Opinion: Amazon's massive new office will transform and expand downtown Vancouver

May 2 2018, 2:54 am

Few redevelopments and companies in recent memory within downtown Vancouver hold such a profound economic catalyst potential than the redevelopment of the old Canada Post building with Amazon as its anchor office tenant.

On Monday, Amazon announced it will occupy 416,000 sq. ft. of office within the city-block-sized redevelopment. This accounts for about 35% of the 1.13 million sq. ft. of office space, in addition to the company’s two adjacent office locations – the existing 91,000 sq. ft. office within TELUS Garden and a new 150,000 sq. ft., nine-storey building at 402 Dunsmuir Street.

Old Canada Post Building Vancouver

New 2018 artistic rendering of the old Canada Post building redevelopment. (MCM Partnership Architects / QuadReal)

About 1,000 people in the city are already employed by the multinational tech giant in research and engineering positions, mainly at TELUS Garden and other temporary workspaces until new permanent spaces are ready.

Another 1,000 people will be employed at the new office building at 402 Dunsmuir Street when it opens in early-2020.

A further 3,000 people will work for the company at the old Canada Post redevelopment when it opens in mid-2023.

While it may not be to the scale of HQ2, altogether this essentially creates a miniature Amazon office campus in the city centre, employing 5,000 people in high-paying positions.

Old Canada Post Building Vancouver

New 2018 artistic rendering of the old Canada Post building redevelopment. (MCM Partnership Architects / QuadReal)

But this redevelopment will deliver much more than just the largest Amazon office in Canada to date.

At this time, tenants for the remaining 700,000 sq. ft. of office space have not been announced. But when this space is combined with Amazon’s, there will be 7,000 office jobs within this redevelopment alone, making the old Canada Post building the largest office building project in the history of the city.

Most of the office space created in the redevelopment will be from the construction of new office towers on either end of the building along West Georgia Street and Dunsmuir Street.

Within the lower floors of the heritage building, developers QuadReal Property Group and Bentall Kennedy are planning to create 200,000 sq. ft. of retail.

This will provide downtown Vancouver with another major shopping mall, as the retail space has been configured in a way that will create a multi-storey, mall-like atrium along the building’s length on Homer Street.

It is the single largest infusion of new retail space within the downtown peninsula since the 2000 opening of International Village Mall on the western edge of the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown.

There will be ample retail, a food court, fine dining restaurants, a fitness gym, pharmacy, and a grocery store – most likely Whole Foods, which is now owned by Amazon.

Old Canada Post Building Vancouver

New 2018 artistic rendering of the old Canada Post building redevelopment. (MCM Partnership Architects / QuadReal)

The large retail floor plates could also be suitable for retailers – such as Simons – that have been long in the hunt for an ideal space in downtown Vancouver, but have been unable to do so due to a shortage in large, high-profile spaces.

Furthermore, the redevelopment’s retail component will have street front retail by puncturing through the granite walls of the existing building, which will only help activate the streets in the area.

Old Canada Post Building Vancouver

Artistic rendering of Hamilton Street on the eastern side of the old Canada Post building activated with streetfront retail. (MCM Partnership Architects / QuadReal)

But Amazon’s major presence is significant for a city that has never been a major corporate location, especially for multinational companies. And Vancouverites are certainly not used to this kind of a vote in confidence in the city’s potential.

When you have a company like Amazon and the size of its planned presence, other major firms tend to gravitate around it as well.

Moreover, the overall redevelopment will expand the activity and vibrancy of the Central Business District (CBD) eastwards.

The core of the CBD has long been between Granville Street and Thurlow Street, but recent major redevelopments such as TELUS Garden have accelerated the eastward expansion of the CBD.

Other planned redevelopments that are pushing the CBD eastward include:

  • Vancouver Centre II: A 33-storey, 371,000 sq. ft. office tower on the site of the now-demolished Vancouver Centre Mall parkade. This tower is specifically designed with tech in mind. Construction has commenced for a 2021 completion.
  • 402 Dunsmuir StreetThe aforementioned 150,000 sq. ft. office building that Amazon will occupy when complete in 2020.
  • 400 West Georgia Street: A 24-storey, 375,000 sq. ft. office building on the former site of Budget Car & Rental. Site preparation ahead of construction has begun.

Artistic rendering of the Vancouver Centre II office tower at 753 Seymour Street. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership / GWL Realty Advisors)

Artistic rendering of the office tower at 400 West Georgia in downtown Vancouver. (Merrick Architecture / Westbank)

Amazon 402 Dunsmuir

Artistic rendering of the new Amazon office building at 402 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver. (B+H Architects / Oxford Properties Group Inc.)

An office redevelopment similar to the scale of 400 West Georgia Street is also possible for the Car2Go parkade (a former Budget Car & Rental lot) on the southeast corner of West Georgia Street and Richards Street – the vacant site wedged between TELUS Garden and 400 West Georgia Street.

West Georgia Street

The vacant parking lot at the southeast corner of Richards Street and West Georgia Street – across from TELUS Garden. (Google Maps)

But above all, Holborn Group also has major plans for the redevelopment of the Hudson’s Bay parkade and adjacent sites on the city block, which is mostly owned by the developer.

In a previous interview with Daily Hive, Holborn Group CEO Joo Kim Tiah said he envisions a “big city” redevelopment on the scale and scope of what you would see in some of the world’s largest cities. There will be ample retail, office space, and residential, and ideally an underground connection to Pacific Centre.

HBC Bay Parkade Vancouver

The Bay parkade occupies most of the city block framed by Seymour Street to the west, Dunsmuir Street to the north, Richards Street to the east, and West Georgia Street to the south. (Google Maps)

“We would like to continue the connectivity with Hudson’s Bay and Pacific Centre, which are all connected by underground paths. I think there’s a big opportunity,” he said. “There’s also the skybridge across, and we can do something even nicer and make it interesting so that it connects two buildings.”

“We can do something really cool there. I want to have all these ideas of doing something really cool on this site… There is so much potential. You need to have office, [and] you need to have residential so that your development isn’t quiet at night when the office workers leave. But if you have residential, retail, office, and all that other activity and the place is vibrant all the time, this is what we want. That’s how it’s going to serve like an anchor to the city.”

The redevelopment plans for the Bay parkade city block have yet to be made public.

One other big change-maker for downtown’s eastward expansion will be the redevelopment of the city-owned Larwill Park block with the new landmark Vancouver Art Gallery – a $350-million, 311,000 sq. ft. project – on the southern two-thirds of the block and two office towers totalling 600,000 sq. ft. of floor area on the northern portion of the block.

New Vancouver Art Gallery

Redevelopment of the Larwill Park city block: The new Vancouver Art Gallery (right) and two office towers (left). (Vancouver Art Gallery)

Larwill Park will be subdivided into two lots: coloured in red for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, and coloured in blue for office towers. (City of Vancouver)

Other redevelopments on the eastern side of the peninsula – but far beyond the established CBD – at Northeast False Creek and the new St. Paul’s Hospital campus will also be a catalyst for pushing the city core eastwards.

Artistic rendering of a portion of the Northeast False Creek redevelopment. (Concord Pacific / CIVITAS)

Artistic rendering of the new St. Paul’s Hospital campus. (St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation)

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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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