Historic Hudson’s Bay Store in Banff for Sale, Bids Close Wednesday [Interview/Photos]

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A deadline is being imposed for the submission of bids for the sale of the historic former Hudson’s Bay Store Building along the iconic Banff Avenue in Alberta’s world-famous tourist resort.

The deadline for bids, on the property listed by commercial real estate firm Avison Young, is 1:30 p.m. MDT on Wednesday June 7.

The property is described as “12,398 sf of prime street-front retail exposure along the coveted Banff Avenue entertainment corridor situated in one of Canada’s busiest tourist destinations.”

Former Hudson’s Bay Store Building 125 Banff Avenue, Banff (Image: Avison Young)

Investment highlights by Avison Young include:

  • Opportunity for global retail brands to establish a storefront retail presence along Banff Avenue side by side with other nationally and internationally recognized retailers;
  • Major barriers to entry, with a relatively small and finite inventory of retail space, in a town that is federally-prohibited from expanding its land base;
  • Arguably one of the most premiere retail storefront locations that exists in Banff.

Avison Young would not comment on the listing and HBC could not be reached for comment.

In February, HBC announced it was shutting its doors in August at the Banff location. The Bay opened in 1935 in Banff in a different location and moved to its current site in 1947.

National retail expert Michael Kehoe, Broker of Record at Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc. in Calgary, said the Hudson Bay Company store on Banff Avenue dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria and is the story of the main street itself. 

Michael Kehoe

“Banff Avenue grew up around The Bay store and many small market western Canadian Hudson’s Bay stores descended from fur trade outposts,” he said.

“Often, the small market western Canadian Bay stores were the most important commercial building in the market second only to the train station in railway towns. The Banff store was the only source of department store type merchandise in the Bow Valley for many years. The store fell into a sort of ‘retail purgatory’ of mediocrity and neglect as it seemed to be an afterthought at the big Company. The prime Banff Avenue display windows often featured a canoe and Hudson’s Bay blankets, a sort of homage to the firm’s colonial past that is out of step with current tastes and trends that drive contemporary all-season resort retailing.

Floor Plans for Former Hudson’s Bay Store Building 125 Banff Avenue, Banff (Image: Avison Young)

“The Banff economy is 90 per cent based on tourism according to the local authorities. The tourism sector, which includes retail, accommodation and food services, transportation and arts, entertainment and recreation are big business in the Bow Valley. The Banff economy is firing on all cylinders and 2023 is expected to be another banner year for tourism and retail and food and beverage sales.”

He said Banff National Park is a world-famous United Nations Heritage Site encompassing hundreds of square kilometres of mountains, glaciers, forests, alpine meadows, lakes and rivers – in a spectacular Rocky Mountain setting on the Alberta-British Columbia border. Banff is a major destination for the vast majority of the over four million tourists who enter the National Park gates each year.  A long-time magnet for foreign visitors, Banff is a big draw for Canadians who arrive with money to spend on everything from hotels, recreation activities, fine art to family and fine dining.

To refer to the Banff Hudson’s Bay store as a landmark is an understatement, added Kehoe.

“Situated mid-block on the sunny side of the street along the coveted 100 block of the main street, this location is a prime redevelopment site. Expectations are high for a new owner of this building to attract impactful Canadian, world-class experiential retail and food service tenants to Canada’s first National Park.”

Image: Avison Young
Photo: Can Pac Swire via Flickr

The first Hudson’s Bay department store in Banff opened at 202 Banff Avenue in 1935 according to the Crag & Canyon, and the building is still standing to this day and is named ‘Caribou Corner’. In 1947 Hudson’s Bay relocated to its current 125 Banff Avenue location which was expanded by annexing a restaurant space in 1979.

A previous Retail Insider story explained: “Over the years the 125 Banff Avenue Hudson’s Bay store has sold a wide variety of merchandise including fashions, handbags, accessories and cosmetics, as well as the iconic HBC stripe merchandise that has proven popular with tourists. Fur coats and accessories were also part of the mix in decades past as the Hudson’s Bay Company was a seller of fur garments, having begun in the fur trade in 1670. 

“The configuration of the current Banff Avenue Hudson’s Bay store is rather awkward, with each level spanning just under 10,000 square feet. That includes a street level and a basement level that features remarkably low ceiling heights. Given the low ceiling heights in the basement and the single-level above ground, the Banff Hudson’s Bay store could be ripe for redevelopment. That could include demising the street level into multiple retail units, or demolishing the building entirely for something new. The store boasts 75 feet of frontage on Banff Avenue and a lot depth of more than 130 feet. Hudson’s Bay owns half the building at 123-125 Banff Avenue, and another company owns the other side according to a report in RMO Today.”

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 is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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