News / Business district forges ahead wtih three new towers

Almost half the nearly 1.2 million square feet of new space is pre-leased
The construction process for three major office towers in Downtown Vancouver is now underway, signalling a much-anticipated addition to the city's commercial sector. Already interest is high, with about half the nearly 1.2-million square feet of new office space already spoken for. While the towers won't be available to clients for two or three years, demolition of existing buildings and site preparation has begun . Among the new projects is Telus's 22-storey, 500,000-square-foot office tower, part of the company's $750-million redevelopment of the entire city block bounded by Robson, Georgia, Seymour and Richards streets, to be called Telus Garden. "Demolition has been underway for three weeks and it's progressing very well," said Andrea Goertz, Telus Corp.'s senior vice-president of strategic initiatives. "Nine of the 21 available storeys are taken by Telus. And three by [law firm] Bull Housser Tupper," which has committed to 67,000 square feet upon completion. "We're working aggressively with a few other potential tenants," she said. The other new buildings under construction are the B.C. Investment Management Corp.'s 400,000-square-foot, 24-storey project at 745 Thurlow St., scheduled for completion in the spring of 2015; and Oxford Properties' 25-storey tower at 1021 West Hastings, next to the Marine Building, which promises 270,000 square feet of office space to be completed in 2014. The Telus development is scheduled to finish by 2015. Another major development, also part of a boom in new office construction, includes a planned $200-million, 30-storey office tower developed by European investment bank Credit Suisse, to be called the Exchange at Howe and Pender streets. Kevin McNaney, Vancouver's assistant director of planning said the tower projects have been strategically approved. "Three years ago, council approved the Metro core study, which looked at the future of employment in downtown Vancouver [to] ensure we had enough job space capacity over the next 30 years," he said. "We determined we had a 5.8-million-square-foot gap." Council increased densities and added a rezoning policy to encourage more office development, he added. "And it worked. We're seeing a significant number of new office projects in the downtown area." According to the City of Vancouver, 19 new office projects totalling 4.9 million square feet are either under construction, approved or in the application stage. Of those, 1.8 million square feet are in the central business district, which runs roughly between Beatty and Bute streets and Robson Street and the Burrard Inlet waterfront. Anthio Yuen, a senior research analyst with the commercial brokerage firm CBRE said interest in the new towers is high, with 49 per cent of the office space already pre-leased. "It's amazing, because the buildings are just breaking ground. And most of the interest is for larger blocks of space that the landlord wants leased." He said 1021 West Hasting was renamed the MNP Tower following a 72,000-squarefoot pre-lease by MNP LLP; and that 745 Thurlow has confirmed pre-lease commitments from SNC-Lavalin and McCarthy T├ętrault. Keith Sashaw, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association said the three new towers will not only provide a lot of work for local construction companies, they'll provide plenty of jobs as well. He said $1 million of construction activity generates one year of full-time employment for 12 to 15 people.