Downtown Montreal Hudson’s Bay Store Redevelopment Renderings and Plans Revealed

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Renderings and plans for a proposed redevelopment of the Hudson’s Bay flagship department store at 585 Ste-Catherine Street West in downtown Montreal have been revealed. The redevelopment will include a downsizing of the retail portion of the store as well as the addition of an office tower. The Hudson’s Bay proposal is being evaluated by Montreal City Council this week, and images were first showcased in French language news publication La Press on Saturday.

The full 50 page PDF application, in French, can be downloaded here.

Included in the plans is a smaller and renovated Hudson’s Bay department store on the lower levels of the complex. The 655,000-square-foot store is proposed to be downsized to about 295,000 square feet of retail space over five levels, spanning from the basement level to the store’s fourth floor. The floor plates will be a bit smaller than what the current store features — the back end of the building will be demolished for the construction of a new 25 storey office building that will rise behind and over the historic structure.

The Original ‘Colonial House’ storefront facing Ste-Catherine Street will be restored — the four-level building, built in 1891, operated for years as an upscale Henry Morgan department store. Plaster removal on the facade will reveal some architectural elements not seen in almost 100 years, according to the application. Morgan’s expanded over the years in phases including an eight level expansion in 1923. The most recent expansion was a rather unattractive addition in 1964 at the back of the building, facing Boulevard de Maisonneuve. That back end of the Hudson’s Bay store had been slated for a different type of redevelopment about five years ago — in 2016, Hudson’s Bay announced that Saks Fifth Avenue would open a 200,000-square-foot store in the back-end extension though plans were subsequently shelved.

The updated redevelopment project will add a 25-storey terraced office tower, standing at 510 feet and spanning 678,000 square feet, as well as office space on the fifth and sixth floors of the existing Bay store. A terrace above the four level Colonial House component will become an amenity for occupants. Also included will be 116 parking spaces over three underground levels, 287 bicycle parking spaces on street level with showers in a basement facility. Architectural firm Menkes Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux is working on the project.

Sources had said last year that the application could have included a residential component as part of the redevelopment, though that’s not part of the current plans.

The Hudson’s Bay Company purchased Morgan’s in 1960, and the company operated until 1972 when the Montreal flagship was converted to La Baie. Morgan’s was considered to be the most upscale large-format department store chain in Canada in years past and it operated 11 stores at its peak in the Montreal and Toronto markets and was a notable seller of women’s European couture.

The smaller renovated Hudson’s Bay store would be part of the retailer’s updated strategy that will integrate its physical retail with an expanded online presence that includes an online marketplace for third-party vendors as well as offerings from Hudson’s Bay itself. One source said that they expect Hudson’s Bay to continue to innovate as it seeks out new vendors as part of its overall brand matrix. Luxury fashion department The Room, currently located in Bay stores in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, could be added to the Montreal store as well.

In October of last year we reported that the Hudson’s Bay Company had launched a real estate division with a goal of capitalizing on the value of its properties. It’s unclear if a similar redevelopment of the Vancouver Hudson’s Bay store could also be at play — a prior La Presse report noted that brokerage CBRE was listing both buildings for sale. In years past, the massive Hudson’s Bay flagship store at the corner of Queen Street and Yonge Streets was also set for redevelopment according to sources, prior to being acquired by Cadillac Fairview for $650 million in early 2014 for the addition of a Saks Fifth Avenue store on the Yonge Street side. The downtown Winnipeg Bay flagship shut forever in November and its future is uncertain, given its lack of value compared to the downtown Bay stores in other cities.

Hudson’s Bay is the last remaining traditional department store in downtown Montreal. At one time, large storefronts for Eaton’s, Simpsons and Ogilvy lined the street — Holt Renfrew merged with Ogilvy last year to create a large luxury store now known as Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, and the former Simpsons building at 977 Ste-Catherine Street West is now occupied by a La Maison Simons store and a theatre.

The redevelopment of the downtown Montreal Hudson’s Bay store is part of an impressive rejuvenation of the area. Phillips Square, across from the Bay store, is also seeing a renovation as is Ste-Catherine Street itself which is seeing a multi-year overhaul. The Maison Birks flagship jewellery store saw a renovation and the addition of a boutique hotel in 2018 and the nearby Montreal Eaton Centre has also seen a transformation that includes a Time Out food hall and a recently-opened Uniqlo flagship store.

Updates in and near Hudson’s Bay are expected to bring more shoppers to the immediate area, which will create competition with retailers several blocks westward including Holt Renfrew Ogilvy and Harry Rosen.

By shrinking the size of its retail spaces, Hudson’s Bay could be giving up an opportunity to create interesting experiences that would draw shoppers in. In parts of Europe and Asia, very large department stores are seeing success by offering significant food and beverage offerings, not to mention a wide range of top brands and other attractions. Selfridges and Harrod’s in London, as well as Galeries Lafayette in Paris, all see annual sales well surpassing a billion dollars. The same is the case with several large department stores in major Asian cities which house brand concessions and other offerings that make them destinations.

In North America, the department store concept is no longer relevant due in part to cost cutting, mergers/takeovers, and a general lack of investment into what made department stores must-visit places in the early to mid 1900s. Shopping centres, direct to consumer brands, category killers/off-price retailers, and the internet also contributed to the downfall of department stores on this continent. In years to come, shopping centres are expected to continue to dominate in terms of housing brands in their own spaces while creating experiences. And already, landlords are saying that they no longer need large department store anchors to create a compelling retail destination as was the case in years past.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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  1. This is good news for Centreville Montreal in general and Sainte Catherine Street in particular: a true vote of confidence in the future of the city as a venue for commercial activity, current vissicitudes notwithstanding. HBC and its investors must be expecting some sort of a rebound in the office market as vacancies due to the pandemic and accelerating changes in the nature of work threaten the purpose of such buildings. Aesthetically, I would have preferred that the brownish red sandstone of the original edifice be used on the proposed tower, but the blandness of the curtainwall does not overwhelm the original structure nor is it unattractive. The grafting of a sleek glass façade along, and above an older masonry wall (without covering it) was done before at the Ritz Carlton on Sherbrooke Street and the Ogilvy-Four Seasons hotel project down the street. Though I expected a downsizing of the store and welcome the demolition of the ugly brutalist addition of 1964, a scan of the renderings and floor plans seems to show that Hudson’s Bay Company is giving up direct access to the store on its Avenue de Maisonneuve side, yielding that portion to the office component. The first underground level indicates that shoppers will still be able to enter the store via the McGill Metro station. Your observation about the decline of department stores is astute: like the departed Eaton’s and the dying Sears, Hudson’s Bay has neglected its properties and, with the exception of Queen Street in Toronto, has not made the enhancements necessary to turn its stores into attractive shopping destinations. I hope this proposal signals a change in attitude at HBC. The removal of the ugly metal awnings over the street level display windows, the cleaning and restoration of the façade, and the renovation of the sales floors would send a message of optimism to consumers and bring improvement on the balance sheet.

    • 1000% agree with your comments. After visiting Amsterdam and Copenhagen (significantly smaller metropolitan areas than Montreal) recently, I was surprised to see how up to date their historical department stores are. The merchandising at Magasin in CPH is so well-executed that virtually nothing was on sale that month of March, and people were buying like everything was on sale. Why North American retailers, and especially department stores, are so non-attentive to their merchandising is mystifying.

  2. It would be fabulous if HBC Montreal, as part of its renovation, reopened its impressive fenestration to the daylight. The views from those windows should be quite impressive, and it would bring a liveliness and connection to the city that’s currently missing inside the store. The men’s floor at Holt-Ogilvy is open to the skyline and it’s quite beautiful, and actually enhances the product displays.

  3. I used to travel from Edmonton to Montreal often for work, and only once visited the HBC flagsht store. I admit, I was impressed with its sheer size – but wondered how long they could operate such a large retail space (was it 8 floors?).

    This was a great read!


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