The goal is to start construction of the new Oakridge Centre and surrounding area in 2017. (photo from oakridge2025.ca)
At a public hearing in March 2014, Vancouver City Council approved Ivanhoé Cambridge’s proposal for a mixed-use redevelopment of the Oakridge Centre site at 41st Avenue and Cambie Street in Vancouver. The project would urbanize a 1950s-era shopping centre on a significantly underused transit-served site and deliver on a number of objectives for the neighborhood identified by the City of Vancouver and also contained in its larger policy objectives.
Since the public hearing, the project team has continued to refine the design of the redevelopment, while determining the best way to phase its construction. The focus of these efforts has always been to ensure uninterrupted operation of Oakridge Centre as the social and economic hub of the Oakridge neighborhood, and to minimize impacts on the retail tenants and the 2,500 full- and part-time employees who work at the site. There has also been an objective to reduce the length of the construction schedule.
The team was also tasked with finding efficiencies in the design of the parkade that could reduce the depth of excavation in order to minimize intrusions into the large aquifer beneath the site. Working within the aquifer would entail costly and unconventional construction techniques that the project team recommended be avoided. Finally, the design team was challenged to continue to improve the functionality and accessibility of the proposed nine-acre rooftop park and to look at optimizing the location of the 70,000-square-foot Oakridge civic centre on the site.
The project team concluded that maintaining uninterrupted operation of most of the shopping centre throughout construction would require a longer construction schedule. It further determined that minimizing intrusions into the aquifer would require a reduction in the parking supply for the project and, therefore, a decrease in density. Taken together, these conclusions suggested that a modification of the original plan would produce a better result.
While this work was underway, Target, one of the centre’s anchor tenants, announced its departure from Canada. The retail component of the project was designed around a two-level mall with several two-level anchor tenants. Therefore, with only one two-level anchor tenant remaining in the project, the centre’s merchandising plan and layout needed to be reworked.
As a result, Ivanhoé Cambridge is now proceeding with modifications to the plan that would produce a slightly smaller project completed over a shorter time and with reduced impact on tenants, employees, the community and the environment.
To facilitate this process, Ivanhoé Cambridge has retained architectural firm Benoy (benoy.com), based in London, England, to be its lead design architect. Despite the reduced project size, there will be no change to the public-benefits strategy previously agreed to with the city, and the site’s potential for significant residential density at a major transit hub will be realized.
Ivanhoé Cambridge recently began discussions with the City of Vancouver planning department to look at options for modifications to the approved plan that will meet and exceed the design and planning objectives that were achieved in the 2014 rezoning. The nature of the refinements will likely require amendments to the 2014 rezoning, which Ivanhoé Cambridge will pursue in 2016 with a goal of starting construction in 2017.
Ivanhoé Cambridge and its residential partner Westbank remain committed to creating a mixed-use, transit-oriented, amenity-rich project that will establish a new development standard in Vancouver.