Archive for the ‘Altered’ Category

Granville Island from above

This 1950 image shows Granville Island crammed with industrial businesses. It had once been a sandbar, used by the Squamish natives to catch fish while they occupied their nearby winter settlement of Snauq. They had a fish weir, built of twisted vine maple, that led flounders and smelts into a fish trap. As development of the new city forced them off their traditional lands, and the forest was cut down, various attempts were made to acquire and develop on the sandbars, none successful. A lumber and planing mill was established on the muddy foreshore, next to the bridge that had been piled across the Creek in 1889. By 1903 the mill’s footprint had been extended, with the insurance map identifying ‘land made of slabs and sawdust’, but the sandbar remained undeveloped. By 1912 the mill was larger, operated as the Rat Portage Lumber Co, with a new bridge alongside the first, and the Hanbury Lumber Company’s mill to the east, on the southern shore. They leased moorings from Canadian Pacific in the creek, where miles of log booms were tethered, awaiting processing in the mill.

In 1913 everything changed with the creation of the Vancouver Harbour Commission. Given control over all tidal waters, they set about creating solid land to expand industrial operations. Hanbury’s lost the water rights in front of their mill; the Federal Government announced that CPR had never had the rights in the first place. CPR’s foreshore rights wouldn’t be settled until 1928. In the meantime the Harbour Commission started piling a bulkhead around the sandbars, and building a rail track and a road from the south shore. They raised $300,000 from the sale of bonds that paid 5% interest, and hired Pacific Dredging to deepen the channel and pile the fill inside the bulkhead. With a brief stop while wartime priorities interupted, by 1916 a million cubic yards of mud had been sucked from the creek, and ‘Industrial Island’ had been built at a cost of $342,000.

Tenants soon moved in; Wallace Shipyards followed Vulcan Ironworks, with BC Equipment Ltd first to build a corrugated tin repair and assembly shop on the island’s north-west corner. Leases were for 21 years, ranging from $500 to $1,500 per acre. There were two miles of rail tracks, and all services; water, gas and electricity. Businesses fabricated wire ropes; built band saws; assembled steel chains. Transport businesses occupied huge warehouses. By 1930 there were 1,200 workers on the island. By 1936 the National Harbours Board were running the island, and arguing that as tenants of a federal agency, the businesses stopped paying taxes to the city. Only an appeal in the House or Lords in London reinstated the revenue, several years later. Business boomed during the war, with demand for the ropes, chains and other products coming from the expanded ship-building operations up and down False Creek.

By 1950, when the photo was taken, business was still strong, but the creek had become run down and lined with semi-derelict buildings. Alderman Jack Price proposed that, rather than rebuilding the ageing Georgia Viaducts, and crumbling Cambie and Granville bridges, the entire creek should be filled in. The CPRs William Van Horne had first suggested the idea decades earlier. The 1950 campaign, supported by mayor Fred Hume, was derailed because a new Granville Bridge was already well advanced in planning. The new alignment can be seen in the picture; the piers were constructed through the existing buildings in some places. A further study shut the idea down completely; the engineering, compensation for lost riparian rights, and new infrastructure would have cost $50m, and created land worth $9m.

By the mid 1960s many of the businesses had closed, and an arsonist had destroyed several of the buildings. Demand for the remaining businesses that supported the lumber mills disappeared as those too burned down, and were not rebuilt. The plans to transform the island into a different kind of place were started in the early 1970s, as the remainder of South False Creek started redevelopment. It took until 1978 for the unique mix of new uses, retained and repurposed buildings, and shared street space to become an adopted plan. Designed by Hotson Bakker, the Island has gradually changed over time, but continues under federal ownership to offer locally owned markets, restaurants, arts enterprises and spaces for craft manufacturing seen in this 2018 image.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 216-39 and Trish Jewison, Global BC helicopter on twitter.

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Posted May 18, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

View from Harbour Centre Lookout south east

The before image here is from 1981, and the contemporary image was taken about 18 months ago, although very little has changed since. (That won’t be true in future, as the viaducts cutting across the image are due to be demolished at some point in the near future).

There are three landmarks, each over a century old. In the foreground is the top of the Dominion Building, developed by the Dominion Trust in the late 1900s and completed in 1910, designed by J S Helyer and Son, and replacing an earlier retail building called The Arcade. On the corner of Hastings and Cambie is the Province Building (once home to the newspaper of the same name) developed by the newspaper owner Francis Carter Cotton and completed in 1908. He also built the adjacent and linked building on West Pender Street that became home to wholesale fruit and vegetable dealer H A Edgett. A A Cox designed both buildings. Further up West Pender is the Sun Tower (the name coming from another newspaper) developed in 1910, designed by W T Whiteway and completed in 1912 for Daily World owner L D Taylor, who was mayor of Vancouver for several terms between 1910 and 1930.

Beyond those buildings, and the row of warehouses down Beatty Street, was a soon to abandoned industrial landscape. Once home to heavy industries, and heavily polluted with metals and chemicals, in 1981 there were a number of warehouse and shipping operations and at the ends of False Creek, a concrete batching plant. The viaducts were the second structure – the first so badly built that the plan to run trams over the bridge was abandoned as it couldn’t take the weight. The new viaduct was the only part of an ambitious plan to run a highway through and round Downtown from Highway 1. It would have cut through the early residential Strathcona neighbourhood, removed much of Chinatown and then replaced the warehouses of Gastown. Some versions of the plans added complex cloverleaf junctions and cut through the West End. Delays and changing governments (and priorities) ensured only the replacement for the structurally compromised existing viaduct was funded.

It crossed a landscape that changed significantly after this picture when Expo 86 was built on the land around the end of the Creek in the mid 1980s. Subsequently the land was sold to a few developers. Concord Pacific developed most of the site (and continue to do so today, over 30 years later), but two other developers were responsible for the residential transformation today. Between 1989 and 2007 Bosa Development built over 1,000 units at the end of False Creek, between Main and Quebec Streets. Five towers can be seen today, with a sixth the headquarters of the Vancity Credit Union which spans the tracks of the Skytrain. Closer to us is International Village, a complex of six towers and a supermarket, retail mall and cinema built over a similar period to Citygate by Henderson Developments, a Hong Kong based developer. The worst polluted soils were retained on site and capped, with Andy Livingstone Park built on top.

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Granville Slopes from above

The area between Granville Bridge and Burrard Bridge on the Downtown side of False Creek is called, in City policy documents, Granville Slopes. Like much of the surrounding Downtown South area, until the 1980s the area was mostly low-density commercial buildings, with a few multi-storey structures.

Our before image was undated in the Archives, one of the aerial shots taken for the City by Gordon Sayles. It’s possible to estimate the date from the construction of the buildings on the left, by Burrard Street. Anchor Point, a series of mid-rise brick clad condo buildings was completed in January 1978, so this must be from 1977. Daon Developments were the developers of the Waisman Dewar Grout designed apartment complex, which was subsequently strata titled in 1982. Today developers are attempting to acquire each of the strata buildings for redevelopment, but have so far failed to persuade the number of owners that are needed to make that possible.

We estimate that today there are over,000 residential units (so about 25,000 people) living in the area of the picture. In 1977 it would have been a few hundred, at most. Our contemporary image was posted in mid 2019 by Trish Jewison, who flies in the BC Global traffic helicopter.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 515-8 and Trish Jewison, twitter.

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Posted April 13, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Yaletown From Above

Here’s another aerial image paired with a recent shot – the more recent one taken in 2018 from CTV’s helicopter. The historic Yaletown district can be seen clearly as three streets of relatively low buildings, surrounded by more recent residential towers that the real estate industry has attached the Yaletown name.

The historic area was developed in remarkably short order between 1909 and 1913. When the original building permits were issued, many of the buildings didn’t have a street address, and the legal description was ‘CPR Reserve’. The railway company released the land for new development of warehouses in 1908, when Water Street’s storage buildings were oversubscribed. Household names like Otis Elevator had buildings here, later joined by Ford and Heinz, but the majority of developers were local businesses expanding their warehouse space. Woodward’s Stores, Mainland Transfer and Empress Manufacturing all built new storage or manufacturing premises here. The name was brought from Yale, where the CPRs original maintenance facility was located, before it was moved to Vancouver. (The roundhouse, just above David Lam Park, still stands today, now repurposed as the area’s community centre).

The area remained a mixture of storage and manufacturing buildings, with high rail loading docks on the downhill side of the block, and tracks running down the street. During the 1980s and 1990s this gradually changed; a few restaurants and retail stores opened in the area, and then as industry moved away and adopted different (often container based) freight handling, the are saw hugw changes. Residential and office conversions were carried out; the rail docks became extended covered patio space for a surprising number of restaurants, and developers looked to add additional storeys as buildings were converted and upgraded. A couple of buildings were in such poor condition that only the façade was retained, and one warehouse burned down and was replaced with the Opus Hotel, whose dimensions replicated the warehouse that was lost.

Our before picture dates to 2001 so there were already plenty of residential towers that had been built in the 1980s and 90s, including many built by Concord Pacific as they commenced developing the land they acquired from the Province following Expo ’86. The first towers were built on the north side of Pacific Boulevard, but in 2001 they were well on the way to complete West One, the first tower of the Beach Crescent neighbourhood (in the foreground) which even today has a couple of yet-to-be-developed non-market housing sites. The eight Concord towers in the picture developed since 2001 added over 1,100 units, and once complete the whole neighbourhood, clustered around George Wainborn Park, will have over 2,000 apartments, including non-market rental.

While much of the rest of Downtown South (to the north of the Concord lands) has been built out, one large tower is still under construction next to Emery Barnes Park, another on Smithe Street, and there are a few more infill sites left. The greatest potential change in this picture will occur when the 1948 Hudson’s Bay warehouse (today an office building on an entire city block) gets redeveloped – undoubtedly into residential towers.

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Posted February 17, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, Yaletown

East Pender and Main Street – ne corner

This is another corner where the building in our ‘before’ picture was built too early for us to identify an architect or developer. There was a 2-storey building here by 1889. It had furnished rooms on the second floor, and three retail units facing Westminster Avenue, (Main Street) running back half the depth of the lot (so sixty feet from front to back) along Princess, (East Pender today). The first space, on the corner, was shown as a Presbyterian Church, which was next door to a notions store and a dress maker. (The church notation seemed odd, as there was a church located nearby on Oppenheimer Street – todays East Cordova, but the 1890 street directory confirms the location, with J M McLeod as pastor). The dressmaker was Mrs. David E Shook, who was assisted by Miss Eliza Little and Miss Alice Adams. The notions store was listed as ‘fancy goods’, and was owned by Thomas Moorehouse. As both business owners appear to be new in town in the 1890 directory, we’re tentatively dating the building to 1889.

By 1901 the insurance map shows the upper floor used as offices, with a grocer where the church had been. That would be C F Foreman’s store – seen here in an 1895 image. His store had occupied the corner after 1891, and the census identified him as ‘Christ Foreman’. (That year the dressmaker was Miss Haywood, and W J Kidd sold dry and fancy goods). The 1901 census clarified C F Foreman was from Ontario and was Christopher Foreman. His wife Elizabeth, and their four children were all born in Ontario as well, and his daughter Lily was born in Toronto, so the family lived there at some point.

Mr. Foreman ran the City Grocery, a high class grocery store. Here’s a detail of the corner of the store, numbered as 432 Westminster in 1895 That year Miss Jane Dick was a dress and mantle maker in the northern store, and George Hobson (and Hobson Brothers) operated a boot and shoe store from the middle store. (By 1895 the numbering of the block had changed from the 200 block to the 400 block). George was a builder from Ontario, who sold footwear here from 1893 to 1896, and lived round the corner on Princess. The other brother, W D Hobson, was also associated with the footwear business, but didn’t stay in Vancouver. George switched to selling groceries on East Hastings in 1897, moving to the West End in 1901.

The painted signs noted that as well as importing teas and coffees, Mr. Foreman sold boots and shoes as well, and he supplied boots to the Klondike during the 1890s gold exploration. Mr. Foreman was elected as a School Trustee in 1894 and 1895, and to City Council as an alderman in 1900, and again in the next two years. In 1898 he had moved next door to the middle unit, was only selling boots and shoes, and McNair, Duke and McNair had taken over the City Grocery, with the Hastings Shingle Manufacturing Co sharing the address (presumably in the upper floor offices) for several years. Summers and Orrell were in the first store, selling millinery; Miss Bell Summers and Mrs. Jane Orrell shared the business.

As is often the case, the street numbering and the businesses had almost all changed again by 1901; these were 440 to 450 Westminster Avenue. Foreman’s were still in business, but had moved a bit further north towards East Hastings. The City Grocery was still in business, but the middle unit had been subdivided and occupied by a jeweler, a butcher and a piano dealer, while a tailor and a real estate dealer shared the first store.

The building today, according to the Assessment Authority, dates from 1901, but a glance at our comparison shows it was effectively rebuilt, and as their records only start in 1901, it is probably the building seen in the picture as far as structure and internal walls are concerned. The remodeling took place before the 1980s, and today, as it has been for many years, it’s home to the Chinatown branch of the TD Bank.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P265

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Posted December 23, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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Ormidale Block – West Hastings Street

For decades this building has been wrongly attributed. The architect has never been in doubt; it was G W Grant, a designer with an eccentric architectural style. While many architects attempted to achieve perfect symmetry, Grant was quite happy to throw in a variety of design elements, in this case stacked up on top of each other on one side of the façade. There’s an oriel window on the top floor, over two floors with projecting bay windows, over the elaborate terra cotta entrance, with an arched doorway.

The Heritage Designation of the buildings says: “Built in 1900 by architect George W. Grant for R. W. Ormidale, the building housed the offices of several wholesale importers.” With a carved terracotta plaque saying “Ormidale RW 1900” above the oriel window, it seems an appropriate attribution, although quite who R W Ormidale might be was never made clear. There are no records of anybody in the city with that name, (or indeed, in Canada).

An entry in the Contract Record, and an illustration in the 1900 publication ‘Vancouver Architecturally’ solve the mystery. The brochure, which was a promotional booklet put together by several of the city’s architects, shows a sketch of the building, but identifies it as the ‘Walker Block’. In 1899 the Contract Record announced “G. W. Grant, architect, is preparing plans for a four-storey block, 48×120 feet, to be built on Hastings street by R. Walker.”

This confirms that the developer was a Mr. R Walker – hence the ‘R W’. A 1900 court case clarifies that the developer was Robert Walker. Mr. Walker signed off on a payment owed to a builder in G W Grant’s office, for the ‘Robert Walker Block’. There was a Robert Walker resident in the city, He had arrived around 1890, with his wife Susan. He was from the Isle of Man, and a carpenter, and she was born in Quebec. They were still in the city in 1901, living at 1921 Westminster Avenue, and he was still a carpenter, and the family had grown to four, with two children at home. He designed and built a house at the same address in 1904 for $650. In 1911 Robert had become Clerk of Works for the City of Vancouver. Home was now called 1921 Main Street, and the house must have been pretty full as the Census registered 22 lodgers, fifteen of them from the Isle of Man. It seemed unlikely that he had the funds to develop this building in 1900 on his carpenter’s wages, but he was the only person with the right name in the street directory.

However, an 1898 list of eligible voters identifies another Vancouver resident – Robert Walker, miner. He was living in the Pullman Hotel. (The list shows there were seven Robert Walkers in BC, including a blacksmith and a missionary). The adjacent building, the Flack Block, was developed in 1899 by another successful miner, so it’s quite possible that the Ormidale Block was developed with the proceeds of the Klondike gold rush, perhaps by someone with Scottish roots (if the Ormidale name is significant). We haven’t been able to confirm that hypothesis, in part because of Robert Gile Walker. While he’s unlikely to be our developer, he was successful in the Klondike. Between 1897 and 1901 he made five trips in search of gold. After his fifth and final exploration in Nome, Alaska, Walker returned to Tacoma, where he married in 1901 and continued to run a successful real estate business.

Our developer may have been Robert Henry Walker, and it’s possible that the Scottish connection was indirect. It may be a coincidence, but in 1885 Robert J Walker, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, lived in a house called ‘Ormidale’, in Leicester, England. A Robert H Walker died in 1912, and was buried in the Masonic Section of Mountain View Cemetery, but we haven’t found anything to confirm he was the developer here..

The façade of the Ormidale block has recently been repaired and returned to its asymmetrical splendour, with a brand new office construction behind. It uses an unusual construction system; a hybrid structure consisting of an innovative wood-concrete composite floor system supported on steel beams and columns. This floor system allows for exposed wood ceilings throughout the office floors, a nod to the heritage aspect of this project, while achieving increased load-carrying capacity and stiffness by compositely connecting the concrete slab to the wood panels. At the back there’s an entirely contemporary skin consisting of rusted corten steel, and there’s also a green rooftop patio. Our top ‘before’ picture was taken in 2004, and the lower only five years ago, when the building was probably in its worst state. The bay windows had been removed many decades ago, although we’re not exactly sure when as the last image we have that shows them is from 1941.

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Posted December 2, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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118 Robson Street

This gas station, on the corner of Robson and Beatty, was developed in 1922 by Imperial Oil Ltd. It cost them $8,000 for Dominion Construction to build it, and Townley and Matheson designed it. We suspect that underneath the changes that have seen the building converted to a bar, the bones of the structure are nearly 100 years old. It almost certainly won’t make it to a century, as the site has been approved for redevelopment (along with the Catholic Charities building to the west, which started life as Northern Electric’s factory). The gas station part of the site will become a new boutique hotel, along with the heritage building, and there’s a condo tower as well.

This Vancouver Public Library picture shows the site in 1941, when it was addressed as 110 Robson and known as the Connaught Service Station – initially it was Imperial Oil station No.7. In 1941 it was run by T McMurdo and M Beaton, who had adopted the name when they took over from Imperial around 1935. They were still running the business in 1947 when “Thieves smashed a window to gain entry into the Connaught Service Station, 110 Robson some time during the night but fled empty-handed. Cupboards and drawers were rifled, but the safe was untouched”. The building was rebuilt as a bar – presumably when the service station use was abandoned – in 1979.

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Posted November 28, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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False Creek eastwards from above

Here’s another of Trish Jewison’s recent shots from the Global BC traffic helicopter, manipulated slightly to fit an earlier Archives image – this one from 1947. This one was taken in May this year, as the twisting Vancouver House was nearing completion. From this angle it looks like a large, but perfectly normal rectangular tower, but it has a triangular base (to fit next to Granville Bridge), which gradually grows to a rectangular upper portion. Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, it’s the most dramatic new building seen in the city in decades. It includes a new local shopping centre, with supermarket and drugstore, as well as public art suspended from the underside of the Granville Bridge. In 1947 there was a 35 year old 4 storey warehouse, and some single storey commercial buildings, which all remained until redevelopment started in 2015.

In the foreground Granville Island had even more buildings than it does today, all in industrial uses, mostly related to the fishing, logging and sawmill industries. There was a chain maker, saw blade supplier, forge and rope manufacturers. There was a net loft and a rigging company, a ship repairer (and a coffee shop). Today there are many more coffee shops, and the only real industrial use is the Ocean Cement plant next to Granville Bridge.

The rail bridge that was still around in 1947 was the Kitsilano trestle. It was built by the CPR (but the last steam train to Steveston ran in 1905) and was then used by the BC Electric Railway. The trestle started out as a link in an electric passenger transit system using street cars and connecting downtown Vancouver with farms on the South Side of False Creek and beyond. It connected the south shore of Vancouver to the railyards that filled the land between Yaletown and False Creek. The rail ran all the way to Carrall Street, where the Interurban headquarters was located. The trestle was removed in the early 80’s as it was in poor condition, rarely used and a navigational hazard. The original right-of-way can still be seen, curving around the Harbour Cove and Mariner Point residential buildings built in the mid 1980s.

Om the north side of False Creek, once the railyards were removed, BC Place Stadium was constructed, moving major sports into Downtown. The rest of the site became home to Expo 86, which reached round the Creek all the way to Granville Bridge. Sold as a single piece of property to the company now known as Concord Pacific, thousands of apartments (including non-market and seniors housing) have since been built on the land. There are still a few remaining sites to redevelop, and inland there are plans to add another tower as tall as Vancouver House on the opposite side of the bridge. Further towers will be developed to the north when the loops from Granville Bridge are removed. The site at the bottom of the pictures will see the greatest change; the Squamish Nation have unveiled plans for 6,000 apartments in 11 towers on the Indian Reserve land they were given back after the rail use was abandoned.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 59-03 and Trish Jewison, Global TV traffic helicopter.

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Posted November 11, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Granville Street from the air

The alignment of these aerial shots isn’t quite perfect – although the streets match up almost ideally, we’ve had to tilt the ‘after’ shot to make the streets match. The contemporary shot is on the website of aerial photography company Peak Aerials, taken in siummer 2016, while the before shot was taken ninety years earlier, in 1926 – one of the earliest aerial images available of the city.

There are only a handful of buildings still identifiably the same in both images. Two thirds of the way up, and to the right, the Lightheart Brothers apartment building, today called Brookland Court, is still offering apartments, these days as affordable non-market units. There’s a row of warehouse buildings on the right hand edge of the image which were all built in a few years in the early 20th Century when Canadian Pacific released the land for development. The building on the corner of Helmcken was developed by Leek and Co in 1910.

Along Granville Street there area series of early 1900s hotels and rooming houses, all still standing today and almost unchanged from when they were built. The majority were designed by Parr and Fee, who recycled the design with a side light well or two, and a façade of white glazed bricks and centre pivoted windows. There are several construction cranes showing in 2016, and the towers they were associated with have mostly been completed. There are three or four more already under construction or in the planning stage, including a series of three towers along Hornby Street in the bottom left of the picture, including one 54 storeys tall. A new office building is under construction as part of the same project, across the lane on Burrard Street. In future there will be more change, and more towers, as the intent is to remove the two loop ramps (although not the main offramps) and replace them with an at grade standard junction, creating two large development sites.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Van Sc P68 and Peak Aerials.

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Posted October 14, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Downtown from above (1)

Only 17 years separate these two oblique angled shots of the Downtown peninsula. Since our 2002 image was taken, over 26,000 residential units have been added Downtown and in the West End. That’s around 140 additional buildings of 10 or more storeys. Thousands more units are under construction and in the development stream, and even then the peninsula is by no means ‘built out’ – although sites are fewer, and harder to find.

There’s still a gap on the far right, on the waterfront, where the Plaza of Nations, and further Concord Pacific sites have yet to be built. There are a number of sites reserved for non-market housing inland behind and between the condo towers built by Concord on the former Expo lands, and a recent deal should see over half developed as non-market, with others returned to Concord for more market development.

On the left of the image Vancouver House is nearly complete, (so Trish Jewison, who photographed the 2019 shot from the Global BC News helicopter took the picture recently). From this angle the twisting taper of the building is almost invisible. In the middle of Downtown, the Wall Centre’s upper floors were reclad almost as dark as the bottom, so the distinctive two-tone effect in 2002 has been lost. From this distance the Empire Landmark wasn’t so obvious in 2002, but in 2019 it’s gone, and the replacement condo towers will be shorter. The Shangri La and Trump Hotel and condo towers almost line up from this angle, so only one tall tower appears in the distance.

Over on the right, the BC Place stadium has its new(ish) retractable roof, surrounded by new towers, with the distinctive rust red of the Woodwards Tower behind. The original ‘W’ was still in place in 2002 – now it’s down on the ground, and a replacement revolves in its place. Not too many new office towers have been added to the Central Business District, but that’s changing. Ten office buildings are currently being built, the most office space ever added to the city at one time, and much of it already leased. The biggest building is the Post Office, getting a pair of office towers added on top, with the huge building (that fills an entire city block) changing to office and retail space.

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Posted September 2, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown