Balanced Communities : Commercial space makes a comeback in Vancouver

Posted: July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized
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It appears as though Vancouver has gotten over its near anaemic growth in new office space.  4 new projects promise to add enough commercial space to at least attempt to keep pace with new demand in the downtown core. What is certain is that Vancouver will have to develop several more projects if it is to begin to try to re-establish a balance between residential and commercial space that has been made unbalanced by the condo boom of the 1990’s.

Past conversions of such well known commercial architectural gems as the Duke Energy building and the BC Hydro building should never again be allowed to happen. While government intervention to promote public transit and higher density are examples of good things, conversions of these buildings have shown us the government mistakes. Keeping taxes significantly higher on commercial space has already added the soft market; going ahead with the conversions was almost a death blow to downtown office space. What they need to now do is lower these taxes and further encourage offices to locate downtown Vancouver and not out in some suburban office park.

With downtown office vacancy currently hovering around 3.7% there is not a growing push on to build new commercial towers. Almost all of the newly planned AAA office space in the Vancouver area appears to be headed for downtown. A cluster of new developments are being proposed to meet the growing demand for space. One can only hope that these new developments signal a future where downtown development is more balanced between residential and commercial interests. Before these new projects, Vancouver was at real danger of becoming one of the few North American cities with a reverse-commute out of downtown.

It’s an encouraging sign to see most of the new office space is going in around existing skytrain stations. While perhaps not most of the new development will take place downtown Vancouver it does serve much of the same purpose to have this development occurring at high density rapid transit stations complementing high density residential in those areas. There is a hungry and talented pool of young urban professionals in these condo buildings downtown who are craving jobs which are close to home. The addition of these buildings has the potential to make such newer downtown neighbourhoods as Coal Harbour and Yaletown much more complete communities where people do not drive to work.

Figure 4 from City of Vancouver clearly shows the Office building boom of the 70s and 80s followed by the Condo Boom that followed.

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