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YVR plans to redesign a 300,000 sq-ft facility into an Airport Commerce Centre

A YVR report to Vancouver city council earlier this year suggested the airport could use some of the underutilized land on sea island to "help meet the need for large trade and transportation-related sites in support of B.C.’s economic recovery plans”
RichmondYVR
Vancouver International Airport is redesigning its former central utilities building into an Airport Commerce Centre.

Vancouver International Airport is redesigning a 300,000-square-foot facility originally intended to house one of the largest geoexchange systems in Canada into an “Airport Commerce Centre.”

Once it’s complete, the airport said the redesigned commerce centre will “serve as the business gateway to YVR’s terminal and offer tenants unmatched exposure to millions of passengers passing through the airport annually.”

YVR announced earlier this week that it has chosen Cushman & Wakefield to help the airport find a partner to complete construction and lease of the building, which is located near the main terminal.

As it is adjacent to YVR’s Cargo Village, the building can facilitate air cargo connections with future major developments on Sea Island and is near the U.S. border, according to the airport.

The project is part of the airport’s plan to use some of its underutilized land on Sea Island to help the community and economy, YVR told the Richmond News – although its not yet known what type of business will lease the building.

There’s also no timeline for the project yet, as it is still in the early days of the competitive process, YVR said.

YVR confirmed to the News that the facility being redesigned is the former central utilities building, which was part of the airport’s CORE Program – a large-scale infrastructure project halted in September 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry.

The CORE Program was designed when YVR was experiencing double-digit growth, and the central utilities building would have housed one of the largest geoexhange systems in Canada – a heating and cooling system that uses the earth’s renewable energy found just below the surface.

A report from YVR to Vancouver City Council in January states the airport began 2021 with the single biggest operating deficit and debt burden in the history of the facility, and will continue to see operating losses this year. Such a financial hit occurred even with the federal government waiving and deferring rent payments.

“Pre-COVID, 90 per cent of our revenues were passenger-related,” the report said. “To future proof our financial stability in service to the community, we are exploring ways to diversify our revenue streams and better utilize our significant industrial land base.”

The report suggested the airport could use some of the underutilized land on Sea Island to “help meet the need for large trade and transportation-related sites in support of B.C.’s economic recovery plans.”

YVR has since confirmed to the News that redesigning the former central utilities building into the Airport Commerce Centre is part of that plan.

Edgar Buksevics of Cushman & Wakefield pointed out that, at 0.6 per cent vacant, the Vancouver industrial market is seeing a steady decline in vacancy rates, along with rising rental rates and “robust tenant demand.”

“The Airport Commerce Centre provides a strategic offering to align with YVR and potentially participate in +$2 billion of future construction activity,” he said in a statement. “Given the historical strength of Vancouver’s logistics market and Airport Commerce Centre’s location, it’s an extraordinary opportunity.”

—With files from Mike Howell/Glacier Media