Vancouver developers plan high-tech park
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNN) -- Think of high-tech hubs in North America and cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York or Toronto immediately leap to mind. But proponents of the digital community in Vancouver are hoping to add one more name to that short list -- without sacrificing the city's image of being a livable, scenic landscape.
Perhaps the most notable project that's part of this endeavor is called tech-park.com, concepts of which are on display here at Comdex Canada West 2001.
Far from being just a Web site, tech-park.com is the name of a CDN $500 million (U.S. $320 million) investment aimed at luring technology companies to a specific part of downtown.
Tech-park.com was conceived in October of 1999 and has gone through several stages of redesign. It will eventually be 2.5 million square feet of buildings and usable area available for high-tech businesses. There will also be an adjacent 7-acre park.
Although Schroeder Properties Ltd. is privately funding tech-park.com, the company has needed to work closely with city officials to ensure the preservation of the local community.
As part of the city's approach to increasing its high-tech exposure, several hundred acres of land was rezoned last year to allow for more development.
The development permit for the first stage of tech-park.com is being submitted for approval on March 19. Council then has about three months to determine if all the conditions of the permit will be met. Construction on the site could begin as early as July.
High-tech meets urban landscape
Bill Elliott is a partner with the commercial real estate firm Avison Young Inc. that is handling tech-park.com. He said to entice technology companies from outside Vancouver to set up shop they are promoting the idea of an "urban lifestyle" with property that's flexible to technology users.
Three dedicated power lines will also supply the site from a nearby substation, and high-speed fiber optic cables will provide the necessary broadband access with an available satellite uplink.
Elliott admits that even with the support of the city, several challenges still lie ahead. Approximately half of the first stage has been committed to high-tech companies, but they must still bring in other interested firms amidst an economic downturn that has particularly hit the technology industry.
"Tech companies work at the speed of sound, and they want to see construction," said Elliott, commenting on the expedited nature of the development.
Elliott declined to name any of the companies that have expressed interest in tech-park.com, but he said they are sizable enough to have skirted the dot-com crash without much damage.
Certain conditions must be met
Larry Beasley, Vancouver's co-director of planning, said that while the development is beneficial to the city's economic growth, it must be handled in a delicate manner.
There are a lot of conditions on the tech-park.com project, said Beasley. These include public roads going through the land so as not to make it isolated from the rest of the city, planting trees throughout the site, and integrating with transportation and other services.
"There are concerns that the conditions be satisfied," he said. "Are there concerns in principle? No. This is the kind of development we've been hoping for."
Beasley said the feedback from residents has generally been supportive, with many people seeing the opportunity for new jobs.
"This is the urbanization of high-tech," said Beasley, adding that most such technology parks are located in the suburbs.
"When you bring it into the inner city it has to be a different development. We have a strategy to develop our high-tech sector. But we're not going to trade off the image of Vancouver just for development."
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