Century-old Vancouver warehouse reborn with $10-million restoration

VANCOUVER — With a five-level glass addition about to go on top, a Beatty  Street warehouse built in 1909 and vacant for decades is about to rise in a  phoenix-like, $10 million restoration to fresh, mixed-use life.

Approved unanimously by city council as part of Vancouver’s Heritage Building  Rehabilitation Program, the plans will allow 564 Beatty “to maintain its identity while providing  a striking glass lantern accentuated with architectural lighting,” says Jon  Stovell, president of Reliance Properties Ltd., which bought the property  for $5 million.

By January 2014 the four full office floors, plus two restaurant levels and  rooftop social room and deck, will transform the site into a distinctive bookend  for Heritage Row, the other being the historic Sun Tower at Pender and Beatty.  Stovell is confident about the appeal of blended contemporary and heritage  aspects to tenants and the public – not to mention the convenience of being  beside the Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain station.

“We expect the office tenants to be a broad mix of professional service  firms, design firms, and high-tech companies whose work forces are attracted to  the vibrant neighbourhood and interesting building design of stick-and-brick and  contemporary glass addition.”

At first blush, the idea of adding five levels to a heavy-timber building  seemed dodgy. The brainwave, says Stovell, was to use cast-in-place concrete  rather than the more conventional steel framing and metal decking.

“The building was already receiving a new concrete stair core that also acts  to provide a seismic upgrade for the building – so why not just keep going with  the same material? The addition will provide a more rigid and solid-feeling  building. It will accommodate larger spans, so we can have fewer columns in the  new office, and a smooth ceiling without beams to get in the way of air  conditioning and ceiling finishes.”

The outside brick walls of the original building will carry most of the  weight of the large floor spans, Stovell explains. That extra weight helps to  increase the stability and seismic resistance of the old building.

“New concrete columns, where needed, split in two when they meet the old  building. They run down either side of the existing 100-year-old heavy timber  columns, all the way to the basement parking level, where they rest on new or  expanded footings.”

Kent Munro, Vancouver’s assistant director of planning, concedes that the  addition is ambitious compared to the usual, more modest ones for heritage  buildings. “However, the robust massing of this addition was considered to be  appropriate for a site located where Victory Square, the Central Business  District, International Village and Stadium SkyTrain station all intersect. The  new contemporary addition is designed as a simple cubic form of glass and steel  so that it is clearly distinguishable from the historic base building which  allows the heritage features to maintain their presence at street level.”

To Donald Luxton, the project’s heritage expert and consultant, the restored  564 Beatty will gleam with history as much as with glass and steel. “The east  side of the 500 block of Beatty Street is one of only three places in Vancouver  where an escarpment or a steeply sloping site historically provided a unique  commercial development opportunity,” explains Luxton, principal of Donald Luxton and Associates Inc.

“The two other locations are the north side of Water Street and Yaletown. In  these unique locations, commercial warehouses could be built with railway spurs  at the rear, allowing loading bays and the transfer of goods at a lower level  and street-level access above. This was ideal for commercial businesses that  shipped in heavy goods – like the iron stoves brought in by the Gurney Foundry  that built this building. These escarpment situations were prime location in  early Vancouver. This is the reason these large brick warehouses exist in  500-block Beatty. The Sun Tower was able to ship in all the newsprint it needed  by rail.”

The tracks are gone – and so is the building that once loomed to the south of  564 Beatty. Stovell saw the light. “Our building had just a solid wall along the  Plaza. We saw an amazing opportunity to open up this wall with doors and windows  on to the Plaza. This has the effect of making the building into a corner  building and providing a strong architectural identity for the end of the block  and the Plaza down to Paris Square.”

Source: The Vancouver Sun




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