An expanding Vancouver-based video game maker has been announced as the first tenant at the new Vancouver Centre II office tower in the city’s downtown core.
Mobile game developer Kabam will occupy the bottom seven floors of the 33-storey tower being constructed at 753 Seymour St.
GWL Realty Advisors (GWLRA) is developing the project on behalf of owners Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), GWL Real Estate Fund and the London Life Real Estate Fund. The tower will be built to LEED Platinum specifications and will target Well Building certification.
The developers hope to complete the building in 2021, making it the first new building in downtown Vancouver’s next wave of office construction.
The class-AAA, 371,000-square-foot tower marks the next phase of the Vancouver Centre complex, which also includes the 1976-built Scotia Tower and the Vancouver Centre Mall.
Kabam to take nearly 30% of the building
The Kabam lease will account for about 105,000 square feet, which is nearly 30 per cent of the building, said Geoff Heu, vice-president of development, Western Canada, with GWLRA.
“(The deal) establishes that we have a very good project and an offering that is attractive to the tech industry and the general office industry,” Heu told RENX in an interview. “It gives us good confidence moving forward and we are getting a lot of interest on the balance of the building at this time.”
Heu said excavation is underway at the site.
“We anticipated a lot of tech interest, but we’re getting interest from all sectors, financial, legal and education,” he said.
Securing a major tenant at this stage of the process validates moving forward with the tower without pre-leasing, he said. Pre-leasing would have set the project back by about a year, Heu said.
“From a competitive standpoint, you want to be the first to deliver (in the next wave),” he said. “With the current exceptionally low office vacancy rate of 3.9 per cent, we are confident that VCII will be fully leased prior to completion.”
Vancouver home to game maker’s expanding HQ
Kabam launched about 12 years ago in California’s Silicon Valley. The firm moved its headquarters to Vancouver about two years ago after being acquired by another company, said Tim Fields, Kabam’s CEO.
It also has offices in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. The game-maker is a subsidiary of Netmarble Corporation.
There are about 400 employees in total and about 250 are in Vancouver, he said. Kabam hopes to expand its local team to about 500.
He said the company currently works out of two sites in downtown Vancouver.
“The first goal (of the relocation) was to provide for additional room for the people who are going to build and operate our games, and the second was to ensure that we could consolidate and get everybody in the same building,” Fields said.
Office had to be downtown, dog-friendly
The other major criteria included being in the downtown core and finding a dog-friendly building.
“About half of our staff lives within walking distance to work or a short SkyTrain ride and it’s a very young, vibrant staff and they really like being downtown,” Fields said.
“People are invited to bring their dogs into the office. That alone rules out many, many, many of the buildings downtown.”
He said it took about eight months to find the right lease.
“We are very particular about what we want and that ruled out the vast majority of available office space in the region,” he said, noting there were “a few” realistic options.
Kabam will build video games at the new office, conduct research and development and do some marketing work, Fields said.
“We do a lot of work with artificial intelligence and machine learning and other types of fairly forward-looking technologies,” he said.
Kabam has partnered with entertainment companies such as Marvel, Disney, Hasbro and Universal to create games such as: Fast & Furious 6: The Game; Fast & Furious: Legacy; Marvel Contest of Champions; and Transformers: Forged to Fight.