Of the dozen construction sites I pass by on my walk to work, only one isn’t for a residential tower and that’s the new convention centre in Coal Harbour. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a new condo development popping up.
They tore down that old store around the corner, what’s going in there now? Condos. They finally decided to do something with that old grassed-over lot? Yeah it’s gonna be condos now. They demolished those houses? Yep, to make room for more condos.
Downtown Vancouver has had years of dwindling office space due to condo conversions, the departure of head offices and a drought of new office-building construction. Vacancies are low and rents are high. [News1130]
Sure there are small victories that pop into the news now and then, but I really don’t see much for an expansion in office space especially considering Vancouver is heavily responsible for the current ‘reverse brain-drain‘ [MontrealTechWatch]. Warehouses in Gastown that were once turning into start-up hipster offices are now being transformed into open-concept lofts for living.
Where is everyone going to work? Industrial parks in the burbs spring to mind.
If you’ve driven on Marine lately you’ll see a huge difference [Riverfront][BurnabyBusinessPark][GlenlyonParkway]. Along with the giant boxed stores come marketable subdivisions for anyone from water to tech companies. But does expanding out East and South from our downtown core help or hinder growing business in Vancouver itself?
This could very well be great news for Surrey who used to have Canada’s largest vacant office space, Central City. It currently has an empty building containing 90% of the city’s office space, which is completely empty and has been for almost a decade. There’s so much space out there in fact, that they’re dancing around the vacant rooms (literally) until business moves in.
…a decade after the project was announced, the 275,000-square-foot structure remains vacant. Meanwhile, the city continues to celebrate the building, now known as the 104 Avenue Centre, as a testament to Surreyâ€™s commercial promise… Next month, the mayor will hold her charity ball in the building for the second year in a row. [SurreyLeader]
Even the once-vacant Central City is hot stuff.
…sold for $245.75 million in what is believed to be British Columbia’s biggest real estate deal in history for a single property. [Canada.com]
I think the message from the suburbs is, ‘we’re open for business’.
If you look at other major cities sometimes the big hubs of business activity take place outside of downtown. When I lived in Boston I never once actually lived or worked in Boston proper. I was living in Cambridge and working in Watertown at the Arsenal on the Charles.
Should ‘downtown’ then just be reserved for big banks, hotels and condos? For those who live and work in Yaletown, Davie Village, Coal Harbour, Gastown, the West End etc., should we be worried that reverse-commute will soon be in order? Would that be a horrible thing?
I’m worried enough that my office will soon be moving from Gastown to Yaletown. Sure it’s 19 blocks from home compared to the 18 blocks distance I currently walk but we’ll be distancing ourselves from other like-minded businesses… and this is just a 2km relocation. I used to commute from Surrey via walking, bus and train, so I think I’ve just become a little too soft but it does help to be surrounded by peers and the buzz of the network.
The expansion of business is Vancouver is definitely a plus, we just need (more) affordable places to put it all.
I enjoy living downtown, and I enjoy not having a car and walking to work. I also like being able to stop off at London Drugs on my way home or hopping out to grab a steamed bun from Chinatown at lunch. I have nothing against the growing economy of the suburbs, I would just like to see more growth for business in the downtown core. But if I am going to start in on a wish list for downtown, I should really start with more affordable places to live, for everyone.