Eclectic coffee shops, breweries and thrift stores are not the businesses one would expect to see nestled in Vancouver’s “up and coming” corporate office neighbourhood.
But those amenities, along with proximity to rapid transit and residential opportunities, are exactly what is attracting companies to settle in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant area. As a result, the neighbourhood – dubbed Vancouver’s innovation district – is turning into a mosaic of a variety of users and uses.
“It’s not your traditional office tower type setting, but you do have that independent coffee roaster next to the independent brewery, next to a biotech company, a [visual effects] company or someone who specializes in gaming,” said Glenn Gardner, principal at Avison Young.
Walkability, transportation options, housing and a vibe that caters to creative industries are driving technology and creative companies’ interest in relocating to or opening space in the area just south of False Creek.
This is influenced by employer efforts to accommodate employee needs, and to attract more talent, according to Jarvis Rouillard, senior vice-president at PCI Developments.
Zoning changes have made this possible.
Prior to January 2021, Mount Pleasant was predominantly zoned for light industrial real estate, said Gardner. Once zoning regulations were relaxed to accommodate both office and industrial, there was an influx of companies to the neighbourhood, particularly from biotechnology and visual effects firms.
“It was really a relief valve for the other markets that were close to Vancouver that attracted the creative industry. Mount Pleasant has really been the beneficiary of what has been traditionally a very tight Yaletown market,” Gardner said.
As competition grew, many companies saw Mount Pleasant as an equally attractive option, with zoning that would allow for the types of buildings needed, according to Gardner. In addition, many buildings in the Yaletown area were becoming undesirable as a result of aging and poor amenities, added Marco DiPaolo, an executive at Colliers.
“For all the same reasons that people were attracted to Yaletown 15 plus years ago, they’re now looking at Mount Pleasant because what’s happening is you’re getting developers assembling lots in Mount Pleasant and creating new buildings. Those new buildings are in an area where they can accommodate larger tenants too,” DiPaolo said.
The Vancouver-Broadway area, which includes Mount Pleasant, has a vacancy rate of 8.9 per cent, according to Avison Young, with Yaletown’s vacancy rate nearly double that, at 15.4 per cent.
According to Colliers, Mount Pleasant specifically has a much lower vacancy rate of 5.8 per cent.
The neighbourhood is bordered by Cambie Street to the west and Clark Drive to the east. North to south, it occupies the area between False Creek and 16th Avenue.
A notable presence in the area is AbCellera Biologics Inc. (Nasdaq:ABCL), which is creating its own AbCellera campus in Mount Pleasant. The space will become the company’s global headquarters, according to Murray McCutcheon, the company’s senior vice-president of corporate development.
Mount Pleasant’s capacity for industrial zoning allows the company to build highly specialized lab spaces and facilities, something they would not be able to achieve in downtown Vancouver, he said.
“Our campus provides flexibility for different lifestyles. Those who want to live near the office can walk or bike to great restaurants and grocery stores,” McCutcheon said. “It is also very close to all of the main transit lines, which provides the option to conveniently commute from other neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland.”
AbCellera has three lab facilities in the area, and is building a 380,000-square-foot campus on West 4th Street. It also has a manufacturing facility, for clinical-grade antibody medicines, near the new St. Paul’s Hospital campus.
Another notable development in Mount Pleasant is a seven-storey mixed-use office building by Strand Development Corp. at 360 West 2nd St.
The site will allow for creative industrial space with offices above. The mixed model of office and industrial in one building is the blueprint of what the neighbourhood will see in the coming years, Gardner said.
The building will offer roughly 113,550 square feet of space in total, and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2025, according to Avison Young.
“It’ll be really interesting to see future developments in that area,” Gardner said. “I think we’re going to continue to see a lot more groups begin to flock to this area because it gives you all the amenities – like the breweries, great independent restaurants, coffee shops, access to Olympic Village and access to rapid transit – without having to be right in the downtown core.”
QuadReal Property Group, Hungerford Properties, Westbank and Onni Group all have plans for developments in and surrounding the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, along the Broadway Corridor, according to Avison Young.