Vancouver’s skyline officially has a new addition.
The long-burning Vancouver Centre II has opened its doors for business representing more than $300 million of investment and redefining the business core of British Columbia’s largest city.
“This is really the new centre of the central business district,” said Geoff Heu, vice-president of western Canadian development with GWL Realty Advisors, in an interview with the Journal of Commerce.
“The traditional core, we feel, has moved from the Burrard Street and Georgia corridor and moved east to the other side of Granville Street.”
Vancouver Centre II is the next step in the evolution of the storied Vancouver Centre complex. The building is a 33-storey-tall office development boasting 380,000 square feet of space, a myriad of amenities, access to two SkyTrain stations and has been built to LEED Platinum certification standards, though the process to acquire the certification is still underway.
The tower was designed by Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership and built by Ledcor, Heu said.
The project has long been in the works with GWL acquiring the site in 2001. Development started more than 10 years ago, said Rob Kavanagh, senior vice-president of western Canadian asset management with GWL, at an event to celebrate the building’s completion last week.
“Going back to 1976, the Scotia tower has been one of the most recognizable buildings in the downtown skyline since it opened,” Kavanagh said to the roughly 100 people gathered in the centre’s atrium lobby.
“Scotia tower has been really the primary building within this complex (sic), until today.”
The development spread through some of the most tumultuous social and economic times in recent memory and Heu is proud the project was able to weather so many storms.
“We’ve been through some unprecedented challenges to get to this point,” Heu said.
“COVID-19, the atmospheric rivers, heat domes, the closure of the Suez Canal. To get to this point there’s been a lot of heavy lifting by a lot of people.”
As the project reached 52 per cent completion the COVID-19 pandemic struck, revolutionizing the way people work, the way people view the office and throwing the office real estate business sector on its head for the first time in modern history.
“The pendulum swung really far and people reacted very quickly and allowed for a lot of flexibility (in how employee’s work),” he said, “We didn’t do any leasing during the height of the pandemic. We only did our first deal last December (2021).”
But Heu said the pendulum is swinging back and traditional views around the importance of the office have not been lost.
“I think people are understanding that face to face collaboration with colleagues, with people, is important for mentoring and building relationships.”
And as anyone in real estate knows, location is king.
“We’re at 70 per cent (of space leased) so far. We’re confident in the location and also the longer-term prospects of office development in Vancouver.”
The first two building tenants moved in during the fall of 2022, Heu said.
The centre has outdoor decks on the fourth, seventh and 29th floors, a private fitness centre, retail, banking, seven levels of underground parking and four levels of above ground parking.
The building has its own dog park and is considered “dog friendly.”
Enveloping itself in the mythology of Vancouver’s downtown business developments, the central lobby features artwork from one of B.C.’s most celebrated residents: artist, novelist, designer and member of the Order of Canada Douglas Coupland.
In the atrium lobby hangs a giant rendition of a Sockeye Salmon, created by Coupland.
“Mythologically, fish represent the soul,” Coupland said in a release about the building, “What is Vancouver’s soul? What was it? Where is it going?
“We are lucky to live in the city we do, but it’s a privilege, not a right to be here. Part of that privilege is a pact made between us and nature – that we nurture it alongside our metropolitan lives and that we never think of ourselves as being the more important side of the equation.”
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