Mass timber office tower to be added to Bentall Centre in downtown Vancouver

Sep 23 2021, 2:22 pm

The total floor area of the Bentall Centre complex in downtown Vancouver is set to grow by nearly a third with the addition of a 16-storey mass timber tower.

After about two years of planning, property owner Hudson Pacific Properties is advancing plans to provide the complex with a fifth tower, named Burrard Exchange — expanding the total floor area by about 450,000 sq ft from about 1.5 million sq ft today to nearly two million sq ft.

This includes 410,000 sq ft of “creative” AAA high-calibre office space, with floor plates reaching up to 30,000 sq ft — nearly twice as large as downtown’s typical office buildings, suitable for the unique needs of tech companies and other larger firms.

Companies and their workers will have access to 21,000 sq ft of usable outdoor space on terraces in the upper levels and a rooftop deck with a conference area, meeting spaces, and outdoor seating for tenant use.

On the ground level, a significant commercial space component of 40,000 sq ft is incorporated. A mix of indoor and outdoor retail, including restaurants, will pull people into the building and the core of the Bentall Centre site, which will see significant new public realm improvements.

burrard exchange tower bentall centre

Artistic rendering of Burrard Exchange tower at Bentall Centre. (Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/Adamson Associates Architects/Hudson Pacific Properties)

A 20,000 sq ft public plaza, united by a pavilion, will become one of the largest outdoor gathering and event spaces in the Central Business District — roughly half the size of the North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Chuck We, the senior vice-president of Western Canada for Hudson Pacific, told Daily Hive Urbanized the tower would be situated on the southeast corner of Thurlow Street and Everleigh Street — between the existing Bentall 3 and Bentall 4 towers. It will replace the complex’s Thurlow Street parkade and the attached retail podium.

burrard exchange tower bentall centre

The Thurlow Street parkade of Bentall Centre will be redeveloped into the Burrard Exchange tower. (Daily Hive/Google Maps)

burrard exchange tower bentall centre

The Thurlow Street parkade of Bentall Centre will be redeveloped into the Burrard Exchange tower. (Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/Adamson Associates Architects/Hudson Pacific Properties)

The additional critical mass of office workers, coupled with major retail and restaurant spaces, public spaces, and new street frontages, serve to provide Bentall Centre — long deemed the core of the Central Business District — with a drastic revitalization.

Additionally, the project sets a new benchmark for green construction in the city, achieving 100% carbon neutral. Taller mass timber buildings have increasingly been proposed in recent years in Metro Vancouver. This project is particularly unique for being one of the tallest exposed mass timber office buildings in North America. The natural interior finishes will also be rare for mass timber construction, with floor-to-ceiling heights reaching 14.5 ft.

burrard exchange tower bentall centre

Artistic rendering of Burrard Exchange tower at Bentall Centre. (Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/Adamson Associates Architects/Hudson Pacific Properties)

Over 700 secure bike lockers are supported by end-of-trip cycling amenities — showers and personal lockers. A designated area will be established for ride-hailing services, and a direct connection to the neighbouring SkyTrain Burrard Station will also be created.

The project’s design firm is New York City-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates — known for 5 World Trade Centre in NYC and International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong — and the local architect of record is Adamson Associates.

“Burrard Exchange will be the pinnacle of Bentall Centre’s years-long transformation into a modern campus and landmark destination for workers, locals and visitors in the heart of downtown Vancouver,” said We.

“We are proud to contribute to the local economic recovery with this major investment and to support the City of Vancouver’s climate emergency action plan with an innovative mass timber proposal.”

burrard exchange tower bentall centre

Artistic rendering of Burrard Exchange tower at Bentall Centre. (Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/Adamson Associates Architects/Hudson Pacific Properties)

The project already complies with Bentall Centre’s existing zoning; only a development permit application, which was recently submitted, is necessary.

Hudson Pacific anticipates that early site preparation works could begin as early as 2022, and major construction could follow as soon as early 2023. This timeline depends on external factors such as city approval and local office market conditions.

The global office market has seen a downward trend in office demand due to COVID-19’s economic conditions and the resulting changes in workplace behaviour, and downtown Vancouver’s office market is no exception.

However, downtown Vancouver’s market continues to see North America’s lowest office vacancy rates, largely due to the ongoing strong growth of the tech industry. According to commercial real estate firm Avison Young’s recent 2021 mid-year office market report, downtown’s office vacancy reached 7% in June. This is forecast to increase to 7.9% by the end of the year — within the healthy range for office vacancy rates.

While a vacancy increase is expected in the years to come, this is not attributed to the pandemic’s effects, which have since stabilized, but rather the completion in new inventory from downtown’s current office building boom.

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Bentall Centre office complex in downtown Vancouver. (Hudson Pacific Properties)

Los Angeles-based Hudson Pacific partnered with NYC-based Blackstone Property Partners in 2019 to acquire the four original towers that comprise Bentall Centre, constructed between 1969 and 1981.

The owners have made significant reinvestments into the complex ever since their acquisition, including ongoing renovations of the existing 140,000 sq ft of ground level and underground retail space, an overhaul of the sunken plaza on Dunsmuir Street with new wooden platforms and LED lighting, large murals, new crown lighting, new fitness spaces, new end-of-trip bike amenities, and a new rooftop dog park for tenants.

“Bentall Centre has always been a popular location for office tenants due to its prime Central Business District location and close proximity to the SkyTrain. The proposed Burrard Exchange development will enhance access points, public areas, and the pedestrian experience, which is great news for the retailers and restaurants in the area,” said Nolan Marshall III, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, in a statement.

“We applaud Hudson Pacific Properties and Blackstone for investing in improvements that will benefit office tenants, businesses, and the public.”

The site of Burrard Exchange is immediately south of BentallGreenOak’s B6 office tower at 1090 West Pender Street — a 33-storey office building with 562,000 sq ft of office space, with Shopify as one of the main tenants. Construction on B6 began in Summer 2019, and it is on target for tenant occupancy in the third quarter of 2023.

Parasol Dunsmuir Patio Bentall Centre

Parasol LED mushroom fixtures at the new Dunsmuir Patio at Bentall Centre. (Mike Seehagel/Tangible Interaction)

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New LED crown lights on Tower One and Tower Two of Bentall Centre. (Hudson Pacific Properties)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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