Cadillac Fairview proposes Gastown office tower despite rising vacancy, plenty of new supply

26-storey tower could be controversial given its modern look and its proximity to heritage structures

Proponents of Cadillac Fairview's proposal describe the buildings look as resembling origami | Cadillac Fairview

Cadillac Fairview wants to build a 26-storey office tower in Gastown despite a rising office vacancy rate and a spate of new office towers approved or already under construction.

Metro Vancouver’s largest office landlord would build its proposed tower on what is currently an Impark parking lot, between the 102-year-old Cadillac Fairview-owned CPR Station and The Landing building.

The tower would have retail space at street level.

The proposal may be controversial given the glass tower’s modern appearance and its location next to heritage structures. Proponents describe its look as resembling origami.

No public hearings are slated because the site is already zoned for an office building but the city is accepting feedback on Cadillac Fairview’s development application until January 22.

Vancouver’s development permit board is expected to meet March 9 to decide on the application.

The application comes as Vancouver’s office vacancy rate has been steadily nudging upward.

Colliers International released office vacancy statistics January 12 that showed that downtown Vancouver’s office vacancy rate was 6% at the end of 2014. A year ago, the rate was 4.3%.

“There is tepid demand for office space generally but reasonably good demand for new office space,” Colliers’ Vancouver managing director Maury Dubuque told Business in Vancouver.

“Landlords, particularly institutional landlords, have noticed this. They are pretty savvy developers in Canada. We rarely overbuild.”

Dubuque believes Cadillac Fairview is applying now to build the tower because the development approval process can be drawn out, sometimes taking up to four years.

Getting approval in the short term means they will be able to more quickly get shovels in the ground if market conditions start to look favourable.

Other projects nearby include an office tower proposal at 320 Granville Street that Vancouver Whitecaps co-owner Greg Kerfoot has been toying with for years.

Morguard is proposing to build a 25-storey office tower at 601 West Hastings, which is also nearby. And further into Gastown is Century Group's redevelopment of 151 West Hastings Street, which will have 39,500 square feet of office space . 

Then there are the many towers under construction:

•the Telus Garden development in the block bounded by West Georgia, Richards, Seymour and Robson streets that would add nearly 500,000 square feet of office space;

•the 400,000-square-foot Exchange Tower at 475 Howe Street;

•the 365,000-square-foot 745 Thurlow Street tower at the corner of Thurlow and Alberni streets;

•Cadillac Fairview’s redevelopment of Pacific Centre, which would add 280,000 square feet of new office space above the future Nordstrom department store;

•the 270,000-square-foot MNP Tower at 1021 West Hastings Street; and •the 250,000-square-foot Manulife Building at 980 Howe Street.