One of Vancouver’s most recognizable homegrown international brands is pondering the construction of a major office campus in the city.
Lululemon Athletica is pursuing a redevelopment of a 2.7-acre lot at 1980 Foley Street — the northeast corner of the intersection of Foley Street and Great Northern Way — in the False Creek Flats into a new 11 to 13-storey office building with a total floor area of 582,951 sq. ft., according to a city document.
The immense size of the office building, which offers large office plates ideal for creative and tech industries, highly suggests the location as the company’s new global headquarters.
There will also be a 15-metre wide landscaped public space to commemorate the former location of China Creek.
The property, currently used as privately-owned green space, is located two blocks east of the new Emily Carr University of Art & Design (ECUAD) campus and two blocks west of SkyTrain Millennium Line’s VCC-Clark Station.
The proposed size of this new office location is more than four times the size of the athletic clothing retailer’s existing 130,000-sq-ft headquarters at 1818 Cornwall Street. In 2011, the company acquired the 1941-built Kitsilano office building, which recently saw an assessed value of $72.5 million.
The False Creek Flats property, in contrast, is assessed at $79.4 million — up from $49.4 million during the previous year.
The city document states Lululemon is not seeking for additional density beyond what is currently allowed for the site, but it is looking for extra height — up to 250 ft, more than double the existing maximum allowable height of under 120 ft — to enable the creation of setbacks from Foley Street and Great Northern Way for walking, cycling, and landscaping, including the new China Creek public space. Setbacks are also required from the site’s northern perimeter to enable the required right-of-way for SkyTrain’s Broadway Extension.
Additional height would also allow for urban design creativity to maximize views to the North Shore Mountains and to minimize shadowing on the public spaces.
A formal rezoning application has not been submitted at this time as the company needs Vancouver City Council to grant the rezoning application an exception from the temporary rezoning restrictions that were enacted last year for the Broadway Plan process, which the property falls under.
City staff are recommending that City Council approve a rare exception, allowing Lululemon to submit a rezoning application, as no additional density has been requested and the new job space aligns with the municipal government’s 2017-approved False Creek Flats Plan, which calls for increasing employment in the area from 8,000 to 30,000 jobs and supporting innovation, creative and digital businesses, healthcare and life sciences, and food and service industries.
City Council will consider Lululemon’s request and city staff’s recommendation in a meeting later this month.
In recent years, a cluster of office buildings catering to these businesses and industries have emerged in this area of Great Northern Way.
To the east is the MEC head office and the site of the future 10-storey headquarters of Nature’s Path, which is currently based in Bridgeport in North Richmond. To the west, PCI Development’s recently completed 160,000-sq-ft South Flatz office building is home to companies like Samsung, Finning International, Blackbird Interactive, and a Spaces co-working location.
South Flatz is the first of six office buildings planned by PCI Development for the area along Great Northern Way. When all of the buildings are completed in the mid-to-late 2020s, there will be about two million sq. ft. of office space by just this one developer alone.
With the anticipated 2025 completion of the Broadway Extension, the area is increasingly becoming an attractive location for offices and creative industries. The area will be well-served by public transit, with the existing VCC-Clark Station to the east and a new subway station at the intersection of Thornton Street and Great Northern Way — adjacent to South Flatz and ECUAD.
The close proximity of Lululemon’s planned new home to SkyTrain could prove to be a major asset for attracting and retaining labour talent, compared to the relatively isolated existing headquarters location in Kitsilano.
Daily Hive reached out to Lululemon for further comment, but they did not reply in time for publication.