If it’s fun to play at the YMCA, it should be even more enjoyable after a $22-million expansion project transforms the downtown Vancouver facility into a destination landmark.
The proposed state-of-the-art Y is just one component of a massive undertaking that will forever change the intersection of Barclay and Burrard.
A signature highrise, from development partner Concert Properties Ltd., will also be added to the Vancouver skyline, with the five-storey, 80,000-sq.-ft Y forming the podium base for the residential tower.
The overall site redevelopment, estimated at $120 million, is part of a strategic alliance between Concert, the Y and the adjacent First Baptist Church. Updating and expanding existing Y and church facilities will be made possible by developing the residential space on the properties in question, project officials said.
|Image courtesy of YMCA of Greater Vancouver|
|Stantec Architecture’s sketch of a possible design shows the heritage facade and residential tower above the downtown Y.|
“By selling the air rights above the new Y to Concert, it helps us to raise money to pay for part of the project,” said George Sexsmith, senior vice-president of development for YMCA Association Services.
Concert’s plans call for the tower to house 300 or more condominiums. The exact number of floors has yet to be finalized, though Y officials believe it will be in the area of 40 storeys.
“We selected Concert Properties after a rigorous competition that drew bids from more than 10 development companies,” said Bill Stewart, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Vancouver.
“Concert’s involvement enables us to design and build the best option for the YMCA’s portion of the site. We believe redevelopment of the Burrard Street site will play a pivotal role in revitalizing Vancouver’s newest downtown community and we wanted a partner known for quality, community-based development and construction.”
The new facility will be a flexible, modern space that will offer employment counselling and training, English language courses, community meeting spaces, health and wellness programs, physical rehabilitation and child care.
“We will have more programs, our space will be a lot larger and there will be a consolidation of rental space,” said Sexsmith.
The Y’s pool, gymnasium and fitness centre will also be expanded and improved.
About 2,500 members now use the downtown facility. That number is expected to grow to 7,000 once the new building is in operation.
Air rights, meanwhile, bring the third party, First Baptist, into the picture. An application has now been made to rezone the downtown Y’s and First Baptist’s properties at 955 and 969 Burrard St. and 1017 to 1045 Nelson St.
“We’ll be exchanging some land and density with the church, giving them the property footprint, but we’re transferring the density – the air rights – over to our site, which is across the lane,” said Sexsmith, who noted that the move allows the church to consolidate its property into one contiguous piece. “It’s an exciting three-way partnership for land development.”
As the Y is housed in a heritage building, special care will be taken to preserve it. Rather than just saving the exterior, the new facility will incorporate the front 32 feet of the 1941 building – on all five floors. “It’s heritage retention as opposed to heritage restoration of the facade,” said Sexsmith.
“We’ll keep the first 32 feet and demolish the remaining 240 feet, building an atrium entry behind that first 32 feet, meaning the primary entrances will now be at the rear of this heritage restoration retention. We’re setting up this jewel on the front for administrative offices and a daycare facility,” said Sexsmith.
The result will mix old with the new, with the brick heritage facade anchoring a modern facility whose extensive use of glass will bring the outside in and allow views of interior activity areas.
“This is an exciting and innovative project in that it retains an important heritage building but also creates a modern new facility for the community who use the YMCA’s facilities,” said David Podmore, Concert’s president and CEO.
“The building has served us for more than 60 years and for us to be able to retain the front portion, which is architecturally significant, is a way of demonstrating our solid values to the community and the commitments we stand for,” said Sexsmith.
The project is currently in the rezoning and density transfer stages with the City of Vancouver. Y officials expect it to go to a public hearing and city council in July. Construction is tentatively scheduled to start in the spring of 2005, with an opening date set for 2006 for the Y. The condominium tower could open a year later.
Construction, however, will have one major downside for those who use the downtown Y.
“We will have to shut down the Y for the new construction, so the programs will be halted and our members will be encouraged to use the Y’s temporary facilities – South Slope, the Y at Langara College – or to make other arrangements.We will not be able to have a building or fit one out for temporary use,” said Sexsmith.
Project architect is Stantec Architecture, which has developed preliminary plans for the property. Final designs are not yet completed.
The neighbouring church, meanwhile, will develop its site at a later date.