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 Burrard Place from the Burrard Street Bridge
Remember Jim Pattison’s proposed 54-storey Burrard Gateway tower which was approved by Vancouver City Council back in 2013? The two-building complex was proposed for the site of the current Downtown Toyota dealership, a block that borders Burrard, Drake and Hornby Streets. Well, the people at Reliance Properties are now selling units for their new tower while also offering updated renderings of the mammoth project now called Burrard Place. There will be a total of 1,000,000 square feet spread out across 3 building, with the largest of these being the 500,000 square foot, 444 unit One Burrard Place. Burrard Place will also be home to a 135,000 square-foot 13-storey office building which will house the Downtown Toyota dealership, as well as a 35-storey residential tower that will be located midway along Hornby Street.i
View of the Proposed 13-Storey and 54-Storey Burrad Place Buildings
What is Being Replaced?
The site has long been home to the dealership and several surface parking lots. It is also worth noting the few older Victorian-era homes which have managed to hold on all this time, these homes will also be lost in the redevelopment of the block. Both houses were built in 1904 and the developer has offered them for free to anyone who is willing to move them from their current site.ii The dealership will remain on site and housed in a newer multi-level building which features a waved glass shape, reminiscent of an open book.
Historic Houses Built in 1904 Along Hornby Street
13-Storey Office Building and Future Home of Downtown Toyota
Burrard Place is being marketed towards Vancouver’s well to-do, with an assortment of luxury services and amenities that are sure to make the residence a unique offering. At the heart of this is Club One which will house 30,000 SQ. FT. of facilities that include dining, yoga, fitness, spa and pool areas. Another feature of the building will be the Star Services which will offer a chef, event planner, DJ, mixologist and butler concierge to those calling the new building home. iii Burrard Place will also feature a Meinhart’s Fine Foods grocery store; this will be Meinhart’s third store in Vancouver. iv
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 new standard for world-class cities is for them to have efficient rapid transit to and from the airport. In North America especially, this has been so far difficult for most major cities to achieve. What were once top priority plans to expand rapid rail transit airports in cities across this continent, are now nothing more than long-term planning at best. What went wrong? Well a whole lot more than went right, from the financial collapse to cost overruns, bad planning and lack of funding. Let’s take a look at three cities in the Pacific North West where it has gone right instead.
The city built the $2 billion plus Canada Line to Vancouver International Airport to coincide with the 2010 Winter Olympics. At the time the rising cost of construction and ridership predictions which were considered way too generous caused a lot of backlash against this project. Usage has grown steadily from 83,000 in September 2009 to well over 110,000 in February 2011. The line carried a record of 228,190 people during the 2010 Olympics and is well on track to meet its 2021 ridership target of 142,000.
What went right here is that all levels of government came forward to recognize the true importance of connecting the Downtown Vancouver area with Canada’s second largest airport and Asian hub (YVR). People coming in and going out of the city now have a 25 minute ride into downtown that is reliable and efficient even in the worst rush-hour traffic. The rail line is even now sparking multitudes of pedestrian friendly and transit-orientated development along its route.
Current Rapid Transit Network
Skytrain – 3 lines, 47 stations, 69 km.
Airport Connection Since
3 expansion lines by 2020
Years ago few would have predicted rapid transit in the Emerald city, let alone rapid transit connecting downtown and the airport. Expansions to Monorail and the building of light rail were shot down time and time again. Eventually cooler heads prevailed and today Seattle is undergoing a light rail renaissance with 2 active lines and more than 5 other expansion projects in various stages of development. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the regions largest, serving over 30 million passengers each year. With the ongoing traffic jams along Highway 5 it only made sense to give people an alternative to driving.
Ridership of 25,000 in a metropolitan area of over 4 million may seem like small potatoes. When you consider that Seattle was late to the game in building rail rapid transit and has only had it operational for a handful of years, it’s a good deal of progress. While the city may have a long way to go to catch transit friendly Vancouver in ridership numbers, Portland on the other hand may be within striking distance if the building of light rail continues at such a rate.
Current Rapid Transit Network
Link Light Rail – 2 lines, 18 stations, 17miles (28km)
Airport Connection Since
3 expansion lines by 2023
Out of the 3 biggest Northwest cities, Portland was the first to establish a direct link between downtown and its own airport (PDX). Portland has a light rail system called MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) which is similar to Seattle’s yet much more extensive and established.
Current Rapid Transit Network
MAX Light Rail – 4 lines, 85 stations, 52miles (84km)
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.
Recently the market for new office space in Downtown Vancouver seems to have come alive. What was once unthinkable in a sea of ever rising condos has now become Vancouver’s new face of Downtown tower projects. Over the past 10-15 years Vancouver`s livability has been put in serious jeopardy as the Downtown area has become less and less a place to work and more and more a bedroom community in its own right.
The Burrard Gateway project would sit at the site of the current Downtown Toyota dealership. The design incorporates the existing dealership and actually maintains it on the same corner as it is now. Below is a picture of how the development would look for people traveling North along the Burrard Street bridge into downtown.