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Glitzy new addition to wave of new office construction aims to be Vancouver's greenest

The Vancouver skyline at sunset. January 20, 2010.


A European consortium is preparing to develop a new office tower in Vancouver, a first in the city's recent downtown development and a potential glitzy new addition to an existing wave of new office construction.

The planned 400,000-square-foot tower, to be made public Monday by Credit Suisse AG and Swissreal Investments Inc., will be aiming for construction that's at the highest environmental certification level ever seen in the city for an office building – LEED Platinum.

Click here for a rendering of the office tower

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The developers are hoping that will attract a group of companies whose corporate philosophies make it a priority to be in the greenest office building available.

"LEED Gold has been the benchmark so far in Vancouver," says Colliers vice-president Maury Dubuque, whose company worked with Credit Suisse on the deal. "This is higher."

The building design displayed by the architects, Iredale Group Architecture, shows a strikingly modern tower made up of two distinct components that envelop and preserve the city's Old Stock Exchange Building on 800 West Pender St.

Mr. Dubuque said it's the first time in recent history, as far as he knows, when a European company has developed rather than just bought an office building in downtown Vancouver. Two major properties – the Bentall V tower and Harbour Centre – were acquired by German companies in recent years.

But Vancouver has become an attractive market for international capital because it's stable, he said.

"The message this sends to me is that, despite the world's economic situation, there is a lot of capital investment happening and they're looking for a relatively safe haven."

As well, the city currently has the lowest vacancy rate of any city in the Americas, according to statistics compiled by Cushman Wakefield.

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Mr. Dubuque said news about the planned tower has been the buzz on the streets the last couple of weeks and is an "absolutely exciting" development for the city.

Vancouver has suddenly seen an office-construction boom the last year, after almost a decade of stagnation.

After the new PriceWaterhouseCoopers building opened in 2003 and the second phase of the Bentall V tower on Burrard was completed in 2007, there had only been small gains in office space downtown through mixed-use projects like the Jameson or The Offices at Hotel Georgia.

However, there are now three towers moving towards construction, with completion dates around 2014 and 2015.

One is a redevelopment of the University Club site on Hastings by Oxford Properties, which will produce a 37-storey tower whose smaller floors are likely to be attractive to Vancouver's substantial population of smaller businesses.

The second is a 400,000-square-foot tower opposite the Shangri-La Hotel on Thurlow, where Bentall Kennedy is building a LEED Gold tower that curves out from its base.

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The third is the Telus Gardens Tower at Georgia and Seymour.

Other projects for single-use office towers or mixed-use projects with significant office space are also going through planning stages. Among them are a tower next to Rogers Arena by Aquilini Developments and a complex of condos and office space on Burrard being planned by the Pattison Group.

The head of Vancouver's planning department, Brent Toderian, said there's been no formal application yet for the Credit Suisse building.

However, various sources say Credit Suisse is trying to move quickly in order to open at the same time or soon after the first round of three towers in the works.

The Credit Suisse tower doesn't have a height indicated, but view cones in that area would likely limit the building to around 300 feet, similar to the Jameson nearby.

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About the Author
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More

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