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Downtown Vancouver building boom re-emerges after recession

Vancouver has emerged out the other side of the dark recession and is on track to have one of the great downtowns of the world, Mayor Gregor Robertson told a packed business luncheon Thursday.

Pointing to a rash of commercial building projects and a dramatic spike in building permits, Robertson said Vancouver is finished with what he called “the gut-wrenching days” of the recession.

In an upbeat speech to the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, Robertson said many of the brakes businesses put on as the recession began to wash over the city in 2008 have now been released.

“Business is booming, development is cranking up and jobs are flowing into the downtown,” he said.

The city’s boost in building permit values the city records is a good bellwether, he said.

As of last week, more than $460 million in building permits have been taken out in 2011, compared to $220 million in 2009. “We’re back up to pre-recession levels,” he said.

Much of those values are in six stand-alone commercial towers being proposed that will deliver 1.6 million square feet of office space. “That really demonstrates confidence and real hope for business and the economy downtown.”

Robertson didn’t identify all six projects. But in March Telus announced a $750 million development of its property at Georgia and Seymour, including a 22-storey tower for a new head office and a 44-storey mixed residential development.

The city is also advancing on its plans for new commercial facilities around BC Place, although earlier this month it rejected a $500 million plan for an expanded casino.

Robertson said he believes all the proposed development in the downtown will continue to improve the city’s international attractiveness.

“Downtown Vancouver is quickly becoming one of the most thriving, energetic downtowns in all of the world. It will rival the downtowns of New York and London and Paris,” he said.

“We are witnessing a surge of jobs being created downtown and there is no better indication of that the demand for new office space being built downtown.”

Robertson said his administration’s effort to lure clean technology and green businesses to Vancouver had helped make it “the third largest cluster in the world” of such companies.

And he credited the revamped Vancouver Economic Development Commission for much of that success, saying it was in part responsible for more than $300 million in new businesses being lured to Metro Vancouver since the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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