Old industrial space retrofitted for modern tenants

Mount Pleasant site ‘reimagined’ for a new breed of manufacturer

A shortage of industrial land in Metro Vancouver has spurred renovation of older industrial sites to meet modern demand, and the trend is surfacing in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant.

Much of the repositioning is taking place in suburban markets, such as Richmond and Delta, where nearly one million square feet of older industrial property is being renovated this year. 

In Mount Pleasant, PC Urban Properties is transforming a 72-year-old electrical manufacturing plant into a state-of-the-art digital space.

“It is still manufacturing, but reimagined,” said Brent Sawchyn, principal of PC Urban Properties.

In the 1940s, the site at East 5th Avenue and Ontario made the latest in high-tech electrical and radio components, he noted. “Today, it’s the social and digital media companies and the animation design houses. They are rapidly transforming a neighbourhood that was once the heart of the post-war industrial manufacturing zone back into a high-tech manufacturing zone.”

The old Cemco building will become one of the city’s rare industrial heritage buildings to be reimagined and preserved, he said. The original art deco facade will be maintained while the interior will be renovated and expanded into 54,000 square feet of contemporary industrial and office space.

“Traditionally, Mount Pleasant was the industrial heartland of the city,” Sawchyn said. “Then manufacturing all went overseas or to the suburbs. Now, it’s returning. It’s gone full circle.”

High-tech companies like Hootsuite have spurred the Mount Pleasant makeover, said Matthew MacLean of Cushman & Wakefield. And, with average gross rents about 25% less than in Yaletown or downtown, the area is attracting new businesses, he said.

Sawchyn said a zoning change from the City of Vancouver, which encourages a higher-density mix of office and industrial in Mount Pleasant, helped to make the makeover possible.

PC Urban Properties’ Lightworks building will start construction in early 2016. There will be 7,200 square feet of ground floor, light industrial space and four storeys of offices with 11,700-square-foot floor plates.