Exchange – West Pender Street

Exchange 2We first featured this Downtown office building in 2011 and saw the first version (on the right) when it was approved for rezoning in November 2012. It’s unique in a number of ways – it was developed by Swiss developers; (a combination of Credit Suisse AG and Swissreal Investments) and it emerges from inside the retained 1929 Townley and Mathieson designed Old Stock Exchange building on Howe Street. It targeted both LEED Platinum and ‘Living Building’ status, which would make it the greenest office building in the city, and possibly in Canada.

The architects of the first version of the project were Vancouver-based Iredale Group. They are a practice who haven’t been involved in any big Downtown projects in many years but a previous version of the company, Rhone and Iredale designed two of Vancouver’s most interesting office buildings, the triangular Crown Life building on West Georgia Street and the Westcoast Energy Building, these days known as Qube and converted to residential use.

The Swiss developers added a Swiss architect to rework the design; Harry Gugger worked with Herzog & de Meuron for nearly 20 years, and was senior partner working on the Tate Modern in London and the ‘birdsnest’ stadium in Beijing. His first take on the redesigned tower showed a more neutral design which will allow the heritage building to have greater presence. Here’s one of the illustrations in the Development Permit material. The design evolved to avoid being too close to the UK designed Jameson tower on the same block, and shading fins were added to create greater privacy (and improved energy performance).

It’s an intriguing proposal, and like 1021 West Hastings it shows that office buildings are now providing attractive and innovative designs in the city. It was also interesting to see a move away from mixed use towers – even when the heritage component would allow the developer to propose residential use within the scheme. (The only way to develop mixed residential use in the CBD is if it has either non-market housing retention or on-site heritage). In an unexpected change, the heritage part of the building will now be a hotel, the EXchange, opening in 2018.

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1090 West Pender Street

Here’s one of the recent new major office proposals in the Downtown core. It was rezoned early in 2015, and has now been submitted for a Development Permit.

It has grown in scale in the interim: it’s now 32 floors with over 560,000 sq ft of offices (with a floor of retail – originally two were envisaged). It’s located on the corner of West Pender and Thurlow Street, on the block that already has the first four Bentall towers. Designed by Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership for Bentall Kennedy it will replace a small existing office building and a parkade. The design and scale is very similar to the Bentall 5 tower by the same architects nearby – perhaps this will be Bentall 5.2.


Here’s the model that the Urban Design Panel supported in 2014. The building, like MCM’s recent design for Bentall on Thurlow Street, will have slightly larger floors on the upper part of the building. The revised version is reasonably similar, but has some changes to improve its energy performance. All the building’s glazing is now triple glazing with specific low e coatings on appropriate surfaces, dependent upon orientation and heat load. In addition, the angle of tilt of the south facing surface has been revised to optimize its contribution to the efficiency of the low e / triple glazed curtainwall. After thermal modeling of the floorplate, it was discovered that the southwest corner required more solar control and vertical glass fins have been added to compensate for this exposure.

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2501 Spruce Street

This ten storey building is proposed for a tight site on the corner of West Broadway and Spruce. It’s submitted under existing zoning, for eight floors of residential (with 37 units) over a two storey retail and office podium.

The main design feature of the building, designed by GBL, is the proposed use of glossy copper accent panels.

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371 West 2nd Avenue

Here’s an approved rezoning, now submitted as a development proposal that will fill in one of the remaining jigsaw pieces in Southeast False Creek. DYS Architecture have submitted a proposal for 133 condo units in a 12 storey building for the corner of Wylie and W 2nd. There would be 35 2-bed and nine 3-bed units.

The plans show the building clad in dark solar glass and lightweight metal panels, and as with West, now under construction to the east, it has solar shade boxes to help improve the energy performance of the building. The design hasn’t changed since rezoning last year. As with many other SEFC buildings, the podium roof would be planted as an outdoor amenity.

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Stanley / New Fountain – West Cordova Street

The Stanley Hotel dates from 1906, and the New Fountain from 1899. Both have seen better days. They were briefly owned by Westbank, who bought them from the City Of Vancouver, and now appear to have been sold to BC Housing. 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.

A scheme was submitted in 2016 to retain the facades and redevelop above and behind with 80 units of non-market shelter-rate housing and 134 units of market rental, all over street-level retail space. Designed by Henriquez Partners, it would have been an 11-storey building, funded by BC Housing through their Community Partnership Initiative. Now that project has been revised, and reduced in scale to only 62 market rental units.

An interesting twist is that Westbank proposed a 15,000 sq. foot cabaret in the basement that will be called Blood Alley, referencing the property’s back alley, a cobblestone and brick-tiled area that will be given a significant makeover in a separate City-led design process. The name is entirely the invention of 20th century marketing – there are no identified historical sources of blood in the immediate vicinity.

The project had a September date for the Development Permit Board, but the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee and the Vancouver Heritage Commission both rejected the project, and the revised proposal has taken over a year to emerge.

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2975 Oak Street

The Van Arsdel apartments were built in 1928, designed by Townley & Matheson (who also designed City Hall and the Stock Exchange, among many other projects).

The building featured poured concrete walls with applied decoration, so it still looks very much as built. In the 1940s the name was changed to the Santa Fe; now a Heritage Revitalisation Agreement has saved the façades, with an eleven storey midrise tower added to the site.

The project was designed by CEI Architecture for Aquilini Developments.

It stays as rental, and the number of apartments has increased from 14 to 50.

Recently completed, there’s some added colour in the spandrel glazing on the tower.

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1068-1080 Burnaby Street and 1318 Thurlow Street

Here’s another West End tower that can be developed thanks to the West End Plan. This is very similar to a nearby tower proposal by the same architects and developers, this is for a 30 storey tower designed by NSDA and now to be developed by Strand Developments with Intracorp. Despite the inaccurate location on the City’s website, it would replace a 5 unit rental in a 1905 house, a 14 unit strata built in 1984 and a 23 unit rental building developed in 1955.

The new building has 82 market units, 24 of them studio and 1-bed and the remainder two bedroom or larger. A quarter of the space will be social housing (a plan requirement to permit the project to proceed). That space would see 39 units in total, with 20 two or three bed family units.

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