Today we are posting Part Two of our interview with an insider familiar with the potential fate of Downtown Vancouver’s Canada Post building. On Monday we posted Part One which included the building’s possible fate as a complete tear-down, with the possibility of larger-format retail and residential replacement.
We also discussed the possibility of a larger store taking part of the current Hudson’s Bay Parkade site, located immediately East of the Hudson’s Bay Department Store. We found this to be an interesting possibility and possibly a better option for Target, Walmart or other retailers looking for prime Downtown Vancouver space. This of course would depend on the site’s current owner…
Retail Indider: I did some homework and found that the reason the area around Canada Post is so ‘vacant’ is because the city wants to preserve space for office buildings and ‘places to work’. Could this keep housing off the Canada Post site?
Insider X: Like I mentioned, a purchaser or the current owner may rezone the site from C1 to CD-1, allowing essentially a ‘free-for-all’ development on the site – within reason of course. We already see this happen with building sites in the West End. Zoning is too low (in the West End) so developers simply apply for a rezoning so they can build taller and denser.
Retail Insider: That seems sneaky… buy a site with zoning you don’t like and simply ask for it to be changed?
Insider X: Take that complaint to City Hall like the rest of them (X laughs).
Insider X: Regarding office towers, there are several either about to start construction or soon to be started. More are proposed for Downtown. Despite the low office vacancy rate, we have too much office space about to be built. You see the parkade block East of The Bay? It’s supposed to be partially office towers. It’s still just parking. Unless they can get some residential going, it will just sit, despite its having been granted an FSR density of something like 10.0 or 12.0 – I forget which of the two but this happened around late 2006-early 2007.
Retail Insider: I thought I heard that the Canada Post site was to become the new Vancouver Art Gallery?
Insider X: That was a lovely pipe dream that we knew wouldn’t happen. Ottawa owns the site and we all know the Federal Conservatives will ensure this site makes money. Watch for an Art Gallery within a couple of blocks of this site, however.
Retail Insider: Do you think a large store, maybe a department store, would consider opening at the Bay Parkade site? It’s closer to Pacific Centre and the newly renovated Hudson’s Bay department store.
Insider X: I’m not aware of such a proposal but it would be a great idea. Being so close to The Bay and the new Telus Garden. I believe the site was slated to include an office tower at Georgia and Seymour, a hotel tower mid-block on Seymour, another office and retail component, and one or two residential towers. I would have to check my records to confirm the proposal though I can say for sure nothing will be happening with that site in the next year or probably many (chuckles).
Retail Insider: Back to Canada Post. How might aboriginal land claims get involved with the development of the site?
Insider X: Aboriginal land claims are a thorn in the side of this Government. It wants them settled and more accurately, it wants them to go away. The Feds might pay some sort of lip service about sale proceeds going to aboriginal coffers but we all know how much they really care about the plight of aboriginals in this country (X shakes head). So yes, expect the site to be marketed without much external consideration.
Retail Insider: Is it worth our effort to fight to save a potentially important heritage structure?
Insider X: It’s always worth a shot. I think there is architectural merit to parts of the building. The interior has been modified to the point that it retains little of its original character. Hopefully any development at least provides a nod to the previous occupant. The exterior is unique and we all see how little of Vancouver’s history remains. We might live to regret tearing down Canada Post. Though the same could be said for the Sears conversion to Nordstrom.
Retail Insider: You mean the giant toilet bowl on Robson?
Insider X: You bet. It was sleek and cutting edge for its time – maybe before they attached the bowl and lid at the top (X laughs). But seriously, we’ve gone through periods where we’ve built, torn down and later regretted it. I’m not a huge fan of the Canada Post building but at the same time, we might miss it if it goes.
And that’s the end of the interview. We’ll keep our eye on the Canada Post Building site and update you when we find anything out about its future use, restored, renovated or otherwise demolished.