411 Dunsmuir Street


411 addition411 Dunsmuir has just received a major makeover – it’s over 100 years old, and it’s been restored as an office and retail building by new owners. It started life as the Labour Temple in 1911 (designed by Thomas Hooper), and most recently was the 411 Seniors Centre.

Here’s the 11,000 square foot addition designed by Omicron added on the vacant 25 foot wide lot to the north. The building renovations included a complex cross bracing system for seismic stability (even though the original construction was concrete) and as the picture shows the added space also contributes to the structural upgrade.

In addition the building acquired a completely new HVAC system and had the asbestos in the original structure removed. Originally Omicron, the architects, engineers and co-owners of the building were going to occupy some of the space themselves, but while the renovations were underway, Morneau Shepell, a pension and benefits consultant expressed interest in occupying the entire building.


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opsalOpsal is easily the tallest tower in Southeast False Creek – justified by the cost of ‘retaining’ much of the Opsal Steel sheds. Designed by IBI/HB, it was actually a much more complex project where the sheds were carefully dismantled, restored and then reassembled.

The tower has a few interesting details including the ‘zipper’ balconies and a fabulous retail space on Quebec Street with an original crane from the shed built into the structure. For the meantime that space is the sales centre. The sheds are being fitted out as a restaurant (serving ‘deceptively simple modern comfort food’) and a brewery that’s going to be known as ‘Steel Toad’

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Choklit Park

Choklit ParkThis is a small infill development in Fairview. It replaces a house that in turn was once the Purdy’s Chocolate Factory. The factory moved away in 1982, and the former factory became home to a live-work studio for both artist Mary Filer, a glass sculptor, and her husband Harold Spence-Sales, an urban planner. The replacement, designed by Gateway Architecture, will have a five-storey, six-unit residential building that follows the slope of the site by terracing down five storeys.

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311 East 6th Avenue

311 E6th

This project appeared a few weeks ago as a mystery development. It’s had an address in Mount Pleasant, a bit of a description: “To develop new mixed use building with artist studios and residential units” and a date for the Development Permit Board in September. Now it’s been to the Urban Design Panel, and we know the architects are IBI Group. As it’s proposed under zoning it can proceed reasonably fast – but not until the architects revisit the design to respond to the unanimous non-support of the UDP members.


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The Werks


The WerksHere’s the Werks at 555 W7th Avenue, which started sales in fall 2011 and had finally been completed. There was a period of hiatus for several months while contractors were apparently switched. The design by Matthew Cheng Architects has just 20 units, and replaces a parking lot that was here for several years.

As we’ve noted before, the render was pretty faithful to the intent of the design, but the other street furniture (in this case a hydro pole) often get overlooked.

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Seaforth Armoury addition

Seaforth Armoury addition

This project has already reached the fourth (top) floor of the frame, but as far as we can tell it hasn’t got a Development Permit (and will possibly never get one). It’s being built by Carillion Construction for Defense Construction Canada, and the public announcement of the project (after it had already started) said the new building will cost around $31m. Once completed it will allow the Jericho Garrison (in West Point Grey) to be “divested” according to a military spokesman. There’s an additional retrofit and seismic upgrade to ensure the existing heritage Seaforth Armoury building (to the west, just in the render on the left) complies with the National Building Code of Canada and Department of National Defence standards.

There’s no confirmation of who the architects are, although bidding documents suggest a consortium of The Colborne Architectural Group/AMEC Americas Limited. The project hit a rocky patch at the end of 2013 when workers with the demolition subcontractor blockaded the site for non-payment. We have no idea if the design has evolved – although given that the project went ahead quite fast we’re guessing not a lot.

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The Flats – 217 East Georgia


FlatsWe first mentioned this Chinatown building three years ago. It is a 9-storey, 26 unit residential building with retail and parking at grade. The lot it’s built on is only 25 feet wide, but the building sits next to a lane, looking onto the back of a parkade.

The design, by Birmingham and Wood with ASIR Architects has a grey and yellow palette (a refreshing change from the ubiquitous Chinatown red) and a contemporary take on the Chinatown balcony/screen idea.

Construction has seemed at times to be painfully slow – the construction method is unusual (and we think it’s the first time it’s been used in the city). A series of hollow metal frames, a storey high, form the party wall with the building to the east. Reinforcing rods run vertically through the frames, and 217-e-georgiaconcrete was pumped into the frame, creating a solid flank wall. The outer wall was built with similar frames but those didn’t have the concrete liner.

The original design showed some greater variation on the flank wall, with yellow window surrounds. Instead there are random yellow and cream vertical panels.

We assume that once the building is occupied the owners won’t necessarily keep the yellow shutters closed all the time, so the appearance of the Georgia façade will end up closer to the model.

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