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Hines, PC Urban JV on W. Canada’s largest mass timber office

Houston-based Hines is partnering with Vancouver-based PC Urban Properties Corp. to build Western...

IMAGE: Hines and PC Urban logos.Houston-based Hines is partnering with Vancouver-based PC Urban Properties Corp. to build Western Canada’s largest and tallest mass timber office building.

The building, at 123 East 6th Ave. in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, will be 10 storeys and 196,000 square feet. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 and be completed in 2024.

The companies say the T3 (Timber, Transit and Technology) office, which will use Hines’ proprietary mass timber creative office product, will be one of the most environmentally- friendly, sustainable and wellness-focused developments in Vancouver.

Syl Apps, senior managing director at Hines, told RENX the company is excited to partner with PC Urban to expand its footprint to the creative tech hub.

He said the unique building is designed to accommodate firms seeking workers in the creative industry who want to work in environments that prioritize health and wellness, and offer close proximity to living, dining, entertainment, recreation and transit.

Mass timber building features

Mass timber buildings have structural elements including beams, columns and floor spans made from mass timber, a highly engineered wood product.

“What we are finding is that some tenants who have traditionally been in downtown cores, traditional office buildings, were moving to brick-and-beam buildings, particularly tech and creative industries, because that’s where the employees they were trying to hire, attract and retain wanted to be,” said Apps.

“They wanted to be in those neighbourhoods. They wanted to be in the cool buildings that were authentic and real.”

Hines aims to offer tenants buildings featuring aesthetics and authenticity their employees want.

“That’s the background where T3 came from. We did our first one in Minneapolis. That was a success. We did a second one in Atlanta. Now we’ve got dozens in development across Canada, around the world now,” said Apps.

“At the end of the day, we view these buildings as talent attraction or retention tools for our customers, our customers being our tenants. Our job with these buildings is to create an environment (where) it’s cool, it’s authentic, it’s real, that has that aesthetic of the brick-and-beam.

“We leave all the timber exposed. The ceilings are exposed. Beams. Exposed concrete floors.

“We give them a AA building performance; energy efficiency, sustainability, amenities and programming that you would get in a brand new AA building.”

T3 a “perfect fit for Mount Pleasant”

Apps said these types of buildings work best in neighbourhoods that have other brick-and-beam buildings – gentrifying, cool, 24/7 neighbourhoods which are work, live and play communities.

“We think the T3 product is a perfect fit for Mount Pleasant,” he said.

Brent Sawchyn, PC Urban’s CEO, said T3 will be the company’s fourth project in the Mount Pleasant area on the south side of Vancouver’s downtown – the original industrial heartland of the city.

“Originally it was a collection of industrial and residential buildings and it’s now emerged as an interesting place for places of business. We see a lot of the creative-type people,” Sawchyn said.

“We recently did a deal in the area, for instance, with Sega Games through their Canadian subsidiary called Relic Entertainment. . . . We continue to see tenancies, particularly the creative class emerge into Mount Pleasant.

“Mount Pleasant is not far removed from the vibe and the hipness of Main Street. A big resident population is there. False Creek is just to the north of Mount Pleasant where all the housing was built after the Olympics and there’s transit.

“So you have this interesting dynamic of lots of people around, a cool and emerging area, great connection to transit and a 10-minute drive to the downtown core.”

123 East 6th to meet post-COVID needs

The companies said the building will provide best-in-class creative office space designed to meet post-COVID health and safety standards. It targets tenants in industries such as technology, advertising, media and biotechnology/life sciences, with creative industrial and retail space on the lower floors.

Common tenant amenities will include: social workspaces and tenant collaboration areas; an activated rooftop deck; potential for private outdoor balconies; shared conference space and high-tech AV systems; a spa-quality fitness centre, bike storage and end-of-trip facilities; and Wi-Fi throughout.

“Timber is not only 100 per cent renewable, recyclable and non-toxic, it is also known to have productivity and wellness benefits,” the companies said in their release about the project.

“Employees exposed to wood during their workday have higher levels of well-being and take less sick leave. Timber also has natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, outperforming other typical construction materials in this respect.

“State-of-the-art HVAC systems will provide superior Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and building design maximizes energy efficiency and natural light.”

The land, being leased from the City of Vancouver, is occupied by a 1928 heritage building, the SFU Annex.

“We were selected by the city to acquire and redevelop the property based on our previous work in the area and on our experience with heritage revitalization. The Annex will remain on site and be an integral component of the project,” said Sawchyn.

“We also looked at the site as a perfect opportunity to bring mass timber office construction to Vancouver and there is no one in North America with as much experience with this building form as Hines.”

Hines and PC Urban

PC Urban is a Vancouver-based real estate development and investment company specializing in reimagining commercial and residential properties across British Columbia and Alberta.

It has developed and launched real estate projects across all asset classes – retail, office, industrial and multifamily. It has more than 2.2 million square feet of space under development in Western Canada.

Hines is a privately owned global real estate investment firm founded in 1957 with a presence in 225 cities in 25 countries and about $144.1 billion of assets under management.

It launched its Canadian operations in 2004 and now has more than $5.1 billion in assets under management including more than 13 million square feet of projects it has developed, acquired and/or managed.

Apps said Hines is a big believer in Canada.

“Clearly because of COVID, office markets across the country are going through some uncertainty right now and you see that in the stats and you just see that in both tenant and landlord activity,” he said.

“Our view is that coming out of COVID there definitely will be a change and a shift in how tenants consume office space and use office space but we do firmly believe that if anything this past year has shown us is that people do want and need to be together and teams want and need to be together to create, to collaborate, to lead, to mentor and ultimately to be successful.

“We’re seeing that from some of the largest tenants we have around the world. Google (recently) announced that everyone’s coming back to the office. We’re seeing that from tenant after tenant after tenant.”

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