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Strip Tease – 1: Pacific Centre

March 22, 2013

They’ve started the transformation of the old Eaton’s (Sear’s) block into a Nordstrom’s. (What should we now call this site?)


Pac Centre


I’ll photograph it every so often as the skin is stripped away and Cesar Pelli’s original opaque design is replaced with a more transparent facade by James Cheng:


More renderings here.


The “latrine” at Pacific Centre was one of the most disliked buildings in Vancouver (though its pure modernism had its defenders).  The backlash led to the requirement at City Hall (under planner Ray Spaxman) that there be minimal blank walls on any new design facing a downtown sidewalk, and a requirement for rain-protecting canopies above.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Colin Brander permalink
    March 22, 2013 12:35 pm

    If this is going to look anything like the artist renderings, what a major improvement this is going to be. It is going to bring the street alive, instead of the drab pedestrian environment that currently exists due to the ugly wall design.

  2. Stephanie C. permalink
    March 22, 2013 12:38 pm

    My understanding was that the Vancouver City Centre Canada Line station was intended to be incorporated into future development of the site. Do you know whether Nordstrom had looked at developing the plaza? Or, for that matter, do you know to what extent the plaza can be developed?

    It’s odd to look at renderings of a re-skinned structure and realize that the “future development” ends there.

    • Andrew Browne permalink
      March 22, 2013 1:42 pm

      Probably an underground connection to the station concourse (similar to the City Centre Mall – aka London Drugs). For what it’s worth I think the plaza space in front of and around the station is actually very important. It’s often quite full and a great informal meeting place. I think it’s gradually becoming – forget the phrase/word for it – but the place that Vancouverites would meet if they didn’t know beforehand where they were going to meet and couldn’t communicate. Becoming that “default” place.

  3. Guest permalink
    March 23, 2013 4:47 am

    The plans were for additional prominent smaller retailer space (rather than taking the department store to Georgia Steet (but that, together with the redevelopment of the greenhouse atrium near the Four Seasons, was tied to the Holt Renfrew rezoning of the Dunsmuir atrium which predated Nordstrom). One factor affecting redevelopment of the plaza will be the new entrance to the office floors atop the old Sears building – its lobby will be at the back of the plaza. That could hamper the filling in of the plaza.

    One other note is that the current redevelopment project will significantly shrink the plaza – from 2 sides: (1) the new office lobby will jut into the currently dead back part of the plaza, but (2) more significantly, Nordstrom is relocating the grade change from the Granville sidewalk to the inside of its store. That means the 4 or 5 steps from the Granville sidewalk down to the plaza (which currently allign with the station elevator) will be moved into the plaza so that the entire rotunda area of Nordstrom will be at the Granville sidewalk elevation. This means that those 4 or 5 steps down will cut the plaza into smaller upper and lower sections rather than the current expanse.

    This may impact use of the plaza as an event space (i.e. for Cadillac Fairview’s lunchtime summer concert series), but with the frequent closure of Granville St. during the summer, and the design of that block as a civic event space, it may not be missed.

  4. March 25, 2013 11:06 pm

    In regard of Georgia#Granville (aka London drugs), excellent comment from Andrew Browne, and thanks to Yuri to put a name on it.

    It is something I had also noticed and was and is still a puzzled by the lack of understanding of how the city squares function by many, often well intentioned advocate, of public square.

    The point is that a public square work primarily due to its location/size, and like the information booth at Central station in New York, Fontaine des innoccent in paris or Font de Canaletes in Barcelona, …the London drugs at Georgia#Granville is now the schelling point of Vancouver

    rather than leaving in a fantasy urban tale where Robson square does it all when in fact, it works only under artificial life (the last fall experiment was enough to demonstrate that this square, if fully pedestrianized, simply doesn’t work without organized events…and when you need them, that is the symptom of a failure), the Vancouver urbanistas should watch at how the city really works, and improve it (that is redesign Georgia#Granville to make it look more like a plaza).

    The well informed guest comment is not encouraging on this front.

    • Neale Adams permalink
      October 1, 2013 10:06 am

      I agree with Voony. The plaza at the northwest corner of Georgia and Granville has been encroached upon gradually, beginning with the dismantling of the George Norris sculpture (which got sold for scrap!), construction of the ugly Skytrain station, and now enlargement of the entrances to two private buildings. I wonder why Vancouver can’t get it together and put public spaces in the right places… and why does it take so long to get Granville properly pedestrianized — not a once-in-a-while civic event space.

  5. October 2, 2013 10:38 am

    Can’t wait until it’s finished. A vast improvement over the long-detested world’s largest urinal.

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