Proposal for Towers Adjacent to Gilmore Skytrain Station
The developer is proposing to turn the area immediately surrounding Gilmore Skytrain Station into a mecca of development, with some 3 million SF of residential and commercial space spread out over 5 separate towers. Construction of a transit village, similar to the one being constructed at Brentwood Mall will occur over 12 acres of prime land. Developer Omni Group proposes close to 2,500 residential units for the property, including 743,200 SF of retail and 996,900 SF of office.i This proposal puts forth a truly mixed-use and transit-oriented vision for the lands that adjoin the rapid transit station.
A Look at the Transit-Oriented Urban Village Around Gilmore Skytrain Station
What is it Replacing?
The site is currently home to 4 low-rise office/light industrial buildings which will be demolished to make way for the new development. Omni Group is the manager of the two taller buildings which are 4190 and 4180 Lougheeed Highway. At 4180 Lougheed the total height is 6-storeys while at 4190 Lougheed it is 5-storeys, both were built in 1983. The building at 4180 Lougheed Highway contains a total of 86,521 SF of office space and is classified as Class B office. The building at 4190 Lougheed Highway is a total of 70,004 SF and is also classified as Class B office space.ii There are also two other 2-storey buildings along Dawson Street. One houses a Gold’s Gym at 4161 Dawson Street and the other houses Stanley Security located at 4175 Dawson Street. As we’ve seen with previous demolitions of low-rise buildings in other parts of the city, land values in Metro Vancouver are so high as to justify the destruction of relatively new and dense buildings.
Buildings at Commerce Court Along Lougheed Highway to be Demolished
Buildings along Dawson Street to be Demolished
A New Norm?
The construction of new urban villages at select rapid transit stations (Brentwood Mall, Marine Gateway) marks a pronounced shift away from traditional development patterns. The large indoor malls surrounded by a sea of pavement are a thing of the past, what consumer’s desire now are destinations that are directly adjacent to high capacity transit like Skytrain. This new type of development only makes sense; it will always be the land directly beside stations that warrants the highest and best use when it comes to new development. There is still a wealth of different stations that could benefit from this form of development, with many still surrounded by a mostly low-density urban form. It will be very interesting to see which stations are slated for further intensification in the near future.
Plans for Towers Beside Gilmore Station in Burnaby
Artist Rendering of the New Gilmore Station Development
Proposed Building at 1133 Melville in Downtown Vancouver
The proposal for 1133 Melville calls for a building with a maximum height of 524 feet (159.9m) and with a total floor area of 658,687 SF. It is worth noting that the tower will contain 287 parking spaces, it will also achieve a floor space ratio (FSR) of 22.46. The building will have a sustainability target of LEED Platinum and contain floorplates that average 19,978 to 16,673 SF in size.i At the proposed height, the building would be the fourth tallest building in the City of Vancouver and also the tallest office building in the city. Park Place on Burrard Street would be the next tallest office building in the city at 450 feet (137m). One reason that the building will be so tall yet only 33-storeys is that it will feature high floor heights with ceiling heights of about 13 feet (4m). ii
Heights of the Buildings Adjacent to 1133 Melville Street
What is it Replacing?
The site is currently occupied by a 10-storey office and parkade building which was built in 1982. The building features 79,236 SF of Class B office space on its upper floors, with a typical floorplate of 21,000 SF.iii It is also home to 291 below ground parking stalls and 286 above ground. Currently, 1133 Melville is home to AMEX Americas Limited, Flight Centre, Air G and BCBC. iv The fact that a 10-storey building which was completed as recently as 1982 is now being demolished for to make way for a much larger tower is a good indicator of just how valuable land in and around Downtown Vancouver has become. Expect to see similar redevelopment of low-rise buildings in the future as developers seek to maximize the potential of underutilized downtown sites.
Current 10-Storey Building at 1133 Melville
Is There a Market?
With British Columbia leading GDP growth among Canadian provinces in 2015 and 2016, it would seem that development of new office space is a no brainer.v All of this economic good news however comes against a backdrop of extensive building in the Downtown Vancouver office market. According to Colliers International, the overall vacancy rate for office space in downtown has gone from 8.6% in Q2 of 2015 to 9.9% in Q3 of 2015. This increase has been especially pronounced in the market for Class AAA office space which currently sits at 14.7% in Q3 2015. vi According to Jones Lang LaSalle there is a total of 2,720,000 of Class A office space that will be added to Downtown Vancouver by the end of 2017. They also forecast that during this time the market will only absorb a total of 1,450,000 SF which will drive up vacancy rates. vii It remains to be seen of the buildings of all these new office buildings will be able to find tenants to fill them.
JLL Analysis of Office Buildings Under Construction in Downtown Vancouver
View of 1133 Melville from Vancouver Harbour
Building Within the Downtown Core
Lobby of 1133 Melville
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.
It appears as though the province is set to hand the City of New Westminster control over one of its most historic sites and buildings. The former Gas Works building which sits on the corner of 3rd ave and 12th street is the oldest remaining brick building in New Westminster, one of only 3 coal gasification plants left in BC. The building was constructed in 1886 and it was one of the buildings to survive the Great Fire of 1898. The building takes us back to the era when New Westminster was more economically important than Vancouver, at time when industry was at the city`s heart.
Plans for the site include a potential fire hall as well as children’s playground and additional park space. The site does require extensive decontamination and as such there has been discussion about removing the Gas Works building during the process and subsequent reconstruction. This is a very exciting opportunity for the city to retain some of its most prized heritage while also tackling its deficit of public parks and spaces. I sincerely hope the city and its residents see the value in keeping this once important building for future generations. Here are a few ideas of the potential redesign by the city and Ramsay Worden Architects;