There has been much speculation over what will occupy the old Francis Rattenbury designed courthouse building ever since the Vancouver Art Gallery moved forward with its plans to build a new and expanded world-class museum building at Larwill Park.
Update: Happy April Fools’ Day!
Several reliable sources within the retail industry have told Vancity Buzz that Apple Store is seriously exploring a takeover of a major portion of the space inside the 1906-built building.
It is part of a potential plan to convert the museum building into a publicly accessible space with high-end retail, restaurants and public amenities that are ‘worthy’ of the historic building.
All businesses will be accessible through both an interior entry, via a mall-like public space, as well as outdoor entrances. The Apple Store will be a flagship 22,000 square foot location occupying most of the building side that faces the outdoor plaza on West Georgia. It has also offered to invest more than $3-million to redesign and renovate the outdoor plaza with the ‘plato ring’, which mimics the shape of its new $5-billion ring-shaped headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Potential tenants for the remaining spaces within the 165,000 square foot couthouse building are not known.
The Annex Building built in 1912 on the western side of the museum complex will remain untouched. The building was never converted into usable space for the art gallery as it was designated as an heritage site and has been used for special occasion and event bookings over the years. It still retains the original wood panelled walls and judges’ bench when the building operated as a courthouse.
Apple has been scouting for a suitable flagship space in downtown Vancouver for the past few years. Early reports indicated Apple had a desire to find a flagship location that provided a sufficient buffer area from its existing Pacific Centre location.
The Pacific Centre Apple store location is one of the company’s most profitable with $70-million in sales recorded annually within its small 5,366 square foot space. However, given the Apple flagship at the courthouse building is located across the street from Pacific Centre, it is doubtful the existing shopping centre retail unit will be retained.
An Apple Store flagship at the courthouse building is still several years away. It is pending on the Vancouver Art Gallery’s ability to successfully raise at least $300-million to construct its new museum building and vacate its premises at Robson Square. The space would then have to undergo extensive renovations in order to accommodate the conversion for other uses.
This would not be the first time a major Apple Store has opened inside a prominently located building of great historical significance. In December 2011, Apple opened a 23,000 square foot store at Grand Central Station – one of New York City’s most high traffic transportation hubs with 750,000 people passing through it each day.