The Future of Woodward's
The Woodward's building, located in the 100 block of West Hastings in Vancouver, has long played a pivotal role in our city. It once provided food, household goods and employment to many people in the local community and beyond. Today, it is the focus of a neighbourhood's hopes and dreams.
The City of Vancouver purchased the Woodward's building from the Province of BC in March 2003. The City began a unique process to involve the community and other Vancouver residents in designing and planning the redevelopment of the building in a way that is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.
Since Woodward's closed in 1993, the building has sat vacant and several previous attempts to redevelop it failed. It has also been the focus of much debate about what should happen with the site.
Meanwhile, in the immediate neighbourhood, there has been an exodus of legitimate business and a lack of new investment. High unemployment among residents and poverty have resulted in a number of social issues that have unquestionably affected the health and well-being of the community.
Several government and community initiatives over the last few years have started to result in some improvements in the neighbourhood.
However, the redevelopment of the Woodward's building is, both practically and symbolically, key to the revitalization of the Downtown Eastside.
The building was built in 1903 by Charles Woodward, as the second location for the Woodward's department store. Woodward's pioneered the concept of one-stop shopping; the store included a food floor, household items, men's and women's fashion, and provided cheque cashing, travel booking and other services. The store was well-known for carrying a large variety of goods that were not available anywhere else. The store soon became a feature attraction in Vancouver, and it expanded over 12 separate phases to a final size of 12 storeys. It occupied approximately 2/3 of the city block. The popularity of Woodward's attracted many other businesses to the area. In 1944, the landmark "W" was installed on the top of the building on a 25 metre replica of the Eiffel Tower, replacing a pre-war searchlight-beacon which had until then been the building's hallmark. The beacon, which was visible at night from as far away as Abbotsford and Mission, was shut down at the beginning of World War II because of its potential use as a landmark for aerial attacks.
Woodward's fortunes declined as customers gravitated to more suburban malls, but the Vancouver location was also greatly impacted by the transfer of the Eaton's department store from its location at West Hastings and Richards (a few blocks away), to the uptown location of Pacific Centre kitty-corner from The Bay, which signalled the demise of West Hastings Street as the central retail district in the city. In the 1980s, Woodward's sold the food floor - long known for its quality and its line of unusual specialities - to Safeway. During the same time, the area around the Woodward's building started to decline socially and economically. In 1993, Woodward's went bankrupt and closed its doors. Many of the store's suburban locations were sold to the Hudson's Bay Company for conversion to Zellers and Bay stores, but there was little interest in the historic downtown building. The closing of the Woodward's store precipitated an even more rapid decline in the area.
The building grew over a many years in incremental phases, so the structure varies in each area of the building. The majority of the building was concrete slabs and columns with only the original 1903-08 building using massive heavy timber construction from the old growth forests that were available near Vancouver at the turn of the 20th century. Much of the square footage of the building was not retail space; mazes of stockrooms comprised the much of the building's space, outside the view of customers.
On the morning of September 30, 2006 all but the oldest original portion of the Woodward's structure was demolished with a "roll-over" implosion by Pacific Blasting which signaled the beginning of the construction of the new complex of buildings.
In 1995, the building was acquired by Fama Holdings. The firm developed a plan to build private housing in the building. However, many of those in the neighbourhood strongly objected as it was felt to be important that the project incorporate social housing. The provincial government of British Columbia decided to fund some social housing as part of the project. However, Fama and the province could not come to an agreement, and the project died. The building stood largely vacant, except for the occasional film shoot.
In 2001, the province bought the building from Fama for $22 million. A variety of options were pursued to develop the building. In 2002, the building was occupied by an organized squat that demanded that the building be developed into social housing. Eventually, the city forced the squatters to leave.
In 2003, the City of Vancouver purchased the building for $5 million, and began a unique public consultation process, asking the community what they wanted from the redevelopment. After a two stage competition between three developers, in September 2004 the city selected Westbank Projects/Peterson Investment Group to develop and Gregory Henriquez of Henriquez Partners Architects to lead the design of the new buildings. The 300 million dollar project, includes 536 market housing units,125 singles non-market housing units to be operated by PHS Community Services,75 family non-market housing units to be operated by Affordable Housing Society,anchor food store and drugstore, shops, community and public green space,federal and civic offices, a daycare, and a new addition to the SFU downtown campus: the 130,000 sf School for Contemporary Arts. The oldest part of the complex (built 1903–1908) will be restored, and will serve as non-profit community space which will include space for Aids Vancouver among many others. Construction began in winter of 2006, with a completion scheduled for the fall of 2009.
The "W" neon sign, which topped the building on the Eiffel Tower replica, was removed before the demolition and will be refurbished and installed when the new development is complete.
- Approved in principle by City of Vancouver Council on September 13, 2005.
- Integrated into the complex will be the 150,000 square foot School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University.
- The $280 million project was unanimously approved by the city's Urban Design Panel December 7, 2005.
- Total of 736 residential units: 536 market, 75 non-market family, 125 non-market singles.
- February 27, 2006: Development Permit Board and Advisory Panel review meeting.
- April 22, 2006: In just under 12 hours the entire complex of condominiums was completely sold-out, in what was more than $200 million worth of property.
- On June 23, 2006, between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, the landmark "W" sign was taken down, closing the block of Abbott between Hastings and Cordova. The "W" will be refurbished and reinstalled in a different location within the new project during 2009.
- All 536 units in the project sold in one day.
- Although much of the multi-phase building was prepared for destruction in September 2006, save West Hastings Building slated for heritage status, actual demolition took place at 8:00 a.m., on Saturday, September 30, 2006.
- Total buildable area is 1,160,862 square feet providing about 976,000 square feet of net space.
- The development will house a 33,000 sqft 2 level London Drugs, a 17,000 sqft Nesters' Market, a new TD Bank branch, and rumoured Starbucks and McDonalds.
905,000 sf consisting of:
· 125 Single Non-Market Housing
· 75 Family Non-Market Units
· SFU - Centre for Contemporary Arts
· 536 Market Housing Units
· Potenital Federal/City Department Office Space
· Indoor Atrium and Garden Area
· Outdoor Public Open Space, Urban Park and Plaza
· Roof Gardens
Henriquez Partners Architects
Westbank Projects Corp. & Peterson Investment Group Inc.