All the ways downtown Vancouver is still the vibrant core of the region: report

Jun 20 2019, 3:15 am

Downtown Vancouver is clearly the epicentre of business and entertainment in Metro Vancouver, as well as an increasingly dense community, and a new report released this week provides new statistics that backs this up.

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Based on its thorough analysis and data collection, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s (DVBIA) ‘State of Downtown’ report notes there are over 110,000 residents within the downtown peninsula, including 63,030 residents within a 3.75-sq-km area that includes districts such as the Central Business District, Yaletown, Gastown, and Coal Harbour, and another 47,000 residents within the two-sq-km West End.

On a per km density basis, this translates into 23,137 residents per km in the West End and 16,541 residents per km in downtown.

Altogether, both areas account for nearly one-fifth of the City of Vancouver’s entire population, and since 2011 the population of downtown has been growing at almost three times greater than the rest of the city.

DVBIA Downtown Vancouver West End

Map of the differing areas of the downtown Vancouver peninsula: West End, Downtown Core, and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s catchment area. (DVBIA)

Statistics show nearly a third of downtown’s immigrant population moved to the region between 2001 and 2010, and the area is also home to many non-permanent residents — two times greater per capita than areas in Vancouver outside of the city centre.

Downtown also has a higher overall median household income, nearly 2% higher than the citywide average, but 24% of the city centre’s residents are also deemed as low-income households compared to 19% citywide.

october 1

Downtown Vancouver skyline from False Creek. (karamysh / Shutterstock)

As well, the city centre has significantly more residents between the ages of 20 and 34 compared to the rest of the city, and an increasing number of couples are raising their kids in downtown, with a 12.7% increase in the number of families with kids since 2011.

Nearly six-in-10 residents are renters, and 45% of residents spend 30% or more of income on housing.

Office development boom

Most of the report’s analysis focuses on the DVBIA’s catchment area of 90 city blocks, where over 8,000 businesses employ nearly 137,000 people, accounting for about 36% of Vancouver’s workforce.

Downtown Vancouver is currently amidst its largest office building boom in decades; by the end of 2023, new developments producing a combined total of 4.6 million sq. ft. of office space will be completed in the city centre, with 91% within the DVBIA’s catchment.

These developments will create an office floor area equivalent to roughly two-and-a-half times more than all five Bentall Centre towers put together, and it will grow downtown’s current office space inventory from 22.9 million sq. ft. by 20% to roughly 27.5 million sq. ft.

400 West Georgia Vancouver

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

But high demand and a lack of new supply until the early 2020s will mean the continuation of low vacancy rates over the interim. This was evident in 2018, when there was no new inventory released; office vacancies fell from 7.1% at the end of 2017 to 2.9% at the end of 2018, a period when 880,000 sq. ft. of office space was absorbed.

It is anticipated there will be 20,000 additional jobs in downtown Vancouver when the current wave of office development reaches completion, with Amazon becoming the largest tenant in downtown.

By 2022, at least 882,000 sq. ft. of office space will be occupied by Amazon, including 247,000 sq. ft. of office space within TELUS Garden and the recently-completed The Exchange, and 573,000 sq. ft. within the under-construction office developments at 402 Dunsmuir Street and the Canada Post redevelopment.

Canada Post redevelopment Vancouver

Construction progress on the Canada Post redevelopment (left) and 402 Dunsmuir Street (right) in downtown Vancouver on March 26, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

New co-working office spaces also contributed to a sizeable share in the recent office absorption, with WeWork and Spaces responsible for the majority of the 684,000 sq. ft. of new co-working space created in the last few years.

Moreover, there are approximately 200 corporate head offices in downtown, although a recent Metro Vancouver Regional District report illustrates how not all head offices are not equal, as Vancouver’s head offices are generally considerably smaller than those in Calgary and Toronto, and as a result their economic output is proportionally smaller.

The state of retail in the city centre

When it comes to retail, CF Pacific Centre is downtown’s largest shopping mall, but with only 648,000 sq. ft. of leasable retail area — comparable to the size of The Core Shopping Centre in downtown Calgary — it is considerably smaller than the downtown malls in some other major Canadian cities such as CF Toronto Eaton Centre (2.1 million sq. ft.) and Ottawa’s CF Rideau Centre (1 million sq. ft.).

New emerging city centres in Metro Vancouver’s suburban municipalities, such as Burnaby and Richmond, also have larger anchor shopping malls (Metropolis at Metrotown for Burnaby, and CF Richmond Centre for Richmond).

701 West Georgia Street Vancouver Pacific Centre rotunda

Artistic rendering of the new retail pavilion at 701 West Georgia Street, replacing the rotunda entrance into CF Pacific Centre. (Perkins + Will Architects)

But, as the only major shopping mall in downtown Vancouver, CF Pacific Centre with its 98 stores punches above its weight, ranking as the second in Canada for sales per sq. ft. ($1,690 per sq. ft.) and seventh for foot traffic (22.1 million people) annually.

However, downtown will see a significant new infusion of retail space when the Canada Post redevelopment opens with its 200,000 sq. ft. of retail — the largest infusion of additional purpose-built retail space in downtown in about two decades.

The Post Canada Post redevelopment Vancouver

January 2019 artistic rendering of the Canada Post redevelopment in downtown Vancouver. (QuadReal Property Group)

Hotel room supply

As for the hospitality industry, the booming tourism and cruise ship industries — coupled with a reduction in hotel room inventory — have caused occupancy rates to increase.

There are currently 12,686 hotel rooms across 70 hotel properties in downtown, with the occupancy rate hovering at 81% — a 3% increase since 2017. The average nightly rate per room is $254.

Hotel room supply continues to dwindle with the recent closure of the Empire Landmark Hotel for a residential and retail redevelopment, and the planned 2020 closure of the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver at CF Pacific Centre. Both hotels, totalling 729 rooms, operated for over 40 years.

Empire Landmark Hotel Vancouver

Demolition progress on May 17, 2019 of the Empire Landmark Hotel in Vancouver. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

How people get to downtown

The report highlights about 20% of downtown’s employees also live in the area, with commute times for 40% of downtown residents ranging between 15 and 20 minutes only. Downtown’s high level of walkability allows 43% of the area’s residents to walk to work.

For commute patterns from outside the downtown peninsula, roughly half of non-downtown residents use public transit to get to the city centre for their place of work.

Four SkyTrain stations that directly serve downtown’s largest office areas — Burrard, Granville, Vancouver City Centre, and Waterfront — see an average disembarkment level of 106,000 weekday passengers.

One other interesting statistic on transportation noted in the report: TransLink’s ridership on NightBus routes increased by 21% ever since the NightBus District — a single hub for overnight bus services at the intersection of West Georgia Street and Granville Street — was launched in 2018.


TransLink NightBus. (Jovan J / Flickr)

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