Redesign of West Cordova 'origami' tower nearing completion

Waterfront Tower on complex site next to heritage buildings

It’s been more than three years since the Urban Design Panel rejected the proposal for Cadillac Fairview’s Waterfront Tower at 555 West Cordova — a site next to the historic Waterfront Station and The Landing heritage building. But a development permit application with a revised design is expected to be submitted to the city in the near future.

The latest proposal was presented to the Vancouver Heritage Commission in a pre-application workshop May 14. The minutes of the meeting were posted here May 28.

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Adrian Smith + Gordon Hill Architecture and B+H Architects are involved in the project.

Cadillac Fairview declined an interview with the Courier, but emailed this statement May 29: “[Cadillac Fairview] is actively working on 555 Cordova Street West with the City of Vancouver and will be submitting our development permit application in the near future. The revised design builds on the feedback we received from the Urban Design Panel in 2015, an Engagement Session we hosted in December 2015, as well as other feedback,” Janine Ramparas, Cadillac Fairview’s director of communications wrote.

“Highlights of the new design include reconfiguring the building for the benefit of the public realm with the east heritage façade of Waterfront Station and the Landing now showcased by the new building and the addition of a large public plaza. The new design is more sensitive to the neighbouring heritage buildings, the Waterfront Station and The Landing. We hope to advance this landmark property, which will ultimately attract best-in-class businesses that are seeking to locate their workforce near the region’s largest transportation hub and amenities that downtown Vancouver has to offer.”

A look back

Although the Urban Design Panel is only an advisory body to the city, and doesn’t approve or deny development applications, its January 2015 decision to reject the proposal for the 26-storey, modern glass tower, which some dubbed an "origami tower," meant Cadillac Fairview’s application didn’t move forward to the Development Permit Board so there would be time for a re-design. The proposal envisioned the tower overhanging part of the station.

Urban Design Panel concerns included the location of the tower on the site and its proximity to the historic Waterfront Station, that not enough sustainability measures were featured in the project, and the relationship between the property's private realm and the public realm.

Criticism also came from individuals such as former city planner Ray Spaxman and heritage activists who raised similar concerns about the tower's appearance and its relationship with, and proximity to, the adjacent heritage buildings.

But it's a complex site and the footprint is relatively small. 

The City of Vancouver told the Courier in mid-May that staff encouraged the applicant to have pre-application workshops with both the Vancouver Heritage Commission and Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee. The non-voting sessions were intended to "foster dialogue" on the surrounding character of the area, and applicable policies and regulations. (Minutes from the May 16 pre-application workshop with the Gastown committee can be found here.)

The Vancouver Heritage Commission actually supported project back in December 2014, although it noted some concerns. But that decision wasn’t unanimous.

Once a development permit application is filed with the city, there will be consultation, including an open house, and material will be posted online for comments, according to the City of Vancouver. There will also be additional meetings with the Vancouver Heritage Commission, the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee and the Urban Design Panel.

The new drawings and proposal presented in the pre-application workshops have not been released publicly but bloggers who post about Vancouver developments under the name City Duo took these photos of the updated design boards at the heritage commission meeting.


Photo City Duo
Photo City Duo


Photo City Duo
Photo City Duo


Photo City Duo
Photo City Duo


Photo City Duo
Photo City Duo


Note: This story has been updated with photos since it was first posted.



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