Woodward's art project by Christian Dahlberg



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Retrieved June 2008

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.

Photo: Leonard Frank - 1936


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 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 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 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

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