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Hudson’s Bay to Redevelop Downtown Vancouver Flagship with an Eye to the Future of Retail: Interview with President Wayne Drummond 

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The Hudson’s Bay Company and its real estate arm Streetworks Development announced the redevelopment of downtown Vancouver’s iconic and historic Hudson’s Bay building on Wednesday. Included will be a smaller new format department store and new food and beverage offerings as well as a massive office building above and a new transit interchange. The incredible project will anchor the corner of Granville and Georgia Streets where Hudson’s Bay had occupied the northeast corner for more than 100 years. Construction is expected to begin as soon as 2024 once approved by the city.

Rising above the updated retail component will be an imposing 12-storey office component spanning about a million square feet expected to house about 5,000 employees. Floorplates exceeding 60,000 square feet will target tech sector tenants that will also enjoy a rooftop garden and other amenities. Improved access to the existing SkyTrain stations on site and an underground hub for up to 1,500 bicycles will also be added. 

Retail Insider had the opportunity to speak with Wayne Drummond, President of Hudson’s Bay department stores about the announcement. Drummond said that the current store spanning about 637,000 square feet will be reduced in size to about 350,000 square feet on the lower levels of the new complex. 

The Hudson’s Bay Building on Granville Street, showing the updated store and galleria that will link transit interchanges and a new office building lobby. (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)
The Hudson’s Bay Building from Seymour Street showing the updated building and galleria. (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)

The design of the retail component is still in the planning phases as the proposal works its way through the City of Vancouver approval processes over the next year or so. The current store includes six large retail levels above ground spanning more than 70,000 square feet each as well as two basement levels. Drummond said it hasn’t yet been decided how many floors will be dedicated to retail in the newly conceptualized mixed-use flagship property.

Some things are sure to change with the downsizing of the retail footprint. The store’s beauty hall is said to be the largest in North America, spanning about an acre in size. That’s expected to be downsized with the redevelopment, as is the award-winning 70,000+ square foot menswear department on the sixth floor that is the largest west of Toronto.  

The downtown Vancouver Hudson’s Bay store will become a place of “discovery” and will integrate technology to enhance the customer experience according to Drummond. Already Hudson’s Bay is conceptualizing the future of retail as it tests innovations at the Queen Street flagship. That includes virtual selling through its ‘The Bay’ online platform and marketplace that will be rolled out into stores across the country with more details to come. 

The Hudson’s Bay Building as seen from the corner of Seymour and Georgia Streets when the project is done (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)
The Hudson’s Bay Building ‘Sky Atria’ above the retail store — this view is looking south (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)

Luxury department The Room will also be part of the mix in the newly conceptualized Vancouver Hudson’s Bay store. We reported last year that The Room had added menswear to the Vancouver offerings, showcasing some of the world’s top luxury brands as well as some edgy harder-to-find labels that in some cases are unavailable elsewhere in North America. Hudson’s Bay is one of the last remaining traditional department stores in North America to house dedicated luxury fashion departments in its stores (also in the downtown Toronto flagship). 

“We are creating a shopping experience that promotes discovery in our store, and excites visitors with modern, relevant and inclusive product and services. This newly-developed space will deliver an environment that will take the Hudson’s Bay shopping experience to the next level,” Drummond said in a statement. 

Vancouver will become a focus for innovation with Hudson’s Bay also building a new store at Oakridge Centre which is set to open in a couple of years. Drummond said that Hudson’s Bay continues to look for new brands to add to its stores and several new ones have been added. Some brands occupy concession spaces within Hudson’s Bay stores and that will continue. 

The Hudson’s Bay Building W. Georgia Street Entrance (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)
The Hudson’s Bay Building’s New Arcade with Sculptures (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)

Retail Insider also had the opportunity to speak with Douglas Adams, Senior Vice President of Development at Streetworks Development. He explained that the massive structure to be built above the existing department store would be made possible through a construction process where existing heritage elements of the existing store will be maintained, including its facade, while new construction will allow for a vertical addition with seismic upgrades. The existing store component will look as it does now with additions such as a new awning to better reflect the heritage of the store. More natural light in the store will make the building appear to be more translucent he said.  

Adams said that Streetworks began conceptualizing the Vancouver redevelopment in earnest in the summer of 2019 and that Streetworks is looking forward to a great partnership with the city and other stakeholders as the project moves forward. 

The mixed-use building will aim to bring in shoppers from across the Vancouver region. The store is well-serviced by transit including the SkyTrain subway system and bus system. Visitors will also be attracted to the food and beverage offerings in the new Hudson’s Bay complex which will include about 50,000 square feet dedicated to restaurant space. 

(Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)

Sustainability will be key to the project that Adams said will meet or exceed the aggressive goals set out by the City of Vancouver. The transportation hub  and unique bike storage facility are also part of a green initiative and Adams said that Streetworks looked to examples in Denmark and Sweden for inspiration. 

Last year the Hudson’s Bay Company announced that it had plans to redevelop its downtown Montreal flagship store with an office component as well, with the 655,000 square foot store being downsized to about 300,000 square feet. The downtown Calgary flagship was also reduced to three floors of retail space from six, and Streetworks says that it’s too soon to talk about that redevelopment opportunity just yet. 

It is looking as if the Hudson’s Bay Company is looking in time to capitalize on its real estate which means Calgary and other stores will likely see interesting redevelopment in years to come. Ian Putnam, President and CEO of HBC Properties and Investments, said that the company is looking at “unleashing the full value of our prime properties and reinvigorating the urban districts in which they are situated.” He went on to say, “HBCPI is excited and looking forward to unlocking the value and full potential of our flagship Vancouver building, and our entire joint venture portfolio with RioCan.” Besides the Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary stores, the other Hudson’s Bay stores jointly owned by HBC and RioCan include the downtown Ottawa flagship store and both landlords jointly hold ground leases for Hudson’s Bay stores including Yorkdale in Toronto, Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, Square One in Mississauga, CF Carrefour Laval near Montreal, CF Promenades St. Bruno near Montreal, and Devonshire Mall in Windsor. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, and a public speaker. 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 COMMENT

  1. What a travesty to an amazing historic building and retail space. I think it is also big mistake to be downsizing the store. They should be using that space to bring in the best selections and experiences they can fit into that building.
    I wish Canadian cities had stronger heritage preservation laws. Something like this would not be allowed in many American and European cities.

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