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New connectivity hub approved for Vancouver’s Harbour Centre

Secure fibres will connect to the Westin Building in Seattle, a critical communication hub for the west coast and the U.S.
Spencer Building Harbour Centre
The 115-year-old Spencer Building will house advanced communications and state-of-the art data security . | Submitted

The City of Vancouver has approved a development permit that will launch the creation of a new state-of-the-art connectivity hub in the 115-year-old Spencer Building Carrier Hotel, part of the iconic Harbour Centre, according to Polaris Realty.

This project’s aim is to provide cloud and connectivity services to companies looking to connect to Vancouver’s communication networks and internet service providers. The data centre will allow enterprises to be closer to their western Canadian customers, expand existing infrastructure and connectivity in the region, as well as preserve a historic building. 

Chris Jones, director of data centre infrastructure and operations for the Spencer Building Carrier Hotel, says that the Harbour Centre is a western Canada communications hub and has always been a centrepiece of Vancouver. 

“There was limited capacity in the Vancouver market for some of the technical spaces needed, and [Polaris Realty] decided, ‘I think it's time for us to invest into the market and into Vancouver to bring some space to the needs of the West Coast’,” Jones said. 

According to a media release, the new permit is a milestone in what is to be a multi-year and multimillion-dollar rehabilitation project for the building. 

This new chapter for the building, originally built in 1907, will also offer the opportunity to further heritage preservation of one of Vancouver’s most iconic sites. The building has served as a Spencer, Eaton’s, and Sears department store and is currently home to the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University. 

Antonio Dal Sasso, Harbour Centre’s director of operations, says that it is a good building with good bones. 

He referenced a 2016 special heritage conservation plan whose goal was to preserve the building’s gothic revival and art deco exterior. Part of the permitting process for the new data centre involved approval from the Vancouver Heritage Commission. 

The data centre will house 20,000 feet of connected fibres on multiple floors of the Spencer Building Carrier Hotel and will be an expansion of the 60,000 square feet of data centres already being housed at the location. 

In addition, the permit gives the project a green light to install outdoor equipment on the roof of the historic building. This comes soon after the project received a first-of-its-kind approval to install its own set of private manholes leading directly into the building.

Jones says that this is the first time the City of Vancouver has granted a private owner this kind of permit for public street access. 

“It provides us with control and security around all of those very critical connectivity fibres and cables coming into the building,” he said. 

“[The permit] is really something that we're very proud of, and it's going to be really great for the Spencer Building Carrier Hotel as it moves forward and brings in these enterprise clients.” 

According to Jones, there is currently a private project underway that is going to bring a large quantity of dedicated fibres from Vancouver to the Seattle market. 

He said the private company that is working on this project alongside Spencer Building has “gone through all the right channels” for permitting as well as having the U.S. government sign off. 

“There's existing cables that go from Vancouver down to Seattle, but they're old. And so they're starting to fail, they're starting to get damaged, kind of wear out if you will. So, this new conductivity that will go from Vancouver to Seattle, I think, is another important piece of the puzzle,” Jones said. 

The new secure fibres will connect to the Westin Building in Seattle, which Jones says is a critical communication hub for the west coast as well as the U.S. 

“We're just evolving into this really cool complex that can house anything you need, in terms of facilitating anything you want from the data centre world,” said Dal Sasso.