18-storey office tower could be added to Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver

Feb 19 2019, 11:32 pm

Another historic Vancouver church is funding its renewal by allowing an under-utilized portion of its property to be redeveloped.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver is considering a redevelopment of the Rosary Hall portion — the Rectory and Youth Activity Centre — of Holy Rosary Cathedral at 646 Richards Street, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Dunsmuir Street and Richards Street in downtown.

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Rosary Hall is situated in the middle of the city block and was built as an addition to the 1900-built cathedral structure.

The cathedral is listed as an “A” category property in the Vancouver Heritage Register, but the adjacent Rosary Hall has not been deemed a heritage value, although the entire site is designated.

Holy Rosary Cathedral Vancouver

Holy Rosary Cathedral at the southeast corner of the intersection of Dunsmuir Street and Richards Street in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Holy Rosary Cathedral Vancouver

The mid-block Rosary Hall annex of Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)

In partnership with local development firm Wall Financial Corporation, Rosary Hall could be redeveloped into a new 18-storey tower with 230,000 sq. ft. of floor space. The first five levels spanning 36,000 sq. ft. would be dedicated for new church activity space, while the upper floors would be used as 194,000 sq. ft. of office space.

Rehabilitation work to the heritage church will include the conservation of historic masonry and metalwork, a roof replacement, new gutters and rainwater leaders, window rehabilitation, stained glass window preservation, structural seismic upgrades, interior renovations, and the restoration of the cathedral’s original southwest exterior facade.

There would be “sufficient spatial separation” between the cathedral and the new tower, and a new link would be established between the cathedral and the church’s new activity space in the base of the tower through an underground parking level connection and a glass-enclosed connection along the laneway.

At the moment, the project’s applicants have not submitted an official application to the municipal government, but they have forwarded an inquiry to the city’s Vancouver Heritage Commission for discussion in an upcoming meeting this month. The project is being designed by Stantec Architecture.

“The proposed design development of the new tower creates a compatible background for the existing elaborate architecture of the Cathedral,” reads an inquiry.

“The shaping of the roof also contributes to reducing the scale of the new development creating a better proportion in relation to the Church building. The applicant will present the project, including development scenarios attempting to retain existing additions, details of the proposed heritage conservation plan and the seismic upgrade approach.”

The cathedral’s last major renovation was conducted in the early-1980s in advance of a visit by Pope John Paul II, and it went through minor upgrades in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.

There are currently three office building projects under construction within the immediate vicinity of Holy Rosary Cathedral, including 402 Dunsmuir Street (Amazon office with 1,000 jobs), Canada Post redevelopment (Amazon office with 3,000 jobs), and 400 West Georgia Street (various office tenants including Apple and Deloitte).

Amazon 402 Dunsmuir

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

A growing number of churches in the city have been pursuing redevelopment projects in recent years to expand church space expansions and fund building restorations.

For instance, the 1911-built First Baptist Church is set for a years-long closure to allow for a seismic upgrade, restoration, and expansion as part of Westbank’s The Butterfly residential project, which is located on the church’s rear parking lot. The developer is offering close to $100 million in community amenity contributions, with approximately $22 million going towards the church renovation and expansion.

A new 21-storey tower by Bosa Properities in the West End on the site of Central Presbyterian Church recently reached completion, providing a new church space in the base of the tower and 162 rental homes in the floors above.

And in Kerrisdale, Dunbar Ryerson United Church’s 1928-built neo-Gothic style stone church is being restored through a mixed-use redevelopment of the church’s annex building.

At least three churches along the Cambie Corridor are also undergoing redevelopments that create new church spaces, including Oakridge United Church, Oakridge Lutheran Church, and Vancouver Chinese Presbyterian.

Artistic rendering of The Butterfly with the expansion of First Baptist Church. (Revery Architecture / Westbank)

Artistic rendering of The Butterfly with the expansion of First Baptist Church. (Revery Architecture / Westbank)

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