Rezoning of Downtown Post Office Halted – Major Changes in Design and New Tenant Revealed

349 West Georgia
With the number of major developments proposed in Vancouver, it’s easy to overlook how long some of them have gone without news. The Main Post Office, at 349 W Georgia, is one of those projects that have fallen silent, with no updates since its second version was approved at the UDP in May of 2017. When we saw rumours that Bentall Kennedy and Quadrel were planning a major revision to the proposal, we had to know more.

Hannah’s first course of action was to reach out to the city, who provided a quick and informative response. They confirmed the applicant team had requested the city put the rezoning application on hold, as they were reviewing their options for the site. The contact suggested that, if she wished to learn more, she should reach out to the applicant contact, something I already had done.

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Though the applicant contact is listed as MCM Architects, it was a member of a communication services company that responded a couple days later. In their letter, they informed me that they represent Quadrel, and that MCM had forwarded my email on to them. Handling the matter professionally, they stated there had been no changes to the rezoning application. Though this is true, it glosses over the fact that the application had been frozen, and it didn’t answer my larger question about whether changes were planned for the site. That said, I can understand their position, and don’t fault them for not responding to my follow up email. Happily the matter didn’t end there as, thanks to a member at the skyscraperpage forum, I had a new direction, which was to head to B&B Models at Granville Island.

As soon as I was able to, I went down to their workshop, which just happened to be during the downpour on Wednesday. While I ended up thoroughly soaked, Hannah felt it was worth it, as I can now happily confirm there is indeed a major revision planned for 349 West Georgia.

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The new model shows a major departure from the old design that featured threes towers, separated by a T shaped courtyard. The new version will feature only two towers, one alongside West Georgia and the other along Dunsmuir, that are separated by a large rectangular courtyard. Signage on the model reveals that one of the future tenants will be the professional services firm, Deloitte, who’s Vancouver offices are currently located in Bentall 4. The location of this sign marks another departure from the previous application, as it indicates that both towers will now be for office use, and that the residential component has likely been eliminated in the new proposal.

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The existing Post Office building looks unchanged from the earlier version. However, the agenda for the April 17th city council meeting contains a policy report, which details a request by the applicant team to add the building to the Heritage Register in the Class A category. This means that, in exchange for preserving the building, the development could seek a higher density than normally permitted. Combined with an office only use, it may mean that this project could avoid the rezoning process, and move forward as a development application. I imagine that a large office building, equipped with a distribution centre, would be a good fit for a certain internet retailer.
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Though that may not materialize, it’s clear that this development is back on track. While there’s no information about the changes to type of use or floor layout, we still feel hopeful about this project. It appears that the site strikes a balance between the preservation of the heritage building, and the need for growth in the Central Business District. While it’s been exciting to learn about this new proposal, Hannah and I are just happy knowing that the block will soon hum with activity once more.

3 thoughts on “Rezoning of Downtown Post Office Halted – Major Changes in Design and New Tenant Revealed

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  1. The new design is bland, utilitarian and extremely ugly. The former design wasn’t perfect, but at least it had interesting angles and forms. This is an exercise in BLAAAAAH on a colossal scale. Shame on whoever thought this up

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    1. I can understand your feelings. Our hope is that this is a massing model, and that there are further design refinements that are missing, and/or that the choice of materials will play a large role in the project’s appearance. I sympathize with the architects, I can’t imagine it was easy to design the project, as it’s restricted by a number of view cones, various city policies, as well as the need to retain the large (soon to be) heritage building. That said, it will be interesting to see how the UDP responds to this new proposal.

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