Back in 2017, then-mayor Gregor Robertson touted the rezoning and construction of property adjacent to Scotia Centre and Vancouver Centre mall as playing a major role in facilitating the city’s green economic growth to provide much-needed office space as companies from all over the world looked to set up shop.
Thursday, project developer GWL Realty Advisors (GWLRA) officially opened Vancouver Centre II (VCII), a 33-storey class-AAA office tower at the corner of West Georgia and Seymour Street that could deliver on that promise.
Glenn Way, GWLRA’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer, is confident Vancouver Centre II’s "centre-ice location" will be a long-term winner for its owners, the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and The Canada Life Assurance Company.
Located adjacent to the Scotia Tower, “Vancouver Centre II sits directly on top of high-order transit (both buildings lead to BC Transit Skytrain stations at a subterranean level) in an amenity-rich neighbourhood that is certain to draw highly desirable tenants.
"The building is purposely designed to attract companies who want to attract and retain inspired talent; people who want to do their best work.
Leasing at Vancouver Centre II
“Right now, we have leased 62 per cent of the office space in a 380,000-square-foot building. We have a very strong prospect list and are confident of fully leasing out the additional 145,000 square feet,” Way told RENX.
The current major tenants are a diversified mix of companies in the high-tech, and financial and legal services sectors; Kabam Gaming, Sandstrom Gold Royalties, Owen Bird and PI Investments.
Vancouver Centre II was designed and built with sustainability in mind. VCII has been certified as SmartScore Platinum and WiredScore Gold, and the project team is pursuing WELL Gold and LEED Platinum certifications.
Tenants have access to first-class amenities, including the 29th Floor Skyline Rooftop Deck and a private, state-of-the-art fitness facility with change rooms, showers and end-of-trip cycling facilities. The building is dog-friendly and boasts its own dog park.
VCII is connected to Scotia Tower via an expansive public atrium, which is open all and will be programmed for special events.
Major public artwork unveiled
One highlight of Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony was the official dedication of Spawn, a public art sculpture created by renowned Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland.
The 30-foot stainless steel salmon swims through the air above VCII’s spacious atrium.
In his artist statement, Coupland says “mythologically, fish represent the soul. What is Vancouver’s soul? We are lucky to live in the city we do, but it’s a privilege, not a right to be here.
"Part of that privilege is a pact between us and nature - that we nurture it alongside our metropolitan lives and that we never think of ourselves as being the more important side of the equation.”
Coupland’s other best-known Vancouver commissions include Digital Orca, several blocks north at Jack Poole Plaza, and Sunset Beach Love Letter, a massive mural on the Muro tower overlooking English Bay.
Vancouver's downtown office sector
Tech sector layoffs at companies like Amazon and Microsoft — both of which anticipated beefing up their Vancouver offices at some point — as well as the recent opening of several other new office spaces has changed the city's downtown office market significantly from the pre-COVID metrics when the partners kicked off the development five years ago.
As vacancy across Canada trends higher, the Vancouver market has continued to outperform. Vacancy at the end of 2022 was 9.8 per cent after the addition of over 900,000 square feet of new space in Q4, according to CBRE.
Way acknowledged the market for class-AAA office space has changed, but Thursday was a day for optimism and hope.
“Vancouver has had the top-performing office space market in Canada for several years and GWLRA has been active in the Vancouver market for many decades," he explained.
"We’ve developed and invested in retail properties, purpose-built rentals and industrial buildings, so there’s some comfort in having some history in the marketplace.
"From an investor standpoint, much of the office space in Canada is older and (we) firmly believe that the ‘flight-to-quality’ buildings such as Vancouver Centre II is real.
"We are long-term investors, regardless of what the current market might look like. We anticipate making announcements on some new tenants very soon.”
Indeed, Eric Plesman, HOOPP’s senior managing director and head of global real estate, shares Way’s confidence about the sector’s flight to quality.
HOOPP’s real estate portfolio has a market value of more than $20 billion, spanning multiple geographies and asset classes (office, logistics, retail, residential) and has enjoyed a currency-hedged return of 8.3 per cent over the past five years.
“We believe this amenity-rich, multi-purpose office tower is a great addition to the skyline of the growing and thriving City of Vancouver, and that it will deliver long-term value to our members, the healthcare workers of Ontario,” Plesman said in a prepared statement.