Many Vancouverites don’t give a lot of thought to the Mount Pleasant Industrial Area, but it’s in the midst of a monumental transition. The city’s manager of transportation, Lon LaClaire, told the Straight by phone that a building boom is being fuelled by several factors.
They include the creation of a new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus east of Main Street. That’s in addition to the proposed extension of the Millennium Line to the campus and from there to Main and Broadway and then to Cambie Street. There have also been zoning amendments in the area bounded by Broadway, Cambie Street, 2nd Avenue, and Main Street to allow for more employment, particularly in the tech sector.
“We have a ton of office development that is under construction or planned,” LaClaire said. “There’s a lot of proposals in the area.”
To cite one example, Cressey Developments is building a 10-storey office building at 425 West 6th Avenue. Meanwhile, the city has received a rezoning application for the addition of more than 3,000 square feet at 1775 Quebec Street. And this summer a residential home builder, Alabaster Group, is opening private offices and shared workspaces called Pavilion Cowork at 22 East 5th Avenue. This address is also Saje Natural Wellness’s new head office.
Pavilion Cowork’s managing director, Yosh Kasahara, told the Straight by phone that his company is not creating typical coworking space with flexible seating and open workspaces, though there’s a bit of that. Instead, they are elegantly designed workplaces for professionals—including lawyers and accountants—who want to be near growing businesses in the area.
“We have a focus on private offices,” Kasahara said. “A membership at Pavilion Cowork gets you exclusive use to one of these private offices, which can accommodate anywhere from three to six people.”
There’s also a shared reception area, a very large and open staff lounge, and meeting rooms.
“The intention of Pavilion Cowork is that the interior design feels like a boutique hotel from New York or London, as opposed to a traditional office,” he explained. “That’s why we call Pavilion Cowork ‘your new HQ’. It allows everyone to have a sense of their own headquarters.”
It’s in the heart of what’s been dubbed “Mount Pixel”. This refers to the growing digital-media sector anchored by Hootsuite, which was in the news at the end of April after laying off dozens of employees.
Kasahara said that low office vacancy rates and high rents downtown are driving more companies to the Mount Pleasant Industrial Area. The building boom is stimulated by the previous city council’s bylaw changes, which expanded the definitions of office activities in the district to include digital entertainment, information-communication technology, financial institutions, health care, and health-enhancement centres.
Another game changer, according to LaClaire, is MEC’s new flagship store at the corner of Quebec Street and 2nd Avenue.
LaClaire revealed that the city is nearing the end of a transportation-planning process that will make it easier for southbound vehicle traffic on Main Street to turn left onto 3rd, 4th, and 6th avenues. This will enhance the district’s appeal as a work destination.
Currently, Yukon Street and 7th Avenue serve as “collectors” of vehicle traffic. LaClaire said that Manitoba Street will serve that function in a north-south direction because it leads into the Olympic Village, enabling traffic to be diverted off bikeways, including Ontario Street.
“We can then go kind of aggressive on the vehicle reductions on those streets because we’re preserving a functional vehicle network for the neighbourhood as it densifies,” LaClaire said.
It’s the latest chapter in the history of Mount Pleasant. It was once a rich hinterland for First Nations, who shared the area with deer, elk, bears, and beavers. In the 1890s, it developed as a single-family neighbourhood before gradually being transformed to industrial use, beginning in the 1940s. More recently, it became home to craft breweries. The latest iteration, Mount Pixel, is now taking shape.
“We saw an opportunity with all of these businesses moving in here and the face of employment changing in Mount Pleasant,” Kasahara said.