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Hudson’s Bay Downsizing Iconic Downtown Calgary Flagship Store to 3 Retail Floors

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The iconic downtown Calgary Hudson’s Bay store is reducing its retail footprint by consolidating its operations over three levels at its flagship location in the heart of the city.

“As we operate with a digital-first mindset, Hudson’s Bay is redefining the role of the store. In Calgary, we are rightsizing the shopping space to improve productivity and profitability, while at the same time enhancing the overall experience for customers,” said the company in a statement.

“Without any reduction to products, services or staff, the store will utilize three floors as retail space. Beginning this fall we will also fulfill orders through microdistribution from the store, increasing speed of delivery to thebay.com customers in the West.”

The fourth and fifth levels would be used for other uses such as microdistribution, according to the company.

Level 6 is an event space called Hudson that is operated by Toronto-based Oliver & Bonacini and Level 7 is a gym. The building is owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company and RioCan in a joint venture.

6th Floor Elizabethan Dining Room, no date, Gelenbow Archives NA-2037-25

Michael Kehoe, broker/owner of Fairfield Commercial Real Estate in Calgary, said the Bay was Calgary’s first department store built in 1913.

“It’s undergone several space reconfigurations in the recent past where the retail footprint has been reduced,” said Kehoe. “They put an event centre in. There’s been a health club in one of the upper levels for many years. They expanded the restaurant on the main and lower levels.

“This is just a continuance of the process whereby the retail footprint’s being reduced as they strive to make the building into a mixed-use building. In the future, it could have residential or entertainment components as well as retail. Maybe even office space in the future. But who knows?

Michael Kehoe

“The thing to put into perspective is that Hudson’s Bay created that new real estate arm last fall to convert a lot of the real estate into mixed-use properties and increase the value as the nature of department stores has changed significantly over the years and more so even in the recent past with online shopping and the pandemic year.”

Kehoe said the role of the downtown department store was always the flagship mentality. That’s where the best of the best would be. The highest sales performance in cosmetics and fragrances. That’s where you went to get fashion. But as the enclosed malls evolved, suburban shopping centres, with their department store anchors, altered the nature of the downtown flagship.

“But engrained in people’s memories is the concept of the downtown department store as being the flagship location where you would go to shop, experiential shopping,” said Kehoe.

“The Hudson’s Bay Company in downtown Calgary was one of the essential building blocks of Stephen Avenue, Calgary’s original historic main street. It’s been the anchor down there since it opened in 1913. It was expanded again in the late 20s. It’s an architectural landmark. It’s the anchor of the downtown enclosed shopping centre known as the CORE and Stephen Avenue Place. Anchored at one end by Holt Renfrew and the Bay at the east end. It’s a significant landmark in the retail landscape of Calgary.”

Northeast corner of the original 1913 building, image via Glenbow Archives ND-8-278

Streetworks Development is the real estate development division within the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company. The company said it creates and reinvigorates urban districts, drives the growth of neighbourhoods and helps build communities of the future. 

“Our team anticipates demand and innovates new solutions for office, retail, residential, health and entertainment. We do this across 20 million square feet of mixed-use projects currently under development,” it said. 

According to the City of Calgary’s Inventory of Historic Resources, the downtown Calgary Bay was significantly expanded in 1929 and 1956-57, describing it as a commercial-style building, clad in ornamented, cream-coloured terra cotta. 

“The store is noted for its elegant arcade which wraps around the east and south facades. With its landmark presence, it is a prominent contributor to the concentration of late-19th- and early-20th-century commercial structures that compose the Stephen Avenue National Historic District,” it says.

“The store’s design was the first of its kind in Calgary – constructed on a monumental scale, incorporating steel and reinforced concrete construction technology that was sheathed in terra-cotta cladding, and banks of elevators allowing it to rise six stories. Reminiscent of the arcades lining the famous Rue de Rivoli in Paris, it is the only known example of its type in North America.

“The prototype for the company’s expansion programme of new stores, it was repeated in Vancouver (1913-16), Victoria (1913-21), and Winnipeg (1926). With the decline of its traditional role as fur trader, the Hudson’s Bay Company greatly expanded its retail operations in Western Canada by introducing this new class of modern department store based on the Calgary example.”

Image: Ron Odagaki

Ron Odagaki, Senior Sales Associate, Retail, with JLL in Calgary, said the Bay is first of all an iconic building at a very prominent address.

“It’s a landmark in downtown Calgary. It’s very, very prominent but I think overall in terms of the department store industry has the Bay been able to pivot similar to other retailers? As we look forward that will be interesting to see if they are able to pivot as other retailers have,” he said.

Because of its centre ice location and the unique nature of the building itself, it would be interesting to see what could be done with that property in the future and with a reduced retail footprint, there are other possibilities for use, he said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like this location is going down the same path as the former Winnipeg flagship Bay store.

    Hope its able to survive in the long run.

  2. The location is terribly outdated , the interior especially the main floor is in desperate need of renovation. The store is also known for it’s
    terrible customer service , You can also do laps around the floor till you find a sales associate for help or to pay for your purchase . I have seen maybe 2 or 3 associates on an entire floor .
    I don’t understand why they don’t address the obvious problems with their retail operations. In store customer is non existent and the selection is very sad . They are going the way if Woodward’s / Eatons .Thankfully there is Simons , that’s where I shop now .

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