.

During city council’s public hearing, the shadowing considerations by the proponents earned the project support of several public speakers representing the Friends of Victory Square (FVS) group, which successfully advocated for the revitalization of the plaza in the 2000s.

FVS noted the developer closely consulted with their group, and indicated that the building’s public art contribution could go towards further enhancements to Victory Square, such as public art honouring Victoria Cross recipients.

In exchange for approving the density and uses, the developers will provide about $8.4 million in public benefits to the municipal government, including a community amenity contribution (CACs) of $2.46 million in cash, development cost levies (DCLs) of $5.45 million, and public art worth $521,000.

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

The tower’s exterior design also acknowledges its location within a transition area of the downtown peninsula between the commercial high-rise buildings of the Central Business District and the low- and mid-rise heritage buildings to the north and east.

“The façade of the proposed building incorporates references to the traditional masonry design of the heritage building as well as other heritage buildings in the surrounding Crosstown, Gastown and Chinatown neighbourhoods,” reads a city staff report.

“The building design includes passive solar shading to allow for additional articulation of the façades. The preliminary proposed material palette includes a combination of red brick, light oak, metal, concrete and glass, resembling the historic materials of the area.”

Speaking to city council, Farid Rohani, honorary colonel at British Columbia Regiment, said “the building architecture itself is great and handsome in design, and those who will work and visit the building will bring vibrancy to the street, which is really welcome.”

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

534-550 Cambie Street Vancouver

Artistic rendering of 534-550 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/Quadreal Property Group/PC Urban)

Five underground levels will contain 126 vehicle parking stalls, and 209 secure bike parking spaces. The site is within short walking distance to SkyTrain Stadium-Chinatown Station and frequent bus routes.

This tower proposal was reviewed and approved in a relatively short timeframe, considering that the formal rezoning application was submitted only just over a year ago in November 2020. Mayor Kennedy Stewart and COPE councillor Jean Swanson were absent from the vote on the application.

According to the developers, the office space does not have any committed tenants at this early stage, but they expect a resurgence in office demand starting in 2022 and 2023 from companies being more confident in shifting their workers back to the office from their homes, and from the continued growth of Vancouver’s tech industry.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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