The first six months of last year saw record levels for building permits being issued in Vancouver, but this year’s total has eclipsed that by almost 20 per cent.
Last year, the value of building permits issued until July 1 was a record setting $1.12 billion. This year’s total to July 1 is $1.34 billion.
Much of the building activity is in the development of new office space in the downtown core, but there are also seven major projects underway elsewhere in the city. Among those being built are: The Exchange at 819 West Pender (305,000 square feet); the Renfrew Business Centre at 2665 Renfrew Street (480,000 square feet with the 170,000-square-foot first phase under construction); and Marine Gateway at 400 Southwest Marine Drive (269,000 square feet).
Another 14 projects have been approved with a total of 3,592,400 square feet of office space for development.
A total of 4.5 million square feet of new office space is presently under development in the city.
Brian Jackson, the city’s general manager of planning and development said it wasn’t just commercial development fuelling the record levels of building activity.
“This is Vancouver firing on all cylinders. It’s everything from laneway houses to mid-rise development, to rental housing that are getting under construction now, to highrise residential projects. It’s office development like we haven’t seen in decades, it’s industrial development such as at the Renfrew industrial park — it’s in all sectors of the economy,” said Jackson.
Asked if he was concerned about the amount of new office space being built and the likelihood of the market being saturated, Jackson said the city leaves that concern to the private sector.
“We don’t restrict the amount of office development — it’s entirely up to the market. It does tend to happen in cycles and they usually overbuild for a year or so and nothing happens for a while and then it gets filled. It’s usually on a seven-year cycle and we are at the tail-end of a cycle and likely the projects under construction now will be the last for a few years until the market takes up the capacity.”
Jackson said it wasn’t too long ago that there was a two or three per cent vacancy rate in office rentals in the downtown which “was absolutely remarkable.”
“Now we are up at around nine per cent in the core area which means you can get slightly better office deals for leasing. But of the projects under construction, the major one is The Exchange and they are continuing to try to find tenants and continuing to build,” said Jackson.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said it was clear the city’s economic strategy was working “with 2015 on pace to see records surpassed for the value of new construction activity, for new office space completed and for growth in our city’s tourism sector.”
“Together we are demonstrating that a strong economy and our Greenest City progress go hand in hand and city hall will continue to use every available resource to support job creation, investment and innovation in Vancouver,” said Robertson.