1550 Alberni Street

Today there’s a rather tired 1972 office building, but the West End Plan permits a condo tower up to 500 feet tall. The site was recently acquired by Westbank and they’ve just held an open house to show the design concept for the site by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. If an image of the tower is published, we’ll add it: so far Westbank are being very careful to control access to the design, including preventing photography at their private open house.

Already working with Westbank on the Four Season resort at Ko Olina in Hawaii, Kuma hasn’t designed a tower for North America before, although there’s a fascinating 49 storey Tokyo tower just completed in Toshima ward which has apartments over a new city hall. The designs that were shown suggest the tower has curved elements, and wood accents (a feature of almost all his work). From his previous designs we anticipate the Vancouver tower is likely to be every bit as dramatic as other recent out-of-town designed towers.

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555 West Cordova Street

555 W Cordova model smWe first featured this controversial contemporary office project in January. Initially listed as a Development Permit Board candidate for March 2015, this proposed tower created a significant volume of commentary when it was first revealed.

The Urban Design Panel reviewed it and suggested some changes: not to the mass or the tower concept, but to the ground plane and the way the tower relates to the station (in the same ownership as the site, currently a parking lot). Now they have had a workshop review of the project with the architects, and there’s a clearer idea of how it should be changed to better fit the site – between the CPR station, and next to ‘The Landing’ – the former Kelly-Douglas warehouse on Water Street.

Waterfront entrance

The workshop suggested a revised scheme should see the tower move back on the site, and possibly closer to (and perhaps emerging from) the back – north side – of the station building.

The architects are Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill from Chicago, and the lead architect is Laura Jiminez working with Gordon Gill, with local input from B+H Architecture. (Adrian Smith addressed the Urban Design Panel, so both partners are involved). The first version was for a 26-storey office tower of nearly 400,000 s sq ft. It will be interesting to see what the next version looks like.

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Stanley / New Fountain – West Cordova Street

Blood Alley

The Stanley Hotel dates from 1906, and the New Fountain from 1899. Both have seen better days; they’re currently owned by Westbank, who bought them from the City Of Vancouver. They’re managed as single-room-occupancy hotels by PHS, who don’t have anything good to say about the buildings in their present state.

Now the Vancouver Sun are reporting that a scheme is in the works to retain the facades and redevelop with 80 units of non-market shelter-rate housing and 140 units of rental, all over street-level retail space. Designed, we’re certain, by Henriquez Partners, it will be an 11-storey building, owned and funded by BC Housing through their Community Partnership Initiative.

An interesting twist is that Westbank wants to include a 15,000 sq. foot music hall in the basement that will be called Blood Alley, referencing the property’s back alley, a cobblestone and brick-tiled area. The name is entirely the invention of 20th century marketing – there are no identified historical sources of blood in the immediate vicinity.

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1188 Bidwell Street

1188 BidwellHere’s another West End project generated by the new opportunities created by the West End Plan – 108 rental units in a 22-storey tower that includes 27 two and three bed family units.

It’s designed by Dialog for Reliance Properties, has a double-height commercial base, and if approved, will sit on the corner of Bidwell and Davie Street.

It isn’t a rezoning, so like a recent tower further up Davie Street it can proceed reasonably quickly if the developer wishes.

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1500 West Georgia Street


1500 W GeorgiaIt has been known for a while that Bosa, in conjunction with Kingswood Capital, acquired the iconic Rhone and Iredale designed triangular 1500 W Georgia office building last year. While the office is a well performing asset, it’s the opportunity to add a residential tower to the site that prompted their purchase.

Initiall the Globe and Mail, and now several architectural websites have published images of the idea for that tower, designed by a German architect, Ole Scheeren, probably best known for his China Central Television Headquarters in Beijing.

Altogether 235 condos are proposed in a 51 storey structure. It will be interesting to see how the design is greeted – The Bjarke Ingles design for Vancouver House was generally well received, while there was much more angst felt in some circles concerning the design of 555 Cordova by Smith/Gill Architects.

1500 W Georgia 2The existing plaza (which has one of the city’s best water walls) would be retained and added to; there’s a theatre proposed in a prominent box, and some fancy energy arrangements powering the lower floors from the upper parts of the tower.

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225 Smithe Street

225 smitheHere’s a new tower rezoning proposed for Smithe at Cambie, that will finally cover up the blank flank wall of the 1980s Law Society Building.

Designed by GBL for Boffo Developments, it would have 22 floors of condos over a 4 storey commercial podium (office and retail) required by the ‘CBD Shoulder’ zoning here.

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The Budzey Building – 220 Princess Avenue



Another of the City and Province non-market housing projects is just completing construction two years after it started. It’s one of the biggest – 147 units of housing – and it will be managed by the Raincity Housing and Support Society. It’s named after Lorna Budzey who died in 2000, a resident of Raincity’s first shelter. The building is designed by Neale Staniszkis Doll Adams Architects and is 10 storeys. The photo shows that the few mature street trees seem to have been successfully protected, so the building already looks a little different from the render.

Budzey render 2The site was once the home of the Drake Hotel, a small (24 room) hotel dating back to 1912, and bought by the City of Vancouver in 2007 at the same time the Province started buying SRO Hotels. The City carried out a basic renovation of the property to allow it to be used as temporary rooms for tenants whose building was being given a more significant upgrade that meant they had to move out for a while. The hotel’s neon sign, dating back to 1950, is in the Museum of Vancouver’s neon collection.

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