Archive for the ‘Sears’ Tag

Harbour Centre – West Hastings Street

With the closure of Sears in Pacific Centre, it’s interesting to look back 31 years to their earlier location. The Harbour Centre project was completed in 1976 and Simpson-Sears were the retail anchor. Their store occupied the lower floors of the new building adjacent to the Spencer’s department store that had been incorporated into the project. (Spencers became Eatons in 1948, but then moved out in 1972 to their new Pacific Centre Mall location. When Eatons were bought by Sears a few years ago, the Sears name returned to Downtown Vancouver once more).

Back in the mid 70s the tower and viewing platform became the Sears Tower, and this 1981 image shows how the Harbour Centre looked when Sears were still there. Initially the project was known as Vancouver Square, a much more daring design by local architects Paine and Associates and Eng + Wright. The simpler, and more brutal version we have today was designed by Webb Zerafa Menkès Housden.

The location wasn’t a great success, and Sears closed on New Years Day 1987. The windowless box that worked as a department store was converted by adding office windows, and the Harbour Lookout became the best viewing opportunity in the city.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E05.09

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York Hotel – 790 Howe Street

The York Hotel sat at the corner of  Howe and Robson. It first appears in the street directories in 1930, and was still going as the York Motor Hotel in 1968, just before it was cleared away for the Pacific Centre Mall project, where the City of Vancouver used compulsory purchase powers to assemble the double block needed for the underground shopping mall thought necessary to compete with new suburban malls.

The York doesn’t look like a 1930 building – and that’s because it wasn’t. It was built in 1911 as an annex for the Hotel Vancouver at a cost of $190,000. It seems likely that it was built to maintain a CPR hotel presence while the first Hotel Vancouver was demolished and the second Hotel Vancouver – the more flamboyant one – was built. That hotel was demolished after the Second World War. The Honeyman and Curtis designed annex was more restrained, and eventually it lasted longer.

The designer of the postcard for the York were using their artistic licence to its full extent. The cloudy sky to the north is added to cover the much larger and flashy Hotel Vancouver, and the massive laundry chimney that gave the block a distinctly industrial feel. Amazingly the flag that appears in many similar postcards really was on the building – which is by no means true of every appearance. The top of the Vancouver Block on Granville Street was also carefully removed.

These days the much unloved Sears building, designed by Cesar Pelli while working for LA architect Victor Gruen sits on the site. Owners Cadillac Fairview have paid a small fortune to buy the Sears lease to allow the building to be reconfigured. Current rumours suggest a new major retail tenant below, and the top four floors of retail turned into 300,000 square feet of offices around a new atrium. As much of the concrete wall would be removed and replaced with glazing as can reasonably achieved.

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Posted 2 April 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Granville Street – 700 block west side (1)

Not many people think the contemporary building is an improvement on the 1920s pictured here. Granville Mansions stood on the corner, the Orpheum Theatre (not the current one) stood next door, and then the Hotel Vancouver (the second one, not the current one either). Originally the theatre site was where the Canadian Pacific Railway put the Opera House. The Hotel Vancouver was demolished in 1946. Granville Mansions were built around 1907 and Mayor L D Taylor lived there for many years, as did his employee and future wife Alice Berry.

The Mansions were damaged in a 1957 fire, and replaced in the early 1970s with Cesar Pelli’s retail building for Eatons (now Sears, part of the Pacific Centre Mall). Pelli was working with Victor Gruen and Associates of Los Angeles, and McCarter Nairne were the local associate architects. The curved off-white concrete box has not aged well (although the TD and IBM towers to the north by the same architectural team are now less controversial than when first built and dubbed ‘The Black Towers’).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-820

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