Many British Columbians have been working from home during the pandemic but as the province slowly reopens, offices will soon welcome back employees as well.
“What is gone now is the assumption that everyone will show up at the office no matter what,” said Erica Sangster, principal architect at D’AMBROSIO architecture + urbanism (DAU). “I think going forward there are going to be a lot of nuisances to why you’re at the office: What it’s giving to you in terms of your productivity and being flexible enough for people to work at home when they need to.”
DAU is working on designing a new office building for Jawl Properties in Downtown Victoria. The redevelopment plans would see the Capitol 6 Theatres complex, purchased by Jawl Properties in 2015, turned into a 10-storey high rise office and retail building with an urban plaza on the ground floor.
It’s a design that the team has been working on for years. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and more people began working from home, DAU and Jawl Properties had to think about the future of the office.
“We obviously had questions about whether this had an impact on all of the feasibility planning that had gone into the project as an office building,” said Sangster.
After some discussion, the team decided to go ahead with the project because the space is designed to be flexible, Sangster explained. It isn’t just an office building.
The ground floor will be a public space and will house local retailers, such as restaurants and service providers.
“It’s a classic model that you see all over the world where you have active public uses at the ground floor and you put the quieter office spaces up a level,” Sangster said.
Sangster added the project is still in the early phases of its rezoning and development permit application process and the team recently put in their submission for community consultation.
The proposed building is an example of the modern office spaces revitalizing the downtown core. TELUS Ocean is another high-rise office being planned for the city, at 11-storeys tall.
“It’s designed to be kind of an office building for the future in that Victoria’s economy is largely pivoted to a digital economy,” said Luke Mari, principal and development lead at Aryze Developments.
TELUS Ocean’s lobby will serve as a public retail space and the second floor will feature an amphitheatre Mari says they hope will host TED Talks and similar events. Above that will be a series of office floors and some dedicated to the future of TELUS’ Victoria operations.
“The office is definitely not dead,” said Mari. “I think the office serves a whole bunch of other things than just sitting and conducting work. There’s innovation, there’s collaboration, there’s social networks that’ll happen within the office.”
The space just looks different now, he explained.
“We’re redesigning the office for the office of the future which is always going to be a collaboration space, but introducing the flexibility the workforce has always wanted and now is commonplace,” Mari said.
Mari added the team is still working on final designs for TELUS Ocean, based on city and community feedback, and hope to go to a public hearing sometime this fall.