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Top 10 Metro Vancouver development stories of 2021

What a year it has been. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the dramatic changes it has forced in all of our lives, the future of Metro Vancouver continues to evolve and change, with new projects continually being announced, plus tweaks and changes to long-awaited developments.

In 2021, I found myself writing more than ever about purpose-built rentals, Passive House standards and mass timber construction, and less about strata condos. It appears we are finally seeing a long-awaited shift towards building more purpose-built rentals, due to a combination of incentives and a changing real estate market.

Another theme in 2021 was the continued rise of Indigenous-led development, with MST Development Corp. (representing the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations) announcing plans for thousands of new housing units across Metro Vancouver, creating brand-new, high-density, transit-oriented communities.

Housing prices continued to rise in 2021 despite the pandemic, up 22 per cent year-over-year, and the number of listings dropped 39 per cent — posing even more extreme affordability challenges for first-time and move-up buyers.

There’s no doubt 2022 will be a pivotal year for our city and our region as a whole. With that said, here are the Top 10 Metro Vancouver development stories of 2021.

Happy Holidays and see you in 2022,

Peter Meiszner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, urbanYVR and future Vancouver city council candidate.

#1: A bold proposal for the 800-block of Granville Street

The vision of family-owned developer Bonnis Properties would infuse new energy into the Granville Entertainment District. In September, the developer and architects Perkins + Will filed a rezoning application to build a terraced office tower bridging several heritage buildings on the strip, plus the addition of new restaurant and retail space, and restoration of the heritage façades of the Commodore and the Orpheum.

Granville Street view looking northeast
Granville Street view looking northeast. Credit: Perkins + Will
Restored storefront of the Service Building looking down Robson
Restored storefront of the Service Building, looking down Robson. Credit: Perkins + Will

#2: Jericho Lands concepts released to the public

Most people probably didn’t have “38-storey towers on West 4th Avenue” on their 2021 bingo card. Two concepts for the redevelopment of the Jericho Lands by the MST Development Corp. — jointly owned by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations — were unveiled to the public during an October webinar, with unprecedented building heights for this part of the westside.

Initial plans call for a total of 10 million square feet of new development and up to 9,000 homes, over a 25-30 year build-out horizon. It’s also looking increasingly likely that a future Broadway Line extension to UBC will have a stop on the Jericho Lands.

Sentinel towers in Eagle Concept
Sentinel towers in Eagle Concept, up to 38 storeys. Credit: MST Development Corp./Canada Lands Corp.
Eagle concept from the water
Eagle concept from the water. Credit: MST Development Corp./Canada Lands Corp.

#3: Cypress Village in West Vancouver

British Pacific Properties announced plans for a new, high-density community on the slopes of West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain with a mixed-use village core with up to 3,700 homes, as well as local-serving shops and services. The development has a 20-25 year buildout timeline and privately operated transit link to Park Royal is part of the plan.

Artist’s Illustration of Cypress Village Upon Build-Out
Artist’s illustration of Cypress Village upon build-out. Credit: District of West Vancouver
Artist’s Illustration of Multi-Family Residential Development Along Eagle Lake Road
Artist’s illustration of multi-family residential development along Eagle Lake Road as part of the future Cypress Village neighbourhood. Credit: District of West Vancouver

#4: Broadway and Granville tower reaches new heights

PCI Developments’ proposal for a 39-storey office building at West Broadway and Granville, above a future SkyTrain station and office building that’s already under construction, would set a new precedent for building heights along the Broadway Subway route.

Perspective looking North along Granville St
Perspective looking North along Granville Street. Credit: MCMP Architects
Perspective looking Northeast towards transit station entrance
Perspective looking Northeast towards transit station entrance. Credit: MCMP Architects

#5: New Vancouver Art Gallery design revised

A new Vancouver Art Gallery at corner of West Georgia and Cambie Street is undoubtedly one of downtown Vancouver’s most anticipated—and drawn out—development proceses.

The latest design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery was unveiled in November by internationally acclaimed architects Herzog & de Meuron, after the announcement of a $100 million donation from the Audain Foundation. The new façade design takes inspiration from the basket weaving traditions of the Coast Salish people.

Updated exterior design of the future Vancouver Art Gallery
Updated exterior design of the future Vancouver Art Gallery. Credit: Herzog & de Meuron
Updated design of the future Vancouver Art Gallery
Updated exterior design of the future Vancouver Art Gallery. Credit: Herzog & de Meuron

#6: Army and Navy teams up with Bosa in redevelopment of W. Hastings property

It’s one of the most challenging blocks in the Downtown Eastside. Only months into the pandemic in 2020, the Cohen family, owners of the Army and Navy department store, announced they were closing the department store chain entirely. Their flagship store, located on West Hastings between Carrall and Abbott was shuttered, leaving a big hole in the community. This past summer, plans were announced to redevelop the site into a mixed-use, purpose-built rental project, along with retail and office space. The redevelopment is a partnership between Army & Navy Properties and Bosa Properties, and will be known as The Cohen Block.

The Cohen Block site context
Site context and future location of The Cohen Block. Credit: Bosa Properties/Army & Navy Properties
Army & Navy department store frontage on West Hastings Street, year unknown
Army & Navy department store frontage on West Hastings Street, year unknown. Credit: Bosa Properties/Army & Navy Properties

#7: St. Paul’s Hospital on the move; Burrard Street site sells to Concord Pacific

Construction of the new St. Paul’s Hospital on the False Creek Flats broke ground in 2021, a $2-billion dollar plus project that will deliver a new, state-of-the-art hospital by 2027. The development is expected to transform the surrounding area, with development proposals surfacing for strata medical offices and housing nearby. In 2020, the existing hospital site on Burrard Street was sold to Concord Pacific for nearly $1 billion, and a landmark development is in the works.

Aerial view looking south
Aerial view of new St. Paul’s Hospital, looking south. Credit: Providence Health Care
Rendering of main entrance
Rendering of main entrance. Credit: Providence Health Care

#8: The transformation of Brentwood and Lougheed town centres

If you haven’t been to Burnaby recently, you’d likely be astounded by the pace of the transformation in the city’s town centres, particularly Brentwood Town Centre and Lougheed Town Centre. Just a few years ago, both were aging malls surrounded by acres of surface parking lots. Today, developers like SHAPE Properties are transforming these shopping centres into high-density, mixed-use neighbourhoods with thousands of new homes, office space and shops and services, capitalizing on their locations directly on the Millennium Line SkyTrain.

The Amazing Brentwood photos
The Amazing Brentwood development in Burnaby, as seen from Napier Street in Burnaby.
Homes under construction at The City of Lougheed
Homes under construction at The City of Lougheed. Credit: SHAPE Properties/City of Burnaby

#9: Removal of the ‘Granville Loops’ and future towers

Developable land in downtown Vancouver is scarce, but in 2021, we got a sneak peek at plans for some of it. The city has been planning to remove the Granville Loops—the on/off ramps that funnel traffic to and from Pacific Blvd. to the Granville Street Bridge—since 2010. In May, a rezoning application was filed showing plans for four residential towers up to 40 storeys, with a mix of condos, rental, social housing and retail space. A new street network to replace the loops will also be created, extending Continental and Rolston streets south to Pacific Blvd.

Gateway view of Granville Loops Rezoning Area
Gateway view of Granville Loops Rezoning Area. Credit: City of Vancouver
Granville loops birds eye
Birds eye view of the Granville Loops. In the west loop, the former Black Top Cabs office and parking lot; in the east loop, an SRO hotel which has since been demolished. Credit: Google Maps

#10: Jon Stovell on Vancouver’s future and what needs to change

Reliance Properties President and CEO Jon Stovell is one of the city’s most outspoken and prominent developers. He is not afraid to “say it like it is”. In June, urbanYVR and The West Haven Group sat down with Stovell for a wide-ranging interview on the future of our city, and the challenges we need to overcome.

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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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