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Friday, September 30, 2022

800-block Granville redevelopment proceeds to rezoning

Bonnis Properties’ ambitious plan for 800-block Granville, home to Commodore Ballroom and Orpheum Theatre, is a step closer to reality

The 800-block of Granville Street, home to two of Vancouver’s most storied entertainment venues, could be transformed if an ambitious plan gets the go-ahead. 

Bonnis Properties and architecture firm Perkins and Will have filed a long-awaited rezoning application for the 800-block of Granville Street, consisting of the entire east side of the street between Robson and Smithe, apart from a small building on the corner. The redevelopment was first teased by the developer in January 2021 — and now an official rezoning application has been filed.

The block is home to several heritage buildings, including the Commodore Ballroom, one of Vancouver’s most storied entertainment venues, and the Orpheum Theatre. The developer has spent decades assembling the properties on the east side of the street, with the intention of a “trophy site” redevelopment.

The plan is ambitious, and will see a new, modern building bridging the historic structures, adding 400,000 square feet of highly-desirable, large floor-plate office space in a cascading, glass-enclosed structure, nine storeys on the south end, and 16 storeys on the north.

There will be new restaurants on a terrace level between the new office building and the historic buildings, as well as new, large-format retail spaces, similar to Bonnis’ property on the northern corner of Granville and Robson, home to Best Buy and Winners. The frontages of the heritage buildings will revitalized and restored.

Kerry Bonnis, co-principal of Bonnis Properties with his brother, Dino Bonnis. says Granville Street desperately needs a shot in the arm, and fast.

“The project will be pivotal to reverse the downturn that Granville Street has experienced in the last few years, exacerbated exponentially by the impact of the pandemic on food and beverage businesses and retailers.”

“The inclusion of major improvements to the performance institutions of the Commodore and Orpheum and the addition of a new performance venue — individually and collectively enhancing and growing the attention and volume of the arts — can bring thousands to the street, and effectively foster community and engagement amongst Vancouverites and visitors. This is what the street needs, this is what the downtown core needs. And we all need it now! Not 10 or 20 years from now,” he adds.

An initial public open house, held by Pooni Group earlier this year found 87 per cent support for the proposal. Since then, the design has been refined further, based on feedback and conversations with city staff.

Renderings: Revitalized Commodore Ballroom and 800-block Granville

January 2021 open house concept

Render of aerial view looking east
Aerial view looking east. Credit: Perkins and Will via Bonnis Properties

September 2021 rezoning application

Granville Street view looking northeast
Granville Street view looking northeast. Credit: Perkins + Will
800 Block of Granville Street
800 Block of Granville Street. Credit: Perkins + Will

January 2021 open house concept

Street view at Granville looking east
Street view at Granville looking east. Credit: Perkins and Will via Bonnis Properties

September 2021 rezoning application

Granville Street view looking northeast
Granville Street view looking northeast. Credit: Perkins + Will

January 2021 open house concept

Elevation perspective view at Commodore
Elevation perspective view at Commodore. Credit: Perkins and Will via Bonnis Properties

September 2021 rezoning application

The rendering image captures the restored storefront of the State Hotel building sitting between the Commodore and Orpheum entry.
The rendering image captures the restored storefront of the State Hotel building sitting between the Commodore and Orpheum entry. Credit: Perkins + Will

January 2021 open house concept

Street view looking at Commodore
Street view looking at Commodore. Credit: Perkins and Will via Bonnis Properties

September 2021 rezoning application

Granville Street view looking south
Granville Street view looking south. Credit: Perkins + Will

January 2021 open house concept

Elevated view above Orpheum
Elevated view above Orpheum. Credit: Perkins and Will via Bonnis Properties

September 2021 rezoning application

Cultural terrace looking southwest
Cultural terrace looking southwest. Credit: Perkins + Will

January 2021 open house concept

Street view at Robson looking south
Street view at Robson looking south. Credit: Perkins and Will via Bonnis Properties

September 2021 rezoning application

Restored storefront of the Service Building looking down Robson
Restored storefront of the Service Building, looking down Robson. Credit: Perkins + Will
Office interior looking northeast
Office interior looking northeast. Credit: Perkins + Will

Project stats

  • 400,000 square feet of office space over 12 levels
  • 100,000 square feet retail/commercial uses in the podium over three levels
  • 50,000 square feet of food and beverage space
  • 78,165 square feet of entertainment uses (an 85% increase)
  • Target of LEED Gold

Bonnis Properties estimates there will be between 2,000 – 4,000 jobs on site, boosting “eyes on the street” and foot traffic in the area.

The developer is hoping the promise of enhancements to the Commodore Ballroom and a new performance venue will help get the city on board with the proposal, which is in the pre-application stage.

“I don’t think there’s a single family in Vancouver that doesn’t have a Commodore memory,” says Kerry Bonnis.

“We recognize what an institution the Commodore is, and the building needs to be protected inside and out. We don’t plan to alter the original design of the Commodore, so we came up with idea to build on either side of it and bridge over it.”

Physical model
Physical model. Credit: Perkins + Will

New performance venue and rehearsal space for VSO

A new, 14,700 square foot performance venue over three floors would be gifted to the city as part of the redevelopment, valued at $45 million. It would host arts and culture performances and provide expanded rehearsal space for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Bonnis says improved loading, lift and access for the Commodore Ballroom will allow the venues to increase the number of events they host. It currently takes three days to set up and take down shows due to the limited back-of-house capacity at both venues.

“We view this as a triple win for the city,” says Bonnis. “I would hope the city gives this project the urgent attention it merits.”

Granville Street view looking northeast
Granville Street view looking northeast. Credit: Perkins + Will

Developer hopes proposal will improve safety in Granville Entertainment District

Bonnis adds that the proposal is “immediate, pandemic-proof stimulus” to the downtown Vancouver economy, at a time when it’s desperately needed, particularly on Granville Street, which has experienced a dramatic decline in perceived safety and cleanliness.

To naysayers and anyone who thinks the proposal is too ambitious, Bonnis had this to say:

“Any resistance to change and acceptance of the status quo only amplifies and exacerbates the abysmal decline of the street,” he adds. “We have the ambition to build a better city and a stronger community, driven by an expansion of arts and cultural uses, whilst preserving and adapting heritage assets.”

“It should be applauded, encouraged and fully supported. Vancouverites deserve this, and opposition to these aspirations and ambitions lack logic and simple, old-fashioned common sense. Everything we’ve done is about community building — we’ve spent thousands of hours walking the street. There’s never been a greater urgency to have something on Granville Street that has some gravitas,” says Bonnis.

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Peter Meiszner
Peter Meisznerhttps://www.peterforvancouver.com/
📢 I am running for Vancouver City Council with A Better City (ABC) and Ken Sim! Visit peterforvancouver.com for more information.

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