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One of the largest single projects currently under consideration in Downtown Vancouver, the Burrard Gateway development would see the creation of a significant gateway project on the Burrard Street corridor. IBI/HB Architects rendering (Handout/Handout)
One of the largest single projects currently under consideration in Downtown Vancouver, the Burrard Gateway development would see the creation of a significant gateway project on the Burrard Street corridor. IBI/HB Architects rendering (Handout/Handout)

Development

Office space making a comeback in Vancouver's core Add to ...

In a sign of downtown development roaring back to life, B.C.'s wealthiest businessman announced Tuesday plans for a half-billion-dollar development at the city entrance on Burrard.

And this 150-metre tower includes plans for office space - another market that is returning.

The proposal by Jim Pattison Developments, along with Gastown developer Jon Stovell, for an elegantly designed set of three towers is just one of a raft of downtown office and residential proposals that have moved forward at Vancouver City Hall in recent months.

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Some are a response to the strong demand for office space. Others, such as Pattison's Burrard Gateway project, are also a response to the city's current efforts to pack even more density onto the downtown peninsula by allowing developers to go higher than the current limits on certain key sites.

All are signs of faith in Vancouver's core.

"We're confident that there will continue to be a high level of demand and in-migration to the downtown core," said Bill Harbottle, Pattison's auto-group president, whose company submitted the rezoning bid to City Hall this week.

Mr. Stovell, president of Reliance Properties, said the team went forward with an application this week because the city is also conducting public-information sessions on whether to allow taller buildings that will go up to the city's established view corridors.

Those corridors, defined in 1989, protect views of the Coast Mountains in the north from several vantage points in the city.

"We want people to see this isn't just something abstract. There's a real application, a real building," Mr. Stovell said.

Any site that gets approved for a taller building will have to prove that it is providing the city with exceptional architectural design and that it is pioneering new efforts at eco-friendly building.

The models of the buildings announced Tuesday were designed by renowned Vancouver architect Jim Hancock, whose trademark curves in his buildings define the Carina and Callisto towers in Coal Harbour as well as towers in Dubai. The tallest tower, at 48 storeys, curves outward at the top.

The project combines office space with residential rentals, condos, retail space, and a three-storey glass box to maintain a home for the Toyota dealership on the site.

Mr. Harbottle said that Pattison had considered including a hotel, but the company decided it wasn't the right time. Instead, the development has incorporated 200,000 square feet of office space because of the current high demand.

The Pattison/Reliance project is just one of several ambitious projects on the go for the downtown.

Besides the usual residential towers planned for the West End and Downtown South, commercial realtors are also noticing that there's a sudden surge of activity in building office space - something Vancouver hasn't seen for several years.

Bob Levine, a principal at commercial brokerage firm Avison Young, says there's a race to see who will build the first new office tower downtown since the Bentall V was finished three years ago.

"Right now, downtown, there's no place for tenants who need over 30,000 square feet to go," Mr. Levine said. "There are several downtown tenants out looking."

Oxford Properties has an application in to redevelop the University Club site on West Hastings as an office building. Aquilini Investment Group has revived plans to build an office tower near its stadium. Bentall is looking to build yet another tower to add to its cluster in the central business district, this one on Thurlow.

And Austeville Properties is pitching a 19-storey, near 500,000-square-foot tower for a site near the Vancouver Public Library on Georgia.

"It's quite a change," Mr. Levine said. "The city's finally trying to encourage office space."

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