Chernoff Thompson Architects to revitalize Vancouver’s Sinclair Centre

Under the direction of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), Chernoff Thompson Architects (CTA) is leading the revitalization of Sinclair Centre in downtown Vancouver. This project is the first phase of PWGSC’s plan in reviving the civic identity of Sinclair Centre while maintaining its primary function as a Federal Services Centre serving the people of Greater Vancouver. Construction cost is estimated at $9.5-million.

Sinclair Centre is the only federal complex awarded the City of Vancouver Heritage Award for restoration and adaptive reuse (1987) in Vancouver’s downtown core, and is comprised of four historic heritage buildings: the former Main Post Office (built in 1910 and designated Federal Heritage “Classified”); the R.V. Winch Building (built in 1911 and designated Federal Heritage “Recognized”); the Customs Examining Warehouse (built in 1913 and designated Federal Heritage “Recognized”); and the Federal Building/Post Office Extension (built in 1936 and identified on the City of Vancouver’s Heritage Register). 

In 1986, the four buildings were restored and new skylights were installed to create an atrium space, and galleria walkways connect the four historic buildings. The integrated complex was named Sinclair Centre in honour of James Sinclair, the late federal fisheries minister and the father of Margaret Trudeau. The complex has housed upscale retail outlets, a food court, and various federal services offices since 1986. No major renovation has been conducted since then.

Today, the revitalization project will: relocate and consolidate the existing passport office, provide seismic upgrades to all major public areas including the atrium and galleria; improve acoustics in the atrium space; upgrade signage; improve interior and exterior lighting; and update the interior in a contemporary fashion.

A design charrette was conducted at the beginning of the design process with PWGSC, SNC-Lavalin and all consulting team members to create a distinct vision to breathe new life into the entire complex.  

According to Tony Yip, partner-in-charge at CTA, the revitalization project “sees the rebalancing of the characters of each individual building within the common public space by lessening the impact of any overpowering single style and period; the reidentification of Sinclair Centre as the federal presence in British Columbia; and the revival of a public indoor gathering space through the injection of common spatial qualities that continue to effectively interest its visitors.”

Along with the mandate to create a hub for all major public services for the Government of Canada in this downtown complex, the project also aims to enliven the dated and currently underused public space, and hopes to re-establish Sinclair Centre as an inviting public attraction while increasing public awareness of its heritage and historic values. To this end, CTA and PWGSC are working alongside the Vancouver Historical Society to include a new interpretive alcove displaying informative, educational and engaging historical photographs and illustrations. The project complies with LEED Silver requirements in the commercial interior category, and the anticipated completion date is Summer 2014.