Colin Bosa, chief executive officer for Bosa Properties, and his team toured the world in search of the right architect for a new condo tower in Burnaby’s Metrotown, which would become one of the first to launch amid the pandemic.
The Bosa team toured the U.S., Norway and Germany, as well as visiting Copenhagen, before finally settling on the world’s largest architectural firm, Gensler. Fast-forward a few years and pre-sales have just launched for the 41-storey Central Park House.
Gensler, design architects for Central Park House, has a substantial portfolio of commercial projects in Canada, and has designed several plans for housing projects that didn’t pan out. Central Park House is the firm’s first residential project to be realized in Canada.
The San Francisco-based firm has 50 offices around the world and a new satellite office in Vancouver. Co-founded by architect Art Gensler, Gensler is known for designing China’s tallest tower, the 128-storey Shanghai Tower.
Bosa plans new project with Gensler
Bosa, a long-standing, family-run operation with in-house construction crews, is particular about its choice of architect because of an interest in “the materiality of buildings,” said Colin Bosa, son of Bosa Properties founder Robert Bosa.
The collaboration went so well that he’s in talks to work with Gensler on another project, although it is too early to give details.
“That iterative process working with Gensler is a real privilege,” Bosa said, “because when you see the opposite — where you are waiting for information and timelines get drawn out — it can be quite frustrating. But, they are so quick we have really enjoyed working with them.
“One thing I would say about them, as the complexity of the building increases, they start to shine even more. They have this wealth of resources at their fingertips.”
Central Park House and its amenities
Central Park House is at 5977 Wilson St. in Burnaby and the design includes six townhomes at ground level with another 355 condominium units — a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units that range from 435 to 2,270 square feet.
A special feature is the distinctive 15,000-square-foot amenity space with pool midway up the building, called the Horizon Pavilion. The space is a nod to the Shanghai Tower’s eight stacked amenity zones, or “villages,” and it’s about double the size of a typical amenity space, said David Epstein, principal and design director at Gensler’s New York office.
“Usually with an amenity room it is at ground level and you walk by it as you go up to your apartment. We were thinking of a connected space in the middle of the tower as a way to build community and a way to make a special moment out of that.
“Imagine being in (the) pool and having those views in Central Park every day.”
Epstein said despite the pandemic driving the necessity of remote work from home, the design plan for the units and the building remained the same.
As it turned out, the one-bedrooms with dens, the massive amenity space and the building’s outdoor areas fit within a post-pandemic world. That shift has changed building design much the way it impacted design during the Spanish Flu pandemic, Epstein said.
“You cannot help but think about what has happened. It’s a major influencer. When you look at the last time it happened in 1918, that’s where modernism really came from.”
Highly efficient use of space
There was a shift away from dark Victorian spaces to open, airy interiors in response to that pandemic and the need for visible cleanliness and easy-to-clean materials. Epstein said today’s architects are equally influenced by the COVID-19 virus.
“We are going to see more attention to outdoor spaces, to buildings that breathe better; we are working on those types of things and how do you survive mentally.”
The region’s high land values require creative and efficient use of space, too, both within the unit spaces and the public areas.
“With Bosa as our client they do a lot of research on what is selling, what is the market like, how do you make a better place to live and a lot of that is that price point, not to get it too high,” Epstein said.
“We are continuing to look at every square metre, how to make it more efficient and still great value for that homeowner. Every inch really counts, more than ever.”
Central Park House units start at around $450,000 and Bosa said he is seeing first-time millennials and parents buying future homes for their kids. Bosa projects, he said, tend to attract slightly more owner-occupiers than investors, compared to the condo market in general.
Metro Vancouver condo market improves
So far, sales have gone well for Central Park House. For most of last year the firm wasn’t thinking about launching projects, said Bosa, but then he saw the condo market start to pick up in December.
“We’ve continued to see that into this year,” he said. “So when we launched Central Park House, obviously we are trying to do it in a COVID-friendly way and that has been a challenge, using technology in a different way because we just can’t get the volumes of people through the presentation centre.
“But, the response has been good and sales have gone well enough to get enough presales and start construction of the project, so we have been very happy about that.
“We have a cautiously optimistic outlook on the market going forward. Obviously the lower interest rate environment has helped us. It remains to be seen how long that environment lasts.”
Occupancy is scheduled for sometime during 2025.
In response to the City of Burnaby’s mandate that new Metrotown developments include affordable housing, Bosa Properties will announce a rental tower on Kathleen Street, near Central Park House, in the next week.