We saw this location in an earlier post when there were more substantial Water Street warehouses here. This is the building that replaced them as it appeared in 1973, and today. The Woodwards parkade stretches all the way from Cordova Street to Water Street, and was built as the Woodwards empire inexorably increased in size. The City of Vancouver acquired the 1957 parkade in 1995, and in the early 2000s spent $17m rebuilding the Cordova side of the structure, which previously had to be closed as the concrete was crumbling and the building structurally unsafe. The Water Street side was a later part of the parkade, designed by Paul Smith & Associates in 1971 (linked to the Project 200 plans), but was also rebuilt by the City of Vancouver at an additional $11m, with seismic upgrades, an extra floor of parking added and a ‘skin’ of office space to hide the parked cars (a significant improvement on the brick screen of the Woodwards structure).
The renovation and reconstruction, designed by Henriquez Partners, includes retail at street level. When it opened there was a huge historically themed underground tourist attraction called Storyeum that quickly headed into bankrupcy. That space has now been re-purposed by the Vancouver Film School. Unusually for a parking garage, the new structure has won multiple accolades – the International Parking Institute gave it an award of excellence in 2005; the Stress Free parking website named it as one of the top 10 coolest parking garages in the world, and Popular Mechanics named it one of the world’s 18 strangest parking garages in 2012 (apparently because fragments of the old bridges from the Woodward’s Parkade were incorporated into the new building, and there’s a storm water recycling system built in).
The justification for the City acquiring, renovating and retaining the parkades are to allow Gastown’s continued revitalization – not so much to provide visitor parking, but rather to permit ‘parking in lieu’ as revitalized heritage residential and commercial projects can develop with minimal or zero on-site parking. Some of the new Woodward’s parking is still included in the structure, linked by a new overhead walkway across Cordova Street.