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GWLRA acquires second redev. site on Vancouver’s Robson St.

Plans 2 towers with 390 luxury apartments, plus retail in podium across from its Chronicle tower

1555 Robson St., outlined at bottom of image in orange, has been acquired by GWL Realty Advisors. (Courtesy GWLRA)
1555 Robson St., outlined at bottom of image in orange, has been acquired by GWL Realty Advisors. (Courtesy GWLRA)

GWL Realty Advisors has acquired a second development property along Robson Street in Vancouver. The purchase of 1555 Robson St., adjacent to a property it already owns, creates a 0.77-acre site it plans to redevelop with 390 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail.

"We are excited about the opportunity to combine 1555 Robson with our client's neighbouring ownership position,” Steven Marino, GWLRA’s executive vice-president, portfolio management, said in an announcement released today.

“The combined site represents a rare, scaled opportunity in one of Canada and North America's most attractive and dynamic markets.”

The 1555 Robson site - at the corner of Cardero Street - was acquired through a court-ordered sale and will allow GWLRA to amend its current plans for a single tower at 1525 Robson next door.

The company's vice-president, development, Western Canada Geoff Heu told RENX in an exclusive interview the plan is now for a podium linking two 26-storey towers with approximately 200 apartments apiece.

“We’re very excited. We feel this is one of the most significant and desirable rental projects in Western Canada. It is highly amenitized, close to Stanley Park, the seawall and walking distance to essential businesses . . . it is a premium location and it will be very impactful for the city and for our stakeholders.”

Site adjacent to GWLRA's Chronicle tower

GWLRA did not release the acquisition price. It made the acquisition on behalf of an unnamed investment client which is also involved in the adjacent property at 1525 Robson St.

The property had previously been acquired by Vivagrand Developments in 2017 for $79.5 million, according to published reports at that time. The company had proposed a 28-storey, 177-suite tower which was to include condos, ground-floor retail, commercial space and social housing.

The site is across Robson Street from GWLRA's first luxury tower in Vancouver, known as Chronicle. It is also adjacent to Westbank's striking 43-storey Kengo Kuma-designed tower at 1550 Alberni St.

Heu said GWLRA had been seeking an opportunity to build on the success of Chronicle in the prized neighbourhood. It had acquired the 1525 site in 2023, and just closed on the 1555 property.

“We were in the development permit process (at 1525 Robson) and then this other site at the end of the block became available. We thought, 'Wouldn’t it be great to have a flagship position in the West End?', so we strategically acquired the second site,” Heu said.

“All the condo buildings in this node, these are all premium residential properties around there. We want to do a hospitality-oriented, mixed-use rental project . . . with complementary retail for the residents including a potential grocer.

“Having the combined project (on both properties) will allow the introduction of the grocer, which is very important to us.” 

A rendering of the proposed two-tower development by GWLRA at 1555 and 1525 Robson St., in Vancouver. (Courtesy GWLRA)
A rendering of the proposed two-tower development by GWLRA at 1555 and 1525 Robson St., in Vancouver. (Courtesy GWLRA)

Properties zoned for height, density

The properties are located in the heart of Vancouver's West End, a diverse neighbourhood which already offers many amenities and attractions. Robson Street is one of the city’s best-known shopping and dining destinations which connects the West End to the downtown core, where there are parks, beaches and a large mix of other businesses and services.

Heu said GWLRA was particularly attracted to the properties because they are both already zoned for this height and density under the city's West End Community Plan.

GWLRA had already advanced its development plan for the single tower, so it is hopeful for quick approvals for the expanded project.

Heu said they would like to begin construction in 2025, with completion about three years down the road.

He said while no final decision has been made, GWLRA would like to develop both towers at the same time.

GWLRA in Metro Vancouver

GWLRA and its investor clients plan to continue expanding their presence in the Vancouver rental market. In addition to Chronicle, in 2023 the 159-unit The Bowline in North Vancouver was introduced.

It has also recently completed its downtown Vancouver Centre II office tower, which is the finalist for a NAIOP award.

The acquisition of 1555 Robson St. is consistent with GWLRA's strategy to help address the housing supply issues faced in Canada, and specifically in Vancouver, where the vacancy rate is among the lowest in the country.

“We like to feel that we are a very active institutional developer in all asset classes," Heu said. "We are active and want to be more active in the multifamily rental (sector) . . . multifamily is where we see the growth (and) our ownership and partners all want Vancouver.”

GWLRA is a leading developer and manager of purpose-built rental properties across Canada, with over 7,000 units under management or in various stages of development.

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