An upcoming redevelopment in downtown Vancouver will create a significant new infusion of office space, a new entertainment pavilion that marks the beginnings of the Northeast False Creek entertainment district, and a new energy-efficient steam plant that provides hot water and steam heating for over 200 buildings across the downtown Vancouver peninsula.
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The development site will replace the existing 1960s-era steam plant and an industrial building at the southwest corner of the intersection of Beatty Street and West Georgia Street — right outside BC Place Stadium’s gates A and B.
This project by Westbank, designed by architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group, will be a new 208-ft-tall, 17-storey, S-shaped office tower with 583,243 sq. ft. of office space — featuring large floor plates suitable for tech companies — and 12,410 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space.
Also right next to BC Place, closer to Gate B, is a new standalone, circular-shaped entertainment pavilion facing West Georgia Street. This new six-storey steel structure will have an additional 30,236 sq. ft. of commercial space for restaurants, a sports bar, a brewery, a virtual reality sports experience, and karaoke.
Both the office tower and entertainment pavilion will create vast new public plaza spaces for crowds to gather — the ingress and egress of spectators at events at BC Place and Rogers Arena.
Underneath all this in the basement will be a replacement steam plant, which was acquired by Creative Energy, owned by Westbank’s Ian Gillespie, in 2013.
An agreement has been reached to use an unused void space underneath BC Place next to Expo Boulevard for an expansion of the steam plant. There will also be new electric boilers in the basement levels of the office building through a BC Hydro connection, replacing the long-running use of natural gas. Creative Energy says there will be no increase in cost for end users.
The steam plant’s footprint within the tower’s underground levels is just over 37,000 sq. ft., with its steam then distributed to buildings across downtown in the existing network of underground pipes spanning 14 kms.
“Wow. I knew this is a good project, but just seeing the contributing to the city in so many ways,” said mayor Kennedy Stewart during the public hearing.
Green Party councillor Michael Wiebe added: “I think this is architecturally the kind of building we want to see in Vancouver.”
Adriane Carr, also a Green Party councillor, was particularly impressed by the steam plant’s conversion to a clean fuel source.
“I just want to express my support, particularly with the amazing opportunity to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Carr.
“Moving our GHGs down at a time when there is accelerating climate change is incredibly important, and this is a big move for our city in terms of downtown-related emissions.”
The tower’s four underground levels will have just 175 vehicle parking stalls for all of its uses, plus 374 bike parking spaces.
Major public realm improvements are planned to improve pedestrian flow during large events, including a large plaza facing the stadium and along the new two-way, four-lane West Georgia Street ramp to Pacific Boulevard, and wider sidewalks.
Public realm improvements are also envisioned for the building’s lower level underneath the BC Place Stadium perimeter plaza, providing a new frontage for Expo Boulevard.
For the municipal government, the approved rezoning will generate $12.95 million in development cost levies, $4.74 million in commercial community amenity benefits, and over $1 million in public art.
Since 2016, nearly five million sq. ft. of major office space across 24 sites in downtown has been proposed, entered the construction stage, or reached completion. This new office space in downtown, creating about 21,000 job spaces, accounts for nearly two-thirds of the regional total over the same period.
Despite the effects of COVID-19, office demand in downtown Vancouver remains exceptionally strong, with the vacancy rate increasing to only 4.6% — well within the healthy range.