City of Vancouver cancels international design competition for innovation hub

Nov 27 2019, 12:18 am

An international competition to design a portion of the new Vancouver Innovation Hub precinct on the western edge of the False Creek Flats has been cancelled.

The City of Vancouver is no longer one of over a dozen cities participating in the C40 Cities: Reinventing Cities open source international competition, which involves local governments offering urban sites for new developments that will be global model examples of projects that “drive carbon neutral and resilient urban regeneration.”

For the Vancouver competition, inviting local and international architects and developers, a 1.5-acre parcel of the 11-acre site of city-owned industrial land fronting Main Street was the municipality’s chosen site for the C40 development.

The successful proponent would lease the 1.5-acre site from the municipal government over a 99-year term.

Vancouver Innovation Hub

Location of the Vancouver Innovation Hub area, with the competition parcel highlighted in green. (City of Vancouver)

C40 Cities’ guidelines indicate final proposals from the shortlisted teams were due in February 2019, with the winners for all 31 sites in cities around the world announced later in the year.

In May 2019, the organization announced the first batch of winners — 15 teams — that will have the opportunity to take their designs to the implementation and construction stage.

All competitions combined attracted 230 expressions of interest from 1,200 companies and organizations worldwide, including some of the biggest names in architecture and engineering. The participating municipal governments then compiled a shortlist of 82 teams combined for their projects.

“Internal teams at the City worked to coordinate the Innovation Hub project within the C40 competition timelines, however, it was not feasible to make the land available to a design competition in time for the proposed deadline. The shortlisted teams have been notified and we will be in touch with them when there is a more clarity about the future of the project,” explained the city in an email to Daily Hive.

“The City is working on how we might move forward with the False Creek Flat site in a way that serves the need of the community and advances carbon reduction in alignment with our goals for building and fostering an environmentally sustainable, resilient, equitable and livable city.”

The municipal government further stated it will provide an update on the next steps for the project in a year from now.

This is not to say the Innovation Hub for these city-owned properties will be cancelled, but it means a parcel of this precinct will not be decided by the guidelines of the international competition.

The City of Vancouver’s approved False Creek Flats plan. (City of Vancouver)

The Innovation Hub is one of the key mixed employment nodes identified for the area by the city’s 2017-approved False Creek Flats Plan. A mixed housing component is also envisioned for the upper levels above the employment spaces.

For the competition, shortlisted participants were asked to incorporate a development with a total floor area of 300,000 sq. ft., including about 76,000 sq. ft. of market and non-market residential space and 200,000 sq. ft. of commercial space.

The commercial spaces are to be dedicated to light industrial start-ups and accelerators, affordable industrial space for social enterprises and other uses, and market rate spaces for laboratory, digital, and other office uses.

Additionally, the city stipulated the requirement of 50,000 sq. ft. of space for non-market industrial arts production, including double-height spaces for the movement of large works and stage sets in and out to support theatre productions in downtown Vancouver.

For the building forms, about 11,400 sq. ft. of the parcel had to be set aside for the public plaza that runs through the north-south spine of the entire Innovation Hub.

City policies indicate heights of the buildings are limited to 60 ft, but there could be a conditional consideration of up to 150 ft — within the constraints of the Main Street view cone.

Vancouver Innovation Hub

Artistic rendering of the zoning changes to the area of the Vancouver Innovation Hub area. (City of Vancouver)

Jennifer Bradshaw with the Abundant Housing Vancouver believes the municipal government’s decision to drop out of Reinventing Cities is a lost opportunity, as the competition enabled the city to receive the best design proposals from around the world.

It would have included a mix of affordable housing and other uses including co-creation space, artists’ studios, retail, and light industrial. Much like in Paris, from which the inspiration came, the goal had been to put the city lands where its mouth is, to build affordable homes,” she said.

“Yet months after calling for proposals, and after months of unpaid work hours by various designers and architects went into said proposals, the city quietly ended the competition and dropped everyone’s work. No timeline for moving forward on the Innovation Hub lands was given.”

No designs of any of the Vancouver submissions have been publicly released, but for a glimpse of the calibre of the C40 designs, here is a compilation of a few of the selected winners from other competition cities:

Paris, France

Porte de Montreuil Paris France

C40 Cities: Reinventing Cities winner for Porte de Montreuil in Paris, France. (Nexity; CA Immobilier; ENGIE Aire nouvelle)

Montreal, Canada

De la Commune Service Yard Montreal

C40 Cities: Reinventing Cities winner for De la Commune Service Yard in Montreal, Canada. (Gensler Architecture / ACDF architecture)

Madrid, Spain

vallecas madrid spain

C40 Cities: Reinventing Cities winner for Vallecas in Madrid, Spain. (UNEXEUM / AMBITARE ARCHITECTURAL STRATEGIES)

Bobigny, France

canal de lourcq bobigny france


Saint-Denis, France

Hall de décuvage Pleyel St Denis France

C40 Cities: Reinventing Cities winner for Hall de décuvage Pleyel in Saint-Denis, France. (JAKOB+MACFARLANE / NAIK)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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