The pandemic effect is accelerating the steadily rising curve of online shopping and home delivery, which started with Amazon and pizza and now encompasses everything from books and garden equipment to three-course gourmet meals.
Commercial real estate insiders, including developers, real estate marketers and city engineering departments are looking at what needs to change in future buildings and the potential delivery space around them.
“We’re moving to one parcel per day per suite,” says Vancouver-based real estate marketer Bob Rennie. “When you look at a bigger project, 2,000 homes in four towers, you have to look at how you run circulation, traffic security.”
One idea is to create a staffed post office in developments big enough to support them, he says, so there’s someone there to not just receive packages but deal with the inevitable returns. It also provides a sense of community that many are missing from the online world.
“We have to start putting some old-fashioned values into our technologically driven world,” he says.
There’s no point in making dramatic changes for a short-term issue, he says, adding that the rush to add elevators to buildings, make everything touchless, design all apartments to convert to home offices and abandon downtown condos and offices is premature.
But the delivery trend is not going away, he says. Most development companies in the city that build multifamily and office spaces are assessing how to handle the parcel-food-document issue.
Many had already started changes, and a few higher-end condo projects have incorporated cold- and warm-storage rooms, among other features.
“We started designing for this five years ago,” says Brad Jones, vice-president of development at Wesgroup Properties. Parcel rooms and cold-storage rooms were among some of the early ideas and have gone into four projects (two completed, two under construction) in Vancouver’s River District.
With the traffic increase, the company is also looking at design changes to deal with security.
“There’s a lot of volume so they really need management, either through automation or a concierge,” Mr. Jones says. “If there’s just an open door, things will get stolen.”
One concept is to provide a parcel-delivery room that has its own outside entry, with a secure system of lockboxes inside.
“It’s definitely a conversation on every project,” says Jon Stovell, whose company, Reliance Properties Inc., is completing a 60-storey tower on Burrard Street and has multiple rental and condo projects under way around the city. “[For] every building, we’re doing more than we did with the one before.”
At the Burrard tower, he is considering converting a planned retail space on the main floor to a general delivery area.
Finding enough parking space outside for the never-ending parade of small vans and UPS, FedEx, Purolator and Canada Post trucks is also posing a challenge.
Mr. Stovell says it’s hard to persuade the City of Vancouver to give up any space to allow for the new life of constant unloading.
“The city wants that parking revenue and has made it very difficult for any commercial loading zones,” he says.
According to Alina Cheng, Vancouver’s parking-management director, having goods delivered off the main street is preferable to front-of-building parking – through parking-garages or rear-alley loading zones. She says drivers making small food or parcel deliveries are not going to want to do that because it’s time-consuming and complicated.
The city does occasionally allow the creation of small zones on the street that are dedicated to deliveries.
“It’s on a street-by-street basis,” Ms. Cheng says.
The growth of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft also adds to the need to rezone parking.
“There is an evolution going on,” says Peter Joyce, an engineer with Bunt & Associates. “There is more of an effort to find curbside space for passengers.”
Until now, city engineers have favoured providing small or large loading zones behind buildings, and there’s likely to be an increase in requirements for the small zones in the future, he says. But that won’t be enough.
“I think there will be real pressure on the city to revisit that curbside space and … to give up some conventional street parking for passenger loading and small-parcel delivery,” he says.
In Toronto, new and old condo buildings are trying out different solutions to the increasing torrent of packages, whether it’s adding to concierge service, using management software where residents book everything from notices of package deliveries to pool time and parking or installing package lockers.
“There’s been a huge uptick in packages because people used to have them delivered to the office,” says Jason Kurtz, vice-president of Stratawest Management Ltd., which oversees dozens of buildings.
“So, people are repurposing existing space wherever they can – lobby bathrooms, shelving units. One [building] hardened the door to a little storage room and trained a camera on it.”
And that’s not ideal, he says. “It’s very much ‘use at your own risk.’ ”