For the first time since at least the turn of the century — and quite possibly ever — there are four tower cranes visible on downtown Vancouver’s skyline.
It’s the latest record set by a boom in major construction that kicked off in 2016 and has continued unabated, even amid this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Two of the cranes have been in place for a while: the crane at the site of The Columbia apartment tower at Block 20 of The Waterfront Vancouver, which went up in March, and the crane at the site of the Angelo Tower office building at the intersection of Mill Plain Boulevard and C Street, which went up in November 2019.
The other two joined the lineup last week, almost simultaneously. One is at the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 redevelopment site for construction of the future AC Hotel by Marriott, and the other is at downtown Vancouver’s Block 10, where Holland Partner Group has commenced construction of a mixed-use residential and office building.
It was almost a five-crane lineup — Cascadia Development Partners used a tower crane at the site of its Aria Apartments project late last year, but that crane came down in August, two months too soon to overlap with last week’s pair of newcomers.
Four at once is apparently a local record, but it would be tough to find a time in the past few years when there wasn’t at least one crane towering over downtown Vancouver. The current wave began in 2016 with the construction of The Uptown apartment building on Main Street.
Before that building was finished, development kicked off at The Waterfront Vancouver, bringing in two more tower cranes to build three of The Waterfront’s first five buildings: the Murdock office tower and the Rediviva and RiverWest apartment buildings.
To the east of the Murdock, the Hotel Indigo and Kirkland Tower project broke ground in 2018, adding a tower crane of its own to the skyline from late 2018 until February.
The resurgence came after a lengthy period with no cranes at all. Prior to 2016, the most recent tower crane project in downtown Vancouver had been the Vancouvercenter, a planned quartet of apartment and mixed-use buildings to the east of Esther Short Park from developer Vandevco.
Three of the towers were built in 2001, but the fourth tower project languished for almost two decades until the city reached a deal with Holland Partner Group to develop it. The six-story tower has been under construction for the past 18 months, but without the use of a tower crane.
Four cranes is a lot for Vancouver, but it’s a very modest count compared with some of the city’s larger neighbors, who are in the midst of construction booms of their own.
According to the biannual Crane Index report from construction consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall, Seattle boasted 43 cranes in the third quarter of 2020, the highest count among U.S. cities — although thoroughly trounced by Toronto, Canada, with 124.
It’s a crown that Seattle has held multiple times in recent years, racing against the likes of San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. At its peak in the summer of 2018, Seattle was home to 65 cranes.
Portland has been no slouch in crane counts either. The RLB index puts the city at 27 cranes in the third quarter, ranking fourth in the United States. Portland’s peak was 32 in January 2018.