A riverside public market house has always been the centerpiece of the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 redevelopment project, but the early designs for the area’s other blocks are also aiming high when it comes to creating distinctive public spaces.
A two-story set of steps and terraced seating areas could become the visual centerpiece at the area’s northern end.
Representatives from developer Lincoln Property Co. and the architecture firms West of West and DLR Group attended a Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners workshop on Tuesday to outline their preliminary plans for blocks A and C, which together comprise the northern half of the 10-acre Terminal 1 property.
The team’s proposal calls for a pair of seven-story mixed-use buildings: a multi-family residential building on the western block and an office building on the eastern block. The buildings would feature ground floor retail on the south side opening out on to Columbia Way. The first two stories of both buildings would be a shared internal parking garage.
The garage entrances would all be on the north side, according to Lincoln Property Company executive vice president Patrick Gilligan, in order to draw traffic away from Columbia Way and onto the access road between the buildings and the BNSF railway berm.
The retail uses on the south side of the buildings would conceal the garage from view, with the goal of creating an open and pedestrian-friendly space connecting the north blocks to the rest of Terminal 1.
The design of the buildings is intended to highlight Terminal 1’s legacy as an industrial area by featuring warehouse-style glass cladding on the office building and various metal surfaces incorporated into the public areas along the retail section. The goal is also to give the building a distinct look that sets it apart from other nearby mixed-use projects at The Waterfront Vancouver.
“We think this kind of breaks up some of the homogeneity,” Gilligan said.
Gilligan didn’t announce any specific retail tenants, but he said the partners plan to select tenants carefully in order to land the kind of experiential retail that tends to succeed better than traditional retail in today’s market. Restaurant uses will be a major component, he said, and the partners will try to search for local tenants.
The central feature of the proposed design is a raised pedestrian area on top of the garage between the two buildings, with an elaborate set of stairs and terraced platforms leading down to the ground level on the south side.
Gilligan described the structure as “Spanish Steps”-inspired — referencing a famous outdoor stairway between two plazas in Italy — with lots of landscaping and places for visitors to meet and sit down. The stairs and mezzanine would be public, Gilligan said, with access to upper-floor portions of the buildings from the plaza.
The original Terminal 1 plans had called for a flat pedestrian route between the buildings at ground level, but Gilligan said that route became a dead-end “pathway into the rail berm,” which would have made it harder to find retail tenants for the rear spaces.
The elevated pedestrian area creates a more distinctive space with more daylight and better views, he said, and it raises a future possibility: a pedestrian bridge above the BNSF line that could connect to the mezzanine.
The bridge isn’t being proposed as part of this project, Gilligan said, but the mezzanine design would allow for such a bridge to be built at some point in the future, possibly as a way to connect Terminal 1 with a future development on the other side of the berm.
“We’re sort of setting the stage for that to happen someday,” he said. “If it doesn’t, we’ve still got this great raised pedestrian platform that the buildings can share.”
The garage levels are all above ground, and Gilligan said that was a deliberate choice so they can be repurposed later. Demand for parking is currently very high, he said, but the developers are trying to be mindful of potential transportation changes such as the arrival self-driving cars. If the demand for parking ever decreases, all or part of the garage could be converted into additional office or retail space.
Port CEO Julianna Marler asked about the impact of a potential future replacement for the Interstate 5 Bridge, and Gilligan said the building was designed with that project in mind. The retail and residential uses are almost all on the south and west sides of the block, he said, and the eastern side of the office building is angled to keep it outside of the likely footprint of a replacement bridge.
“We’re really trying to push much of the ground floor activity away from those bridge structures,” he said.
Marler and the port commissioners all reacted positively to the design ideas. Gilligan said the team’s next step will be to get input from the city before heading into the permitting process. The project is currently on track to break ground in the first quarter of 2021.