It has become quite apparent that Vancouver has become one of the biggest winners of Amazon HQ2, following the company’s decision to pull out of its plan to place half of the second headquarters in New York City early this year.
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The full scope of Amazon HQ2 entails a total of eight million sq. ft. of office space employing up to 50,000 people. After a much-publicized competition involving hundreds of cities across North America, in November 2018, the multinational giant in e-commerce and cloud services announced it will divide the second headquarters evenly between New York City and Arlington, Virginia, with each city seeing 25,000 jobs at full buildout.
Shortly after Amazon cancelled its plans for New York City, a spokesperson for Amazon told CNBC the company will now divide most of its planned new jobs for New York City amongst its existing hubs in North America, specifically naming Vancouver, San Francisco, and Boston.
Altogether, there are 17 urban centres that are absorbing the space that was destined for New York City, but the amount of space and jobs going into each of these markets will not be evenly distributed.
And now, a very sizeable portion of HQ2 is definitely being played out in Vancouver,
A recent report by The Globe and Mail, confirming a further expansion in Vancouver, aligns with overwhelming real estate industry speculation that Amazon will take over the remaining office space at The Post — QuadReal Property Group’s redevelopment of the old Canada Post building in downtown Vancouver.
When Amazon announced its plans in April 2018 to open an office at The Post, the company said it would occupy 416,000 sq. ft. of the 1.13 million sq. ft. of office space being built in the city block-sized redevelopment. This scope was already a massive presence, not just for the company but also for Vancouver’s corporate community.
But the plan now is to occupy all 1.13 million sq. ft. of office space in The Post’s podium and two towers, which is enough workspace for as many as 10,000 employees, making Amazon the single largest corporate employer in downtown Vancouver.
Amazon and QuadReal have been absolutely quiet on these reports over the past few weeks; they have yet to make a formal announcement on the company’s expanded presence within The Post, but it is expected sometime over the coming weeks or months. It is certainly more than worthy of a splashy official announcement.
As well, sometime in early 2020, Amazon is expected to officially open its first purpose-built office building at 402 Dunsmuir Street in downtown, immediately across from The Post. This new nine-storey building by Oxford Properties will create 152,000 sq. ft. of office space, dedicated entirely to the company’s needs.
The Post, currently a construction site, will reach full completion in 2023, including its 185,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space within the lower floors, entailing a flagship 50,000-sq-ft Loblaws supermarket, a 20,000-sq-ft world-class food hall designed by New York-based AvroKO, and 20,000 sq. ft. of traditional restaurant space. The major retailers are not known at this time.
The impact of The Post and Amazon’s presence in the city is already being felt. This single development and the expected critical mass of tech employment have expanded downtown’s Central Business District eastward, as these activities have catalyzed other new office developments and attracted the presence of other multinational corporations.
Just across from The Post, the 24-storey, 375,000-sq-ft office tower at 400 West Georgia Street is quickly on the rise and set for an opening in late 2020. Tenants that will occupy the vast majority of the office space in this tower by Westbank are Apple, Spaces coworking, and the relocation and expansion of Deloitte’s Vancouver office.
Right next door at 450 West Georgia Street, there is a plan to build an office tower with approximately 20 storeys, which conceivably provides it with at least 300,000 sq. ft. of floor area based on the footprint and potential early design. A formal application has not been submitted to the city at this time, but such a tower development could be suitable for a further Amazon expansion or companies that want to be near Amazon’s influence of gravity at The Post.
Based on long-held industry speculation, there could be an even larger push into Vancouver by Amazon in the years after The Post’s opening — beyond the plans and leasing agreements that are publicly known right now.
Currently, based on the last numbers, Amazon has approximately 2,000 office employees in downtown, with many currently working out of WeWork on a temporary basis until the permanent office spaces are ready.
The company’s original planned 416,000-sq-ft footprint for The Post would increase its workforce in the city to 5,000 employees. Occupying the remaining office space within The Post as an expansion in Vancouver could theoretically elevate Amazon’s presence in downtown to as many as 12,000 employees.
Known Amazon office locations in downtown Vancouver
TELUS Garden (510 West Georgia Street): Existing; completed in 2015. Amazon space: 91,000-sq-ft.
The Exchange (475 Howe Street): Completed in 2018. Amazon space: 100,000-sq-ft.
402 Dunsmuir Street: Future, reaching completion in early-2020. Amazon space: 150,000-sq-ft.
The Post: Canada Post redevelopment (349 West Georgia Street): Future; reaching completion in 2022. Amazon space: 1,130,000 sq. ft.