August 4, 2004
by Canadian Architect
Three teams are currently shortlisted for the redevelopment of the derelict Woodwards department store in downtown Vancouver: Concert Properties/Davidson Yuen Architects; Millennium Properties/Gomberoff Bell Lyon Architects; and Westbank Projects/Henriquez Partners Architects. The 1993 closure of the venerable department store contributed to over a decade of deterioration and neglect in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Last year, the City bought the site from the BC government for $5 million, and this highly contentious project has had more public input than any development in Vancouver’s history. Some details in the proposals include a native healing centre, daycare, food floor and community space. Sadly, though 100 social housing units are provided for, the dearth of housing in the Downtown Eastside means that 2,000 are actually needed. Simon Fraser University’s School of Contemporary Arts is the most probable anchor tenant for the project. All three design proposals involve the addition of new buildings or towers to the site in the 100 block of West Hastings [see CA, July 2004], and all include the creation of a central courtyard within the vast building. Concert Properties proposes a new steel lattice tower topped with the existing iconic “W” sign sited within the large public square hollowed out from the centre of the red brick building. Millennium’s scheme adds a tall residential tripartite tower and a coloured glass box containing SFU’s studio space hovering over the Hastings Street elevation. The Westbank team also incorporates a housing tower, but with a far greater level of resolution with respect to environmental and green design considerations. Further, this version of the interior courtyard is weather-protected and generously scaled to accommodate such activities as day and night markets, ensuring a lively public space round the clock. Work is scheduled to begin in 2005 and will be completed in 2007. The winning proposal will be selected in September.