In a very short period of time, Vancouver has evolved from a primarily resource-extraction based economy to an economy increasingly dominated by a number of emerging industries that could loosely be defined as the creative economy. However, as is often the case, the built environment is reactive and often too slow, forcing tenants in the changing economy to make do with whatever premises are available.

Starting with TELUS Garden, we’ve attempted to get out in front of the changing demands of this new sector of the economy. This was the reason we went looking to partner with Ryan Holmes. As the founder of Hootsuite, one of Canada’s most successful new economy enterprises, Ryan brought a particular knowledge. Our goal was to create a campus-like setting but one knit into a neighbourhood that is emerging as one of the most interesting areas in the country. Importantly, one that will be well-served by transit and within walking or biking distance of downtown Vancouver.

We have been working with the City of Vancouver for a number of years, to reimagine the zoning in this area. The very nature of industry has fundamentally changed and our industrial-zoned land base needed to be retooled to recognize these new circumstances. So, we teamed up with Gregory Henriquez, also the architect with me on TELUS Garden, Woodward’s and many other projects across the country, to design workspace for the creative economy. Now, four years later, we have produced Main Alley.

It was Ryan’s idea that the existing alley running parallel to Main Street, which has become for the past few years the main artery of the Vancouver Mural Festival, should be the central organizing element of the entire campus. We also wanted to create a rich, retail and amenity space at the base of each building that takes inspiration from some of the interesting retail that has blossomed on Main Street but will be curated to have its own unique character. Above that retail, will be large plates of workspace with operable windows, abundant greenspace, roof decks, gardens and all of the infrastructure to support your team.

Another major objective of Main Alley is to demonstrate leadership in sustainable development. Creative Energy, our Vancouver-based district energy system provider is committed to undertaking ownership and operations of the existing energy systems at Main Alley. The system will create a new hub for district cooling that will expand to serve other buildings in the surrounding area in the future. By taking advantage of this existing low-cost, low-carbon energy system, the development is demonstrating climate leadership and smart city-building.

Our hope is that future generations will look at this project as the impetus for the entire reimagining of the future of work and workspace. A future recognizing that we seek not just to work, but to create, collaborate and innovate.

Ian Gillespie, 2018