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Retrieved June 2008
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.
Photo: Leonard Frank - 1936
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.
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 locatation of Pacific Centre mall kitty-corner
from The Bay, which signalled the demise of West Hastings
Street as the central retail district in the city. In
the1980s 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 The
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
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 theSFU downtown campus: the 130,000
sf School for Contemporary Arts. The oldest part of the
complex (built 1903) 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.
Series of short WMV (windows media) videos on
Woodward's produced by GVTV