With almost no debate, the Vancouver City Council recently quickly and unanimously approved a proposal to build a 22-story office tower just south of Victory Square in downtown Vancouver.
The redevelopment of the middle block at 534-550 Cambie Street is a partnership between PC Urban and Quadreal Property Group, which is also behind the nearby Canada Post redevelopment for Amazon.
There would be a total floor area of 263,000 sq ft, establishing a floor area ratio (FAR) density of a floor area that is 17.4 times greater than the size of the lot.
The heritage façade of the 1925-built Cleland-Kent building on the north side of the earth assembly will be retained and incorporated into the design, providing a sharp yet complementary contrast to the modern newly built design.
About 5,800 sq ft of retail is planned for the ground floor, including a cafe on the south side of the Cambie Street facade, and a large retail unit within the heritage shell.
The team of architects with the Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership described the design of the tower as a building that begins as a rectangular podium before assuming an irregular shape of its upper half.
The design of the tower is influenced by View Cone 9.1 from the intersection of Cambie Street and West 12th Avenue next to Vancouver City Hall, and View Cone E1 from the center of Cambie Bridge. This creates two different height restrictions that regulate the composition and shape of the building.
View Cone 9.1 limits the top height of the building on the eastern half of the plot, while View Cone E1 sets a larger boundary on the western half.
The tower’s ultimate top height is 302 ft, set by View Cone E1’s limit, but there is additional sculpting on the volume affected by View Cone 9.1 – reduced all the way down to level 13. This aggressive sculpture outside of view cone considerations was performed to reduce shadow on Victory Square, with special regard to eliminating any shade on November 11 between kl. 9.45 and 11.30 when ceremonies are held for Memorial Day.
As a result of this airspace casting, office floorboard sizes vary significantly between 15,132 sq. Ft. ft. for the lower half of the tower and 9,250 sq. ft. ft. ft. for the upper half.
During the City Council’s public hearing, the proponents’ shadow considerations garnered project support from several public speakers representing the Friends of Victory Square (FVS) group, which successfully advocated for the revitalization of the square in the 2000s.
FVS noted that the developer was closely consulted with their group, suggesting that the building’s public art contribution could go to further improvements of Victory Square, such as public art in honor of Victoria Cross recipients.
In return for approving the density and uses, the developers will provide about $ 8.4 million in public services to the local government, including a $ 2.46 million community contribution (CACs) in cash, development cost taxes (DCLs) of $ 5.45 million and public art worth $ 521,000.
The tower’s exterior design also recognizes its location in a transitional area on the peninsula in the center between the commercial high-rises in the Central Business District and the low and medium-sized heritage buildings to the north and east.
“The facade of the proposed building incorporates references to the traditional masonry design of the heritage building as well as other heritage buildings in the surrounding Crosstown, Gastown and Chinatown neighborhoods,” reads a report from city staff.
“The building design includes passive sun protection to allow for further articulation of the facades. The preliminary proposed material palette includes a combination of red brick, light oak, metal, concrete and glass similar to the area’s historic materials.”
In a speech to City Council, Farid Rohani, Honorary Colonel of the British Columbia Regiment, said “the building architecture itself is stunning and beautiful in design and those who want to work and visit the building will bring life to the street, which is really welcome.”
Five underground levels will contain 126 car parking bays and 209 secure bicycle parking spaces. The site is a short walk to SkyTrain Stadium-Chinatown Station and frequent bus routes.
This tower proposal was reviewed and approved within a relatively short time frame, given that the formal application for zoning was submitted just over a year ago in November 2020. Mayor Kennedy Stewart and COPE Councilor Jean Swanson were absent from the vote about the application.
According to the developers, the office space has no committed tenants at this early stage, but they expect a resurgence of office demand from 2022 and 2023 from companies that are more confident in moving their employees back to the office from their homes, and from the continued growth in Vancouver’s technology industry.