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Amazon layoffs raising spectre of added empty Vancouver sublease space

Downtown Vancouver has a 30-year-high amount of empty sublease office space
The Post office complex is set to be complete this quarter, with more than one million square feet handed to to do tenant improvements

Layoffs at one of B.C.'s larger employers raises the spectre that the city of Vancouver's 30-year-high amount of vacant sublease space will continue to balloon. Inc. (Nasdaq:AMZN) today announced plans to trim 9,000 employees, only two months after it laid out plans to cull 18,000 workers from what in January was more than 1.5 million global employees.

No one from Amazon was immediately available to say whether, or how much, its Vancouver workforce would be hurt by the layoffs. BIV last year ranked Amazon as the third largest national or global company in the province, with about 10,000 workers. An updated report from Amazon Canada pins the number of B.C. workers at 10,500.

Staff cuts could lead to the company subleasing real estate. 

"To date, Amazon has not put any sublease space on the market [in Vancouver,]" Colliers International associate director of research, Susan Thompson, told BIV.

Amazon is readying to move into about 1,050,000 square feet of office space at Quadreal Property Group's two-tower Post development in the city block bounded by West Georgia, Hamilton, Dunsmuir and Homer streets.

Thompson said she expects that development to complete this quarter, or at least be handed to Amazon to do tenant improvements.

"They took both buildings in that complex so that's quite a sizeable chunk of space that's coming on the market fully pre-leased to one tenant," she said.

Thompson said Amazon's move to the Post has been in the works for years and Amazon likely long ago made decisions on how to consolidate its workforce, and vacate some of its Vancouver real estate.

Total vacant sublease space in downtown Vancouver reached 722,000 sq. ft. in the fourth quarter of 2022 – the most in 30 years, according to CBRE.

The surging amount of vacant sublease space is largely thanks to large and full-floor spaces given up by major tenants downtown, the real estate brokerage said in its most recent office report.

Recruitment during the pandemic has meant that now employs approximately 4,500 office workers in downtown Vancouver, at what it calls its tech hub. Those workers have located in a shifting series of sites.

Amazon office workers occupy downtown Vancouver space at:
•Telus Garden, at 510 West Georgia Street;
• the Exchange, at 475 Howe Street;
• 745 Thurlow Street and
• an Oxford Properties building at 402 Dunsmuir Street.

The company's longtime distribution centres include:
• a 650,000-square-foot site on Braid Street, in New Westminster;
• a 200,000-square-foot facility on Annacis Island, in Delta; and
• a 1.2-million-square-foot distribution hub in Tsawwassen.

More recently, the company has opened warehouse, delivery station or sorting centre space at:
• 5636-272nd Street in the Township of Langley;
• the Port of Vancouver's Richmond Logistics Hub, at 16131 Blundell Road, in Richmond;
• Golden Ears Business Park, on Harris Road in Pitt Meadows;
• 7400 Vantage Way, in Delta; and
• 9385-200th Street in Langley.

Amazon's 2022 Amazon Canada Impact Report also lists what it calls an AMXL delivery station in Coquitlam, two delivery stations in Burnaby and a delivery station in Surrey, although it did not provide addresses.

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