Three years after it was sold by the city to a group of investors led by Vancouver’s Joe Segal and Suki Sekhon, the eight-storey Anvil Centre office tower in downtown New Westminster has its first tenant, an indication of the growing – and quirky – commercial real estate sector in Metro Vancouver’s nexus city.
The Anvil will become a gambling destination, the old Keg restaurant on Columbia Street is being retrofitted into a Tex-Mex style eatery and “Canada’s largest indoor trampoline park” has opened in an industrial site near the SkyTrain Baird Station.
Evolution Gaming is taking one floor of the tower to house a 16,000-square-foot studio that will eventually create 170 jobs, confirmed Roger Leggatt, vice-president at Cushman & Wakefield, the leasing agency.
When it launches through the B.C. Lottery Corporation playnow.com site, the operation will offer 10 live tables for blackjack, two types of baccarat and two types of roulette, Players will be able to see dealers via live streaming. Evolution’s other studios are in Amsterdam, London, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Italy, Spain, Malta and Belgium.
Leggatt said Cushman & Wakefield is on the verge of getting some other leases “over the goal line” that would take up a significant portion of the rest of the Anvil space.
Meanwhile, clothing giant Aritzia has leased more than 223,000 square feet of industrial space at the Queensborough Logistics Park, one of the largest leasing deals in the region this year, while Wesgroup is eyeing another 200,000 square feet of office space at its Brewery District development.
Directly across the Royal Columbian Hospital, which is undergoing a massive expansion, the Brewery District is nine-acres next to the Sapperton SkyTrain station and one of the most successful mixed-use developments in Metro Vancouver.
Virtually all of its 560,000 square feet of office space was snapped up quickly. TransLink signed a 20-year lease on 261,000 square feet for its eight-storey headquarters, and a number of doctors and other medical professionals bought office space for $468 to $685 per square foot. A third office building was sold to the Health Science Association. Currently, Wesgroup is completing a residential tower on the site, with a mix of rental and strata apartments, and a company spokesman confirmed a new office tower is planned.
In the first half of this year in New Westminster, total commercial building permits was $6 million, compared to $64.8 million in residential permits and $11.5 million in institutional and government building permit values.
But there is more commercial building in the pipeline, according to Blair Fryer, the Royal City’s communications and economic development manager.
He noted that Westminster Toyota has submitted applications to build a new dealership in Queensborough; and the old Keg building is being renovated into new Kelly O’Bryan’s/Carlos O’Bryan’s location. There is also an application for a new banquet hall and the new entertainment complex under the banner of Extreme Air Park opened in August. The park features 40,000 square feet of “wall to wall trampolines”, according to the developer.
Sapperton Green, a master planned community led by the BC Investment Management Corp. and Bentall Kennedy that includes up to 1.5 million square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail along with more than 3 million square feet of residential, has yet to start development near the Baird Street station.
There is also a $2 million application to expand a liquor store and add commercial space, along with a five residential units, on Front Street; and a mixed-use development will add nearly 11,000 square feet of retail and offices with two new residential buildings.
“Much of the commercial under construction is ground-level shopping at the bottom of mixed use towers, which are dominated by the residential component,” Fryer said.
The big construction news in New Westminster, however, is the $1.1 billion Royal Columbian Hospital expansion, which has already started. Plans call for a new acute-care tower, a larger emergency department, and upgrades to existing space. Preliminary design concepts have also been unveiled for the new mental health and substance use wellness centre, which is a part of Phase 1 of the project.
Bird Construction is the contractor for phase one, which includes a new mental health facility. Construction started in March and will complete in late 2019.
"This is wonderful news for New Westminster," said Mayor Jonathan Coté, "Royal Columbian Hospital is a key contributor to our local economy.”