As the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver prepares to close at CF Pacific Centre this month, landlord Cadillac Fairview has announced that it will be investing into the centre as part of a plan to launch a new hotel brand on the property. As part of the investment, the existing Four Seasons Hotel tower will be revamped along with part of the shopping centre itself which will see modifications to facilitate the new tenant.
The Four Seasons Hotel has operated a 28 storey hotel on the CF Pacific Centre site since 1976 — CF Pacific Centre itself opened in 1971 with an adjacent TD Tower opening in 1972. When CF Pacific Centre opened, anchors included Eaton’s and Holt Renfrew — Holt Renfrew relocated to its current space in 2007 prior to a recent expansion, and Nordstrom now occupies part of the former Eaton’s store which was most recently Sears after the demise of Eaton’s about 20 years ago.
Construction is expected to commence in the spring on the new hotel project.
While a new hotel brand has not yet been named, Cadillac Fairview issued a press release stating that it was “pleased to announce its intention to introduce a world-leading, luxury lifestyle hotel brand to downtown Vancouver’s CF Pacific Centre.”
“With today’s announcement we are once again contributing to the fabric of the City by introducing an exciting and vibrant hospitality concept to our landmark property that will solidify it as the destination of choice in downtown Vancouver,” said Tom Knoepfel, Senior Vice President, Western Portfolio, Cadillac Fairview.
“CF Pacific Centre will be home to a leading global hotel and entertainment brand that will be unique not only in Vancouver, but the rest of Canada. We look forward to providing more details about this exciting project in the near future,” he went on to say.
In an interview, Mr. Knoepfel explained that the new hotel property is likely to feature an entrance directly into CF Pacific Centre, as was the case with the Four Seasons Hotel. The new hotel will also feature a driveway and exterior access to Howe Street where the Four Seasons Hotel lobby is currently located.
He said that it was important for Cadillac Fairview to ensure that downtown Vancouver maintains hotel rooms, at a time when the city has lost many to redevelopment which includes residential condominium buildings. Vancouver’s relatively strict Airbnb laws also means the city struggles in terms of providing accommodations at busier times of the year.
The Four Seasons Hotel has 372 rooms including 66 suites in the tower, creating a built-in shopping base for CF Pacific Centre. The mall is Canada’s second most productive in terms of annual sales per square foot according to the most recent Retail Council of Canada Shopping Centre Study. According to Cadillac Fairview’s leasing site, the centre’s updated sales per square foot are now a whopping $1,916, slightly less than Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre which is the most productive in Canada.
Mr. Knoepfel said that CF Pacific Centre’s exceptional productivity, including gains of more than 10% over last year, are a result of a strong tenant mix which continues to see turnover amid considerable demand. The shopping centre features just over 200,000 square feet of CRU space and more than 700,000 square feet of retail overall, which includes a 230,000-square-foot Nordstrom anchor store which opened in 2015, as well as Holt Renfrew which expanded to more than 190,000 square feet about three years ago.
CF Pacific Centre houses 98 retailers according to Cadillac Fairview’s leasing website. The shopping centre saw more than 23 million visitors last year with almost 75% of visitors being female. The average age of shoppers is 34.
The centre is located along a busy ‘Skytrain’ rapid transit line and is at the heart of downtown Vancouver. A 637,000-square-foot Hudson’s Bay store is connected to CF Pacific Centre via an underground passage and the centre is otherwise proximate to hotels, important shopping streets, museums and cultural/sports facilities in the downtown core.
Several new retailers have opened at CF Pacific Centre over the past year. Swarovski opened in March of 2019, and upscale German women’s brand Marc Cain opened in April. SoftMoc opened in the centre in November. Recent retail relocations included Aussie women’s fashion brand Ever New as well as footwear brand GEOX and Rogers. The mall’s H&M store recently added a lower level space for menswear, bringing the store to almost 40,000 square feet over three floors.
A Dyson ‘demo store’ will open at CF Pacific Centre this month, and Max Mara will relocate across from its current storefront at the end of the month as well. A Sephora store in the mall will expand and re-open in April of this year, and the Body Shop is also relocating. Lingerie retailer La Vie En Rose will also open, and a major Canadian brand will soon be announced for the centre as well. Rumours have circulated that an Apple flagship store will open in a newly built space at the corner of West Georgia Street and Howe Street where CF Pacific Centre’s glass ‘igloo’ is located. As part of the changes to the centre, one source said that the Georgia Street entrance to CF Pacific Centre could be reconfigured with another entryway facing onto Howe Street.
Four Seasons announced in the spring of 2018 that it was closing its Vancouver hotel property. The closure announcement followed a contentious situation between Four Seasons Hotels and Cadillac Fairview. In a lawsuit, Cadillac Fairview claimed that Four Seasons was running a “tired, dated” operation that had fallen below the standards of a first-class luxury hotel. The hotel property’s 1970’s architecture had become outdated and furniture and fixtures, in some cases, had become worn with time.
Ceiling heights in hotel rooms are also lower than in many newer luxury hotels, which some said could pose a problem to securing a new best-in-class hotel provider. Since the announcement that the Four Seasons Hotel would be closing, rumours persisted about future uses for the CF Pacific Centre building, as well as where Four Seasons may look to open a new Vancouver hotel property.
Some had said that the Four Seasons building could be repurposed with a combination of office space and residential space. As part of that speculation, rumour had it that the retail component of CF Pacific Centre would be expanded upward where the hotel’s ballrooms and restaurant are located. That could have included an upper level retail expansion for menswear retailer Harry Rosen, which is said to see strong sales in its CF Pacific Centre flagship store which spans more than 20,000 square feet on one level.
However, Mr. Knoepfel said in an interview that nothing of the such had been confirmed, and that it will be up to the new hotel provider to determine how the space above the mall will best be used — a new hotel of a high caliber would be expected to include meeting spaces and food and beverage options, not to mention various guest amenities.
The Four Seasons Hotel chain has said that it wants to open a new property in the Vancouver market, though finding a space poses a challenge. Real estate developers and hotel operators have said that it is challenging to make a profit from building a hotel property on its own, which is why many new luxury hotels include residential components on the same property to offset the cost of construction.
Some had speculated that the Four Seasons Hotel could replace the Trump Tower property on West Georgia Street in Vancouver — the Trump hotel and residential tower above it opened in February of 2017 and it is said to be struggling due to its name and association with controversial US President Donald Trump and his family. Those rumours of a Four Seasons takeover were subsequently quashed. Four Seasons Hotels is said to be looking at a new development on Thurlow Street in Vancouver that would include a hotel as well as potential Four Seasons Private Residences above, though other hotel operators such as Mandarin Oriental could also end up securing the spot for a similar high-density project.
While the new hotel operator for the current Four Seasons property in Vancouver has not been named, the Riu Hotels and and W Hotel chains are said to be looking to open locations in downtown Vancouver, as is Ritz Carlton and others. The Vancouver market also lacks some premium hotel brands including The Peninsula, Raffles, St. Regis and others.
We’ll follow up this story when we learn more about plans to replace the Four Seasons Hotel at CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver.