Canada Post to stay downtown

Canada Post has dropped plans to sell the Vancouver Mail Processing Plant, shutting the door on possible major redevelopment.

Canada Post has dropped plans to sell the Vancouver Mail Processing Plant, shutting the door on possible major redevelopment.

Canada Post has dropped plans to sell its Vancouver Mail Processing Plant on Georgia St., ending speculation that the massive, block-long landmark could be the location for a new Vancouver Art Gallery or other major development.

Once the largest welded steel building in the world, the Vancouver plant featured the latest technology when it went into service in 1958. It had a helicopter pad on its roof and a two-kilometer underground tunnel to the waterfront rail station. The tunnel was never used, but management landed helicopters on the roof during a strike in the early 1990s.

Canada Post’s plan was part of the Harper government’s 2007 decision to sell off government property across Canada, a policy that led to the controversial sale of the Sinclair Centre to Larco Investments.

Canada Post linked the sale with its own national scheme to modernise the post office by moving out of downtown cores to state-of-the-art mail processing plants in the suburbs. These gigantic facilities, built on former military bases in the US, are costly, land-hungry monsters that require fleets of trucks. (Winnipeg’s new plant has been completed.)

But the Vancouver sale was immediately challenged by the Musqueam First Nation, which sees the property as part of a potential treaty settlement. Despite significant interest in the building from many quarters, including a VAG board committee seeking a larger building, talks stalled.

Now Canada Post has given up. Relieved members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were told recently the plant will be upgraded, a decision confirmed to me this week by a Canada Post representative, who wrote that “Canada Post has adjusted its plans and prioritized initiatives strategically into phases to make the most of these resources.

“As a result, we will not be doing major renovations or building a new plant to replace the existing Vancouver Mail Processing Plant on Georgia Street or the Vancouver Parcel Distribution Centre (in Richmond) in the immediate future.  However, we will be laying the foundation for the Modern Post by purchasing new equipment that will bring economic gains to the company and be more ergonomically accommodating for staff.”