New Coal Harbour Office Building Curves a Bright Future for Vancouver

1166 West Pender
One of the things Darren and I find most frustrating about the rezoning process is how long it can take. Not only does it add fuel to the housing crisis, but it worsens the office space shortage too. Ultimately, this means companies wanting to expand in Vancouver are forced, like its residents, to move elsewhere.

In this case, one of those delays was because the applicant had difficulty finding a venue to host an open house. In the seven months since the pre-application event, some major changes have been made. So, we were eager to see the updated proposal, and to find out what our city looks like from 31st floor of the Blue Horizon Hotel. Perhaps others realized that view would be blocked, both by the night’s stormy weather and the project boards, as only a few people joined us.

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Which is not that surprising, as why would anyone be concerned about a project that more than doubles the amount of office space offered by the former home of the Canada Revenue Agency? That said, it is almost 150 feet shorter than its neighbour, The Stack office building, due to a city policy which forbids any new shadows being cast on Harbour Green Park (pg 8). It is easy to see how these complex, interwoven policies could lead to delays, as the view cones affecting this site would have allowed for a building between 500 – 550 feet (pg 7).

Still, this appears to be accepted as part of business in Vancouver, and the architects seem to understand this, as they have skillfully crafted their vision to conform to these guidelines. The area it created, the green terraced rooftop amenity, looks like it will be a great space for a lunch break. This attention to detail really impressed us, as the architect even took the time to draw the lines from the fritted glass to scale so it would be shown accurately on the model.

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Though some may prefer the building’s previous rigid look, I think the decision to go with a softer, more refined design was a good choice. Now, even the subtle curves really stand out on the model, and contrast well to The Stack. These cutaways also allow for most of the existing views to be kept intact, which won over a few neighbours in attendance.

In fact, the only concern came from someone with photos, supporting documents, and the worries of a parent. They informed an attentive group of city staff and applicant team members that both of the neighbouring buildings host daycare facilities, and believed the demolition should be done in a way that minimizes the impact on the time these children could spend outdoors.

One thing is for certain, there will not be an implosion as Worksafe BC regulations now essentially prohibit them. However, the demolition of the Empire Landmark Hotel shows Brokk machines are very fast and effective, and even more innovative solutions have been used in in Japan.

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Still, the developer, Reliance Properties, seems ready to spare no expense in creating a high quality office space. We were shocked to hear they planned to use real curved glass in the curtain wall, instead of just mimicking the effect. They even plan to offer 180 parking stalls over the minimum requirement, which, at cost of over $50 thousand per stall, quickly adds up.

Knowing the importance of public feedback, we suggested they lower that amount, and use the savings to provide more than the minimum required amount of EV charging stations instead (pg 3).

Of course, our voices should not be the only ones heard. So, no matter your feelings; whether you want more or less parking, desire to see the rezoning process speed up or slowed down, make sure to make your opinion known here.

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