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Historic Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver could see addition of 23-storey office tower

The Vancouver Heritage Commission is set to review a proposal next week to add a 23-storey tower adjacent to the historic Holy Rosary Cathedral at Richards and Dunsmuir.

As part of the redevelopment, the cathedral — which was built in 1900 — would be seismically and structurally upgraded.

The new 23-storey tower would include 36,000 sq. ft. of new church activity space, as well as approximately 194,000 sq. ft. of office space.

The tower would be built on the site of the existing rectory and youth activity centre known as Rosary Hall. It’s not protected by a heritage designation and would be demolished.

Demolished rectory
Existing rectory to be demolished. Credit: Google Maps

A link between the existing church and its new activity space in the tower would be maintained through a P1 parking level connection as well as by a “sensitively designed” glass connection along the laneway.

Architects are Stantec, and the developer is Wall Financial.

This is the not the first time the idea of constructing a tower behind the church has surfaced.

Here’s a 2017 rendering of what looks like a residential tower on the site.

Holy Rosary tower proposal

A post on the Holy Rosary Cathedral website states:

“This magnificent Gothic Revival building has not seen any major structural work done since it was opened. There has been some cosmetic work of course, but nothing to ensure that this beautiful building will be around for future generations. The work ahead will be challenging, but it will protect the heritage and the future ministry of the Church in Vancouver’s busy downtown core.

The Cathedral is ready for a seismic upgrade and for some needed maintenance. Currently the we are working with developers and with the City of Vancouver to see what can be done, and how to better preserve the heritage that has been handed to us.

The project will see the Cathedral closed for a short time while the work is completed. During that time there will be an alternate location for the Sacramental ministry of the Cathedral.

We want to build, protect and keep what has been handed to us by previous generations of Vancouver Catholics.”

Redevelopment schemes are popular with Vancouver churches, especially those in the downtown core on extremely valuable real estate. Westbank has begun site clearing for The Butterfly, a 57-storey luxury condominium tower behind the First Baptist Church at Burrard and Nelson.

The redevelopment at the First Baptist will go towards a full seismic upgrade and restoration of the church, and a new social housing building with 61 units. New church multipurpose spaces, including a 37-space child daycare, gymnasium, counselling centre and offices will also be constructed.

First Baptist Church tower
Architectual models of Westbank’s proposal for the First Baptist Church on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. Credit: Sergio Magro

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Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner is an experienced journalist and media relations professional, based in Vancouver. As founder of urbanYVR.com, he has been reporting on urban development across the Lower Mainland since 2016, and has also served as vice-chair of the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee. In October 2022, he was elected to Vancouver city council and is no longer actively reporting for urbanYVR.

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