lululemon will have a new purpose-built, world-class headquarters office building in Vancouver, following city council’s decision today to unanimously approve its proposal for a new home in the False Creek Flats.
With the approval of the rezoning of the 2.8-acre site at 1980 Foley Street, construction on the new 214-ft-tall, 13-storey building with a total floor area of 593,400 sq. ft. is slated to begin in September 2020.
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The site is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Great Northern Way and Foley Street, about two blocks from either SkyTrain’s VCC-Clark Station or the future Millennium Line extension station at the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street.
By setting a new benchmark in healthy workspace design, and choosing a site within close proximity to two SkyTrain stations, the new headquarters will add to lululemon’s strategy of retaining and attracting top global talent.
When this “Store Support Centre” is complete, it will also allow for the multinational athletic clothing retailer to consolidate its existing four offices scattered across the city, including the existing headquarters at 1818 Cornwall Street in Kitsilano. It will initially become a hub for 2,000 workers, with space to eventually grow to up to 4,000 employees by 2032.
“We really need to balance our [social] objectives with economic goals,” said councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung during the meeting. “This is a really important economic project, doubling the employment of lululemon. It was born and bred here in Vancouver, and these are the types of companies we want to keep here.”
Councillor Lisa Dominato added: “We want to have a strong local economy, and [having] locally grown businesses be here and thrive is critical and allows people to work in the city and hopefully live in the city.”
The building, organized around a central atrium space that allows daylight to pour in and creates unique communal spaces, is designed by Morphosis Architects — an internationally renowned firm with offices in New York City and Los Angeles — with further contributions by Francl Architecture.
The exterior facade features planters and a brise-soleil skin, comprising a series of interlocking shading fins that “float” over the structure on the faces that receive the most sun.
“The glass walls behind these fins are still visible, thus presenting interplay of surfaces and shadow lines to add visual interest to the streetscape,” reads a city staff report.
“Part of its green design is a series of planted facades that are interspersed over the building surface, especially in the recessed portions that frame the entry plazas. These planted facades act as a counterpoint to the glass and steel materials elsewhere.”
Public plazas transition to the interior atrium as a “continuation” of the outdoor spaces. Additionally, there will be landscape treatment on a 15-metre right-of-way along the east side of the building to commemorate the historic location of the buried China Creek. The preservation of the right-of-way will retain the city’s ability to daylight the creek in the future.
“The building itself is quite stunning. I think it’s really going to be one of those landmark buildings that people will stop and go, ‘Wow’,” said councillor Adriane Carr.
Over $15 million in public benefits will be provided by lululemon in exchange for the project’s rezoning, including $10.7 million cash from development cost levies and a $1.03 million in-kind public art contribution.
There are no community amenity contributions (CACs) as the project does not seek more density, but rather the proponent requested additional height — redistributing the permitted density — to allow for a more desirable workspace layout.
But lululemon will provide an additional $3.5 million cash contribution towards an off-site daycare facility, in response to requests early in the public hearing period for an on-site daycare. However, a daycare within the building has been deemed unfeasible given lululemon’s workspace, functional, and employee amenity requirements, including a ground-level restaurant and company store. Any additional floor area would also necessitate the more drawn-out rezoning process.
Dominato said the childcare contribution, equivalent to 25 new daycare spaces, is “extremely generous,” but not everyone in council was entirely satisfied with the scale of the late addition in public benefits.
“I think we should ask for more childcare, and I think lululemon can afford it,” said councillor Jean Swanson, who wanted an on-site daycare but ultimately voted in support of the proposal’s offer of a net gain in childcare.
Other features of the building entail landscaped outdoor terraces on levels four, seven, and 13, with views of the downtown skyline and mountains.
The design will meet and exceed the municipal government’s standard for green building design and operations, including the installation of rooftop solar panels and naturally filtered fresh air.
The building will be designed to the certification standard of LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge Petal, Well Platinum, and Zero Carbon Certification.
Five underground levels will also be used to accommodate 840 vehicle parking stalls and 338 bike parking spaces.
The office space floor area is over four times larger than the company’s Kitsilano building, which was previously a Coca-Cola bottling plant.