Pattison’s palace gets zoning approval

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – As automobile dealerships in Canada continue to push the boundaries of design, style, aesthetics and sheer size, construction will commence this year on what will no doubt be the crown jewel in the Canadian dealership body.

Fronting a massive commercial and residential project in downtown Vancouver reportedly worth more than $500 million will be the new home of Pattison Toyota Downtown.

The project, which had its rezoning application approved by Vancouver City Council in late December, should have shovels in the ground later this year. It features two residential towers of 54 and 36-storeys, another 14-storey tower and a seven-storey podium for residential, rental housing and retail uses including a grocery store.

Of keen interest to readers of this magazine will be the four floors below street level and the three floors above it set to anchor the highly visible corner of Burrard and Drake Street dubbed “Tower B.”  

“This is an incredibly unique dealership not just from an architectural point of view but also with the vertical integration we will employ by having the showroom above ground and service, parts, parking and inventory storage underground,” explained Bill Harbottle, president of the Jim Pattison Auto Group.

“The idea was that customers could stand on the main floor and look straight up three floors.”

Vehicles will be showcased in the mostly glass and mirror structure on what Harbottle and plans submitted to the city refer to as “fingers” or special stands soaring into the air upon which cars will perch.

The undersides of the displays will be mirrors that will reflect everything.

The undertaking is a joint effort of the Jim Pattison Group and Reliance Properties. It was first proposed in November 2010 and has since gone through several design revisions after the City of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel reviewed it.

Harbottle said the idea for a grand project goes back even further to when the Pattison Group bought Toyota Downtown roughly six and a half years ago.

He said the value of the location didn’t support the business case for running a car dealership on the site. As the executive committee started thinking about doing something more grandiose, discussions started with Reliance Properties, which owned some adjacent land.

A joint venture developed and the pair purchased some additional properties nearby before starting the design and rezoning application process.

The group went through a number of design phases Harbottle characterized as “very, very long” that even included seating an international design panel of architects and at least three redesigns of the towers.

Following the various hoop jumping, the allowance of the 54-storey building in the southern part of the downtown peninsula was reportedly made possible by the City’s General Policy and the Jim Pattison Group’s promise of contributing $15.8-million in community amenities.

That contribution is also said to include a $7-million LGBTQ community centre, $4 million for public facility upgrades including additional bike lanes, $2 million for the completion of cultural facilities and $2.8 million for the completion of downtown south parks.

Bing Thom Architects designed the office tower containing the automotive dealership. It will feature glass curves offering a “sculptural gesture” that give the building the ability to “self-shade” during the summer months.

The Toyota showroom was conceived as a “magical house of mirrors, with cars and shoppers appearing to float within the large open volume.”

A study of the artist’s renderings submitted to city council shows that fanciful PR lingo isn’t just hyperbole.

Pictures show a glass jewel box replete with mirrors and chrome. The “fingers” will be staggered and offset.

What will be particularly impressive is the functionality of the store.

Harbottle said the three-floor open showroom will turn the heads of passersby, but the impressive core rests below the surface.

One level down from the main floor will be service reception where customers can drive down to valets who will take their car and check them in.

The second basement floor will house a 28-bay service department, parts and a detail area.

Basement level three will be customer parking, and the fourth underground level will store and display additional new and used inventory.

The store will top out at 60,000 square feet.

The current location retails roughly 500 new and 300 used units annually. Harbottle said he expected that number to grow to 1,000 new by the time its new location is up and running.

The current store moved from the site in late October to the former home of a Mercedes-Benz corporate store at the corner of West Broadway and Hemlock Street immediately south of downtown.

That store offers staff 45,000 square feet of space, more than double the confines of the previous location. It also gets the team a chance to iron out issues with vertical operations as the dealership is on two levels with service on the ground floor and the showroom on top with rooftop parking above that.

Though there are many moving parts, a construction timeline suggested the new store would be open sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

He did not want to reveal specific costs related to the dealership component noting instead the significance of the December approval by council.

“This is an exciting project for us. We’ve had to have a lot of patience working through it. The big step has been getting the enactment from the city so now we can get serious and get to work. When this is finished, there won’t be anything like it.”