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
If you’ve ridden Metro Vancouver’s Skytrain system then you have no doubt passed through the Broadway-Commercial Skytrain hub. This node along the transport network is at the meeting of the Expo and Millennium Skytrain lines as well as 99 UBC B-line rapid buses that whisk passengers away to the University of British Columbia. What should be the most prominent and well-designed of the network is instead of glaring eye sore. While the newer Commercial Drive station is much closer to the transit village ideals, the outdated and dilapidated Broadway Expo Line station is downright scary. What exists is also a real missed opportunity for density right beside one of the region’s largest transit nodes.
Recently while combing through Translink’s plan to re-design the station, I came across some very promising plans for the creation of a true transit village and added density. The complete re-design of Broadway Station figures very prominently in this plan, most strikingly is the call for a complete replacement of the roof on the aging structure. Added to this are additional density within close proximity to the station and a complete overhaul of the pedestrian space along the back of the station facing 10th Avenue.
While the Translink report was published in 2006 and the renovation of the stations was included in the Provincial Government’s Transport Plan, it seems that the renovation itself is on the back burner. Recent transit fights regarding priorities such as the Broadway-UBC Skytrain line and expansion of rapid transit for Surrey and the south fraser area have clearly overshadowed most other plans. Only time will tell if it takes another 6 years for the construction of this badly needed transit improvement to take place.
View the full Translink report on the station HERE
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.
The Marine Gateway project situated at Marine Dr and Cambie St has now been redesigned and scaled down. The plan now calls for the tallest of the residential buildings to be 335 feet with the other tower running at 255. According to the developer, Marine Gateway will add over 6000 trips a day to transit within the area. Considering the Canada Line is currently running at about a third of capacity, they figure that transit should be more than able to absorb this increase.
The design is very much a transit village type idea, reminiscent of the Commercial Drive Skytrain Station and also of the new development that has gone in at New Westminster Station. The overall goal of the project is to decrease the amount of new car trips made, as such this development has 25% less parking spaces within it than other typical Vancouver developments. Another interesting note is that their own studies have found that since the Canada Line has opened, traffic along both Cambie St and Marine Dr are down 9-20%.
I know there is considerable public opposition to this project and as such in the past year the developer has scaled down the scope of it. I saw some people on the news who had just bought houses in the neighborhood within the past couple of years and had sunk heavy money into renovations. To me anyone who buys property beside the new SkyTrain and then complains right after about development should have their head checked. This is exactly the kind of development the City of Vancouver desperately needs. I hope and pray that cooler heads will prevail and that both the developer and residents of the area can reach some sort of compromise.
It doesn’t seem that far off, but SkyTrain really has been around for over 25 years. To many Vancouverites it may seem like only yesterday that the system was installed from Vancouver to New Westminster. It wasnt again until the early 90s that it was then extended once more over the Skybridge into Surrey. Take a look at these exciting 80s videos for a look at what SkyTrain was really like during construction and on opening day.