After sitting vacant for more than four years, developers are now ramping up their plans to redevelop the multi-building former Empire Granville 7 theatre complex in downtown Vancouver.
Proponents have submitted a development application showing an updated design for the complex at 855 Granville Street that involves gutting the seven auditoriums to accommodate new floor levels within the structure.
There will be about 27,000 square feet of retail on the basement and ground levels and close to 30,000 square feet of office space on the second and third floors. Another level will also be built on the rooftop of the buildings.
Redesigned by local architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, the redevelopment will be broken into three separate buildings to provide each structure the necessary historic restoration and enhancement treatment it requires. Each building will have a unique and distinct facade.
The southernmost brick building will see no changes to the exterior facade except for minor ground level alterations while the northernmost building’s art deco facade will remain and may be restored.
Only the ‘middle’ building’s exterior will be completely rebuilt with a glass curtain wall. And to add to the Granville Mall’s iconic nighttime look, LED and neon lights will be integrated to the elements of the facade.
Since Empire Granville 7 theatres shuttered its doors in November 2012, the building has sat vacant with its entrances and windows behind a chain link fence – giving off a seedy and dirty appearance. The theatre’s closure has had a significant impact on the area given that it occupies over one-third of a city block.
As a result, it has become a visual and physical obstacle for the growth of retail along Granville Street south of Robson Street, despite the opening of Nordstrom and the Canada Line’s Vancouver City Centre Station.
The proposed retail space could potentially accommodate a number of high-profile retailers seeking for a major presence in downtown Vancouver.
This includes a large flagship Indigo bookstore, which has been a priority for the bookstore chain since it was forced to close its Chapters store on Howe and Robson streets in 2015. The Indigo Spirit store that opened in early-2015 across the street at Aldo’s former space is only meant as a temporary measure for the downtown market.
Such a space would also be suitable in size and location for a Uniqlo or Muiji flagship, although both retailers are said to be interested in other spaces in downtown’s shopping district.
For instance, Uniqlo was previously interested in a new purpose-built retail building on the 1000 block of Robson Street, but interest may have since shifted to a new and City-approved 25,000-square-foot retail expansion of CF Pacific Centre on the northwest corner of Howe and West Georgia streets.
It would also fit a smaller version of La Maison Simons, which is actively interested in establishing a presence in downtown Vancouver and Richmond City Centre following the successful opening of its 100,000-square-foot Park Royal flagship store in 2015.
Within the Empire Granville 7 retail space, Simons could theoretically replicate its small store model at Côte de la Fabrique in Quebec City where the flagship store occupies four heritage storefronts and each of its departments occupies one storefront.