Combining heritage craftsmanship with modern innovation, the Yaletown Square project stands as a hallmark of Haebler Construction’s expertise.
The project involved transforming a 1910 warehouse into a commercial space of 28,250 square feet.
Designed by Acton Ostry Architects for Sylvia House, the project added three storeys to the historic structure, blending the past with the contemporary.
Haebler Construction has long been a key player in the city’s construction landscape, embarking on projects such as Swangard Stadium, Granville Island and SFU.
Their work on Yaletown Square, a two-year project with a budget of approximately $15 million, involved 50 different trades and maintained an average daily workforce of 50 people onsite.
The project earned Haebler top prize in the heritage category at the VRCA 2023 Gold Awards of Excellence.
The honour marks a new era for project manager Thomas Haebler. He’s the grandson of the company’s founder.
“It’s the first one that I’ve had for one of my jobs personally, but Haebler’s won numerous awards for heritage, for tilt-up, for general construction,” Thomas explains. “Our niche is the high-end, difficult buildings, the stuff that no one else really wants to build, so architects love working with us.”
Situated at the corner of Homer and Drake, the MacPherson & Teetzel Company Building was originally designed by renowned architectural firm Parr and Fee. The new restoration focuses on conserving original elements like the exterior masonry walls, wood windows and the overall heavy timber structure, while also enhancing seismic resilience.
As such, the project required the expertise of specialized heritage trades. A key aspect of the restoration was masonry, entrusted to Van Den Kerkhof & Son Masonry, who undertook the stone restoration.
This involved intricate processes of removing old grout, drilling anchors and regrouting to preserve the building’s historical integrity.
The project also involved significant work on the windows.
Peter Fenger, a custom wood window builder based in Vancouver, handled the majority of the windows, while the storefront and main entryway were crafted by Vintage Woodworks from Vancouver Island.
Additionally, Raven Metal was responsible for the cornices, the decorative overhangs that add to the building’s heritage character.
One of the main challenges of the project was adding three new storeys atop an existing structure while ensuring the original building’s integrity.
To support the new floors, steel and concrete columns were added around the building’s perimeter, carefully inset into the masonry walls.
This approach not only conserved floor space but also stabilized and structurally reinforced the historic building.
Another significant aspect was the basement renovation.
“We lowered it by well over a foot,” says Thomas. “So, to do that, we essentially support the building on stilts. If you’re lowering it a foot, that’s just a finished floor level but we had to do a new slab-on-grade, new foundations, new plumbing mechanical, so we were probably six or seven feet down from what it was originally during construction. We had bobcats and excavators driving around underneath.”
Haebler also divided the basement perimeter into 30 sections, systematically replacing each to maintain structural stability.
The modern addition atop the historic building reflects Acton Ostry’s vision to create a simple, unobtrusive expansion that acknowledges but doesn’t replicate the historic building.
The project aims to reach LEED Gold standards.
Principal architect Mark Ostry, along with Derek Fleming and Noah Jarvis, all played pivotal roles in this aspect.
“They were fantastic,” says Thomas. “I think their intent for the building on top was to be an homage to the existing building mainly through the palette and the texture of the cladding material that we chose.”
The choice of cladding is a brick-hued, cementitious material imported from Germany, and was selected after much consideration.
“There were probably 10 different materials that we were looking through before finally selecting a material,” says Thomas. “Then, once we had the material selected, we looked at like 10 different colours of that material.”
The expansion portion of the project significantly increased the building’s floor area, with the lower level’s existing office space being repurposed for restaurant and retail uses.
“We love doing these demanding, interesting projects that are exciting for the city of Vancouver,” says Thomas.