Credit Suisse is proposing to build the tower, which would be adjacent to and extend over the Vancouver Stock Exchange building at the corner of Pender and Howe streets.
Photograph by: Handout , *
The historic Vancouver Stock Exchange building at the corner of Howe and Pender streets is poised to get a $200-million overhaul as part of a major commercial development proposed by global financial giant Credit Suisse.
City council will vote Nov. 13 on a rezoning application that would more than double the maximum density and allow for the construction of a 30-storey tower on the site, which includes an adjacent property on Pender Street.
The design calls for retail uses at street level topped by 369,000 square feet of new, premium office space.
City staff has recommended council approve the application, reasoning that it will contribute to Vancouver’s job space, economic development, heritage and sustainability objectives.
But opponents — many of them residents of Jameson House, a commercial and residential tower on a neighbouring lot at 838 West Hastings — say the rezoning should be rejected because the proposed project is simply too big for the property and would force dozens of people in southeast-facing units to live, literally, in its shadow.
“The issue is not the loss of private views ... but more significant concerns of loss of livability and privacy,” said Robert Lemon, a Jameson House resident and former senior heritage planner with the City of Vancouver.
“You’ll have an office worker looking right across the lane at a private bedroom, including my own,” he said.
Heritage proponents, meanwhile, have given their approval to design plans that would incorporate the stock exchange building at 475 Howe Street into the new structure, rather than use it as a simple facade. Under the proposal, the building’s exterior will remain and the interior elevator lobby, including marble-clad walls and decorative ceiling, restored. The building was constructed in 1929.
“The respect for the existing building is at a very high level,” said Anthony Norfolk of Heritage Vancouver, noting the structure’s historic significance to B.C.’s early development.
“This was the building that gave Howe Street its reputation,” Norfolk said. “We may laugh at some of the antics, but a lot of B.C.’s economy was funnelled through firms operating in that building. It is a building with a history at the centre of what we now understand is British Columbia.”
Mark Renzoni, with the commercial real estate firm CBRE, said there is strong demand across B.C.’s resource, finance, legal, engineering and architectural sectors for premium office space in the downtown financial core.
The “unique storyline” offered by the former Vancouver Stock Exchange only increases the tower’s lease potential, as does its construction timing, he added.
The proposed development would be one of five new office towers being built downtown. Towers at 745 Thurlow, 1021 West Hastings and Telus Gardens on Georgia are all expected to come onstream over the next three years. Cadillac Fairview’s multi-million-dollar refurbishment of the former Sears building will add another 280,000 sq. ft. of premium office space to the downtown core by 2015.
Should it go ahead, the proposed development at 475 Howe Street would be completed in mid- to late-2016 or 2017, in time for the next expected cycle of tenant demand.
“The new buildings under construction are already seeing healthy absorption with users, and have already signed deals. There is room for probably one or two more builds and it comes down to location,” Renzoni said.
Selwyn Dodd, partner with Iredale Group Architecture, the firm designing the proposed tower, said his company will work with the city and residents of Jameson House to address neighbourhood concerns.
“Basically we have gone along with all the suggestions of the planning department to alleviate the situation. We are also implementing privacy measures,” Dodd said.
What exactly those measures are have not yet been fully resolved with city staff, but, said Dodd, “we’ve not got any fundamental disagreements, problems or issues. We are happy to go along with things.”