Electra

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989 Nelson Street, Vancouver, BC

Electra
ElectraVanExterior.jpg

Exterior shot of The Electra
Building Information
Architect Ronald Thom and Ned Pratt
Management Company Colyvan Pacific Real Estate Management
Number of Units 242
Number of Floors 21
Year Built 1957
Construction Method Concrete
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989 Nelson Street, Vancouver, BC
Distance to Public Transit Over 45 options nearby
Region Vancouver
Municipality Vancouver
Zoning CD-1
Title of Land Strata


Contents

Background

Historic photo of former BC Hydro Building


The Electra is an easily recognizable building in Vancouver's downtown because of its elongated lozenge shape covered with glass. Situated in Vancouver's financial district, this 21-story building does not look residential. That's because it wasn't originally designed for condominiums. Instead, this historic building dating from the 1950s was the headquarters of BC Hydro, formerly called BC Electric. As a result, the building was first known as the "BC Electric Building" and then the "BC Hydro Building" when the province passed legislation in 1961 to make BC Electric, a private company, into a crown corporation known as BC Hydro.[1] The previous headquarters were at Carrall Street and moved in 1957 with the new building's completion.

The Electra has heritage status and is held up as an early example of modernist architecture in Vancouver.

In 1995, the building was transformed into 242 residential units and 205 commercial spaces with executive offices and retail on the ground level.[2] Paul Merrick of the Merrick Architecture firm was the architect for the conversion. The building is now called "The Electra."

Given its historic context as the headquarters for BC Electric/Hydro, it's not surprising the building bears the name "Electra" to connect it to its past. The Hydro building had an 'electric presence' because the company deliberately left the office lights on at night to create a city icon of electrical development. Such a bold gesture also lended gravitas and power to the company who were positioning themselves in the vanguard of British Columbia's electrical and technological future.[3]

Between 1957-1998, the address was originally on 970 Burrard Street. Afterwards, the address changed to 989 Nelson Street and was set back from Nelson street to allow for a vehicular drop-off area.[4] BC Hydro relocated to new offices in Vancouver and Burnaby in 1990. The lights are no longer left on at night but the building still remains a proud high-rise monument to West Coast modernist architecture in Vancouver.



Location

Courtyard across from The Electra

The Electra is located at 989 Nelson Street at Burrard Street, right in Vancouver's downtown financial district and across from the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre and courtyard, providing residents easy access to green space. Other nearby outdoor spaces include Nelson Park and Robson Square that currently houses the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The Electra has a central and convenient location for shopping, dining, and recreation. Pacific Centre mall is only a few blocks away, and Robson Street is also close by for shoppers interested in more boutique, one-of-a-kind stores. Notable buildings in the area include St. Paul's Hospital, St. Andrew's Wesley United Church, First Baptist Church, Dal Grauer Substation, the iconic One Wall Centre (a skyscraper hotel and condominium), and Scotiabank Theatre for a movie night. Residents can hop on the aquabus to Granville Island for fresh, local food and artisan crafts at its public market.

There's an IGA Marketplace a few steps from the building and numerous cafes and restaurants such as Café de France, Waves Coffee, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Blenz Coffee, Bar One, Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, Guu Garden, Sushi Maki, and Relish Gastropub & Bar to name a few.

Pattison High School and VanWest College are nearby schools. The Electra has an ideal Walk Score of 100 out of 100 and is easy walking distance to several SkyTrain stops: Vancouver City Centre, Granville, and Burrard.[5]

Construction

Vancouver's diamond building

The Electra is a fine example of West Coast modern architecture designed by Ronald Thom and Ned Pratt of the local firm Thompson, Berwick and Pratt. The Electra is listed as a heritage site with Class A status, meaning "of primary importance" on the Vancouver Heritage Register.[2] Its distinct diamond or lozenge shape, best seen from a bird's eye view as shown in the photo, gives Vancouver a distinct downtown skyscraper in what is typically thought of as an architecturally uninteresting city skyline.

The Electra has a reinforced central concrete service core with cantilevered floors flanking either side of the tower, giving the building an innovative floor plate that contributes to the building's heritage status.[3] Slender vertical steel columns on the perimeter provide additional support, extending from the base to the cornice of the tower.[6]

The building has a shallow depth from the concrete core to the windowed exterior because Dal Grauer, BC Electric's president at the time, requested the architects to design a building where all the 1000+ employees' offices would be within 15 feet or 4.5 metres from a window to benefit from natural light[2] - a far cry from the typical office cubicle setting of today where only executives occupy the coveted 'window offices.'

The architects collaborated with British Columbia artist B.C. Binning to create interior mosaic tiles to reflect the grey, green, and blue landscape of the West Coast.[3] These tiles are visible in the common areas such as the entrance and elevator lobby.

Layout and Features

Suites in The Electra range from studios to two bedrooms. Penthouse suites are available on the 21st floor overlooking the downtown core. The extensive window area is a huge selling feature at The Electra.

The interiors have been completely redesigned with the building's conversion to condominiums, including even more expanded windows with opening sections and suspended ceiling construction to allow for better soundproofing. The wide windows allow for nearly panoramic views.

The suites are equipped with large, space-efficient Eurostyle kitchens and oversized ceilings. Units have individually-controlled air conditioning.[7]

The Electra boasts unique heritage decor such as diamond-shaped door pulls to match the building's exterior shape, interior black terazzo flooring in the plaza and stairwells. As well, tiled planters all work together to create a Pacific Coast colour scheme and ambiance that's fitting for such an iconic Vancouver building.

Floor Plans

Here is a floor plate showing The Electra's innovative wings flanking the central tower as well as a studio layout:

Amenities

The Electra comes with a fine list of amenities:

  • Private fitness club featuring saunas, showers, and lockers
  • Billiards room
  • Theatre room
  • Table tennis room
  • Party room with full kitchen
  • Outside patio with barbecue area
  • Six high-speed elevators
  • On-floor laundry facilities
  • On-floor storage
  • Indoor/outdoor garden court
  • Conference centre
  • Lounge area with library
  • Bicycle storage
  • Three guest suites

Bylaws

Electra Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets No
Age No
Barbecues Yes


Rentals are allowed at The Electra but the condominium does not accept pets.

There is no age requirement for tenants.

Barbecues would not be permitted seeing that there are no balconies, but there is a barbecue grill area that residents can use on the outdoor patio.

Sustainability

Considering that this building was BC Hydro's headquarters, it is not surprising that it comes with a number of sustainable building elements such as power smart electrical fixtures, a cost-effective heating and cooling system using a heat pump, and double-glazed tinted windows that are energy-efficient.

The high ratio of windows to floor space bring in an abundance of natural light that reduces the need for artificial lighting.[4] The building's central location further demonstrates its 'green consciousness', where residents can easily walk to and from daily errands.

Trivia

Heritage horns on Pan Pacific Vancouver
Dal Grauer Substation next door
  • When The Electra was converted into condominium units in 1995, they sold out within eight hours.
  • 10 large aluminum air horns used to sit on top of The Electra building and sounded each day at noon with the first four chords of "O Canada." BC Hydro commissioned Robert Swanson, an engineer and sound specialist, to build them as part of the Canada Centennial Project. The number 10 represented the number of Canadian provinces. They played from 1967-1990 until BC Hydro left this building. The horns were transferred to the Pan Pacific Hotel's roof and are owned by Canada Place. People working in the downtown area can still hear the bells every day at noon. The link in the References Section takes you to the Wikipedia page where you can hear the first four chords.[8]
  • At the time, The BC Hydro Building was said to be the tallest office tower in the British Commonwealth, but this wasn't the case.[9]
  • The Electra is adjacent to the Dal Grauer Substation, another heritage site and early modernist building in Vancouver designed by the same architects. It served electrical power to Vancouver's post-war business district. This three-story concrete building has an exterior covered in bright glass mosaics laid out in a grid pattern to resemble the bold, primary colours of the modernist paintings by Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian. The nighttime lights of The BC Hydro Building played off the lighting technology at this earlier site built in 1954. The substation was named after the former chair of BC Hydro and Power Authority, Dal Grauer.[10]


References

  1. Wikipedia-BC Hydro
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Electra
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Historic Places-Electra
  4. 4.0 4.1 BC Condos
  5. Walk Score
  6. World Flicks
  7. Les Twarog & Sonja Pedersen
  8. Wikipedia-Electra Building (Vancouver)
  9. Emporis
  10. Historic Places-Dal Grauer Substation


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