Vancouver's 136-year history has rendered it home to more than 2,200 registered heritage buildings, protected through the Vancouver Heritage Register (VHR). To qualify for inclusion in the VHR, buildings must meet set criteria and hold architectural or historical significance. Those listed as primary (A) are the best examples of a heritage type or building style in Vancouver.
In 2018, Spear Street Capital (Spear Street) recognized an opportunity to revitalize one of Vancouver’s significant (B) heritage buildings. With a portfolio of office properties throughout North America and Europe, Spear Street identified potential in the Standard Building at 510 West Hastings. Spear Street sought out Gareth Keane, Senior Project Manager with Colliers Project Leaders in Vancouver, to provide a cursory assessment of the property. When the acquisition became a reality in early 2020 and travel was restricted, Spear Street engaged Colliers to lead the pre-acquisition due diligence process and commence the project planning. As a key partner, Colliers’ involvement today includes managing redevelopment, leasing, and full building management services.
Spear Street and Colliers are refurbishing the Standard Building to exceed modern standards while preserving its heritage features. By conserving existing neo-gothic architecture and systematically and sustainably upgrading the building to include modern amenities, the team is positioning the storied building to accommodate Vancouver’s growing in-office workforce and ultimately expand the city’s central business district.
A neo-gothic design landmark
From the exterior to its detailed interior finishings, the 15-storey structure has a neo-gothic style, designed by the Tacoma firm Russell, Babcock & Rice. Constructed in 1914, the Standard Building, formerly the Standard Bank Building, was one of the only towers completed during WWI. Prior to the push for its preservation, the Standard Building remained stagnant and suffered a serious decline due to a lack of maintenance and upkeep.
"Built at the height of Vancouver’s Edwardian-era boom years, this skyscraper remains Western Canada’s premier example of the Beaux-Arts style, a blend of Gothic Revival architecture overlaid with Italian Renaissance detailing,” said Donald Luxton of Donald Luxton & Associates. “The Standard Building was the second tallest building in the city upon its completion. Its sumptuous design, with imported terracotta and marble, reflected the general trend for neoclassicism during the early 20th century. The quality of its design and materials represented a high point of architecture in the young city of Vancouver.”
At a presentation in March 2022 led by the Colliers Project Leaders team of Gareth Keane and Kieran Lynch, with Donald Luxton & Associates, Vancouver City Council Spear Street Capital’s request to upgrade the site to a primary (A) heritage building. From the project’s inception, Colliers was tasked with finding a holistic solution for upgrading the building while repositioning it as a multi-use office space — an undertaking involving Colliers’ Real Estate Management Services, Brokerage, and Project Leaders teams.
Merging the old and new in harmony
Marrying the building’s heritage aspects with its modern features remains one of the project’s biggest challenges, in tandem with seismic upgrades. Vancouver’s Heritage Incentive Grant Program, which provides up to $4 million per building for heritage conservation, will allow for this upgrade. Steel structures will be added beneath the original walls of the building, and the facade will be securely pinned to this layer on the inside. A mere five buildings in Vancouver have gone through this process, and 510 West Hastings is one of the largest grant recipients to date.
Neo-gothic architecture at 510 West Hastings is exhibited through the building’s gothic mouldings on levels one to three and 15, and other features, including crowned columns and ionic spirals, are showcased at the building’s base. Although rich in history and architectural significance, 510 West Hastings requires a variety of modern updates to reach the goal of the structure becoming a refurbished office building and lengthening Vancouver’s business district right to the corner of Richards Street.
The original marble floor in the lobby is being restored to create connectivity between the entrance space and future commercial rental units (CRU). Ground-level CRU spaces present an opportunity to revitalize the corner on which the building stands, between Gastown and the central business district, with a future cafe or restaurant poised to activate the area and serve building tenants.
Colliers experts, jointly with architects at Kasian, are ensuring 510 West Hastings surpasses today’s working standards while maintaining its heritage character. This includes the introduction of a state-of-the-art variable refrigerant flow (VFRF) system, air conditioning, and high-albedo roofing; a full electrical upgrade; and a seismic upgrade. The plan extends to refinishing the 15th-floor penthouse and heritage skylights, repairing and cleaning the exterior brick, conserving original terrazzo flooring, and restoring heritage wood components.
In addition, 510 West Hastings will be modernized through added health and wellness features. Low volatile organic compounds (VOC) will be used throughout the building, and a new ‘end-of-trip facility’ with bike storage and changing facilities will be added to the basement. These attributes, among others, will make 510 West Hastings the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-Gold heritage building.
Meeting Vancouver’s need for space and character
Vancouver’s in-office workforce was growing when Spear Street approached Colliers with this project. The Q1 Vancouver Office Market Report found that 1.9 million square feet of office space was set for delivery in 2022, with more companies beginning to welcome employees back in person. The latter half of Q1 saw an increase in overall activity, which is anticipated to continue through the remainder of 2022. The Greater Vancouver Area office vacancy rate is showing signs of stability, resting at 5.8% in the third quarter of the year.
“We're in the fortunate position in Vancouver where market vacancy is fairly low compared to other markets,” says Marco DiPaolo, Executive Vice President with Colliers Vancouver Brokerage. By uniquely offering more than 112,000 square feet of contemporary office space inside a heritage building, complete with an end-of-trip facility housing showers, lockers, and bike storage, 510 West Hastings will meet the strong demand for office space.
“Tenants selecting office space will look at where they want to plant their flag and how to differentiate themselves,” shares DiPaolo. “Not many buildings in the city can look and feel like 510 West Hastings. At this location, you enjoy all the perks of a heritage building without compromise. When companies have a choice between a brand-new building and a building filled with character, their decision is a representation of their business, and how they want their brand to be seen.”
Keane notes: “Who wants to build a glass tower? This project is one of those rare opportunities to be creative, environmentally conscious, and leave a lasting, positive impact on Vancouver’s environment. I am proud of our project team’s ability to overcome the challenges and sensitively marry the old with the modern to create a truly unique space for future tenants.”
Elevating the standard for office-based work
Although constructed during the early 20th century, 510 West Hastings will soon have a present-day emphasis on sustainability that will impact the future. In pursuit of LEED Gold Certification, the following sustainable initiatives will be in place at 510 West Hastings:
- Installation of energy-efficient, double-glazed heritage windows
- Mandating low VOC materials throughout construction to improve indoor air quality
- Mechanical and electrical systems that exceed ASHRAE standards
- Heating and cooling from 98% renewable resources
- Enhanced building commissioning and monitoring to ensure building systems operate efficiently and achieve LEED Gold standards
“The 510 West Hastings site is special – we’re looking to fuse its connection with the past to something that will benefit the future,” notes Adam Ballew, Managing Director at Spear Street Capital. “The quest for LEED Gold Certification through the building’s sustainable improvements is crucial. With help from Colliers and Kasian, we are aiming to revitalize a historic Vancouver landmark and provide an environmentally sustainable office building that caters to today’s workforce.”
When completed, the 510 West Hastings tower will be a landmark revitalized primary (A) heritage site, modernized with contemporary office spaces for Vancouver’s workforce. The project will simultaneously benefit the local economy, with up to 150 workers expected on-site per day during the redevelopment process.
For more details on the 510 West Hastings project, visit 510westhastings.com.