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City Plumber: The Buy-Low/Kingsgate Mall analysis.

November 26th, 2012 · 17 Comments

Over there on the left of the screen, people.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • I attended a consultation session put on by the VSB last year about how to deal with closing schools and dipping enrolment in schools city-wide. It was a good sign that VSB was out doing a public consultation. However, these things are not easy to pull off. It is hard to strike the balance between “asking” and “telling”.

    The Kingsgate mall was not mentioned, but here are two scenarios:

    (a) More Rize Towers facing off across Kingsway; or
    (b) A Mount Pleasant Brand urbanism.

    A look at how that Mount Pleasant Urbanism got dumped on here:

    Upcoming research will try to classify Mount Pleasant’s urbanism by spotlighting its primary elements:

    • Main Streetcar
    • The Lee Building
    • Apartment houses of the 1920’s
    • Early Row houses
    • Mount Pleasant Tenement buildings
    • Industrial plants
    • Parks what parks?
    • The so-called Map of Canada Streets

    Buy-Low is a community partner. For MTP Days last year they donated as many hot dogs and buns as we could carry away. We barbecued them and sold them for $1.50, all proceeds to the Mount Pleasant Elementary.

    Vancouver schools are into fund raising in a big way because VSB does not support its schools with such frills as playground equipment and smart-touch projection screens in the classrooms.

    Best thing that could happen to Buy-Low, the drug store and the rest of Kingsgate Mall, would be a transit station nearby, and a complete make-over with human-scale, high density, mixed-use urbanism.

    The site is large enough to be redeveloped with an open air mid-block space connecting to the neighbourhood on all sides. The bend on Broadway puts this place front and center for all approaching. Maybe a townscape marker, such as a human-scale clock tower, would be a good focal point.

    Perhaps the NW corner could feature a sister building to the Lee Building, echoing its architectural character with a different footprint. The Kingsgate ‘sister’ could be oval, and the one on the Rize site triangular (as previously suggested).

    There should be incubator space for new upstart businesses that might move on to occupy storefronts on Broadway or on main. These postage stamp kiosks can animate retail sites in unforeseen ways.

    I would love to see Buy-Low experiment with a public market style store, with the bakery, butcher, fresh fruit and vegetable sellers, magazine kiosk, etc., operating as stand-alone shops under the corporate umbrella.

    Broadway needs revitalization. That should be part of a transit implementation that needs to begin yesterday, doubling the capacity of the B-Line. That’s my finger-to-the-wind interpretation of what I am hearing about overcrowding now that we’ve given students a bus pass.

    However, the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for this site is whether or not it will be able to deliver public open spaces in its middle every bit as vibrant as a Granville Island.

    So, what is going to happen to Kingsgate Mall? It will go the way of the rest of the city…

    Towerization will be rammed down our throats, or we will ‘Rize’ to build something better… A human-scale urbanism where everyone is welcome.

  • “Best thing that could happen to Buy-Low, the drug store and the rest of Kingsgate Mall, would be a transit station nearby, and a complete make-over with human-scale, high density, mixed-use urbanism.”

    Ummm, no. The best thing would be to just leave it alone. I think every retail space is currently leased, there’s anchor tenants that appear to be doing a good business and are probably happy with the status quo. I certainly think the current customers don’t really care if the ugly brick edifice is a paragon of urbanism or not. Beer, groceries, work clothes and office wear. A book store, post office, dentist, florist, lotto outlet. Heck even the Source has half-decent electronics if you’re not an snooty audophile. Kingsgate Mall is working as is, for the people who use it. The last thing I want (personally) is to end up paying more for my groceries because it’s a shopping ‘experience’.

  • I’ve been using it since 1988, when I bought into the ‘hood… and its already a paragon!

    Of bad design.

    Let’s start with the streetcar carcass on the NW corner parking lot… Unless I’m mistaken, that was a CoV initiative at neighbourhood revitalization.

    You know the parking lot. The one where you can’t park your car ’cause there are the supporting posts to the big sign that… Don’t try to make a left turn in there during rush hour. After hours OK. I don’t know what the sign says. And, no one’s sure what the function of the “streetcar” is on the corner of one of the biggest intersections in our city—measured by square feet of asphalt—Kingsway & Broadway.

    The other parking lot is not much better. Hard to make a… no, down right dangerous to turn into it. Can’t make a left turn out. Prince Edward Street is grade-separated from the lot, so customers parking curb side can’t walk in. They have to go around. Don’t even think of parking on 10th and walking in. Streetwall on that side reminds me of fortifications and dungeons I’ve seen in other cities.

    Oh, and there are pylons for a huge sign on the east parking lot too. Not sure what it says either. That’s the lot with the underground parking that nobody in their right mind uses ’cause it looks freaky. I park topside, next to the angled wall of the planter that makes walking down the stairs a bit like visiting Cuba. Parking space is not marked, so it is typically not used. The loading bays for the Buy Low are right beside it with more than ample room for turning movements and pedestrian access.

    At least there is a ped activated crossing signal on Bway & Prince Edward so folks can get across safely.

    Inside the mall is like a bad retro dream to the 1970s. It’s like visiting a remote community without leaving the city. Seating is awful (wood benches); there is no food court or any kind of gathering place; no skylights or day lighting.

    It is all florescent tubes and dated floor tile. It looks like it has a musky smell, though the air is fine.

    The connection to the food floor/Buy-Low upstairs is a bit of a nightmare. Dollar store is tucked into what appears to be recycled storage space. There is an escalator, though I can only remember what it looks like top side where you get on it next to a coffee shop of bland ‘New West in the 70s’ decor.

    Could use a move-a-vator. Open up the space. Connect the Buy-Low with the mall below. Make it more of a community experience rather than a gauntlet run from one obscure booth to the next.

    The place turns a back on the neighourhood and presents a hermetically sealed face to Broadway, as you suggest Chris. No fine-grain commercial frontages. Just large windows papered over with adds. Not that Broadway is a Parisian Boulevard overflowing with flaneurs, or a version of its own self west of MacDonald.

    We’re still on the East Side, and Mount Pleasant has not been treated the same as Kitsilano. You know… ’cause working folk don’t have social needs. That case of beer’s enough.

    But you’re right Chris. Let’s not change a thing.

  • People congregate at the Library generally, or Dude Chilling Park. What you propose just sounds like it’s going to add to the cost of my can of soup. The neighbourhood doesn’t need grand architectural dreams, esp when the food bank line-up at the Library goes right round the block. Priorities Lewis.



  • David

    “This keeps us busy” someone here once said (or more)… Gentrification of a shopping mall is a hot topic. Renovate and/or redevelop the last example of mid 70s mallcetecture? Champlain Mall has already been lost. Buy-Low, “The Family Food Store For Family Folks”. “Mark’s Work Wearhouse” listed under Fashion..

    Lewis makes some valid observations but maybe it’s time for a revisit (The escalator which often broke down was taken out years ago, about the time the coffee shop became a Shoppers Home Healthcare )

  • David

    Kingsgate Mall offers plenty of shopping choices in a wonderful, central location. We also have a public library and liquor store.

    10 Reviews of Kingsgate Mall “I love a good freak show. This one is free.”

    Kingsgate did get a makeover in the mid ’00s. It’s brighter than it used to be, still has wood benches and tiled floors. And shopping. Madison Centre in Burnaby is bright, modern, and full of businesses providing services (Nails, Dentists, Insurance), and only one that offers goods for sale.

    Express News & Smokes
    Where you get everything you need

    Sudden urge for an Orange Julius, time to head to Brentwood Mall while it’s still there

  • MB


    The site is large enough to be redeveloped with an open air mid-block space connecting to the neighbourhood on all sides.

    If Kingsgate is to be developed, then I agree with this. It seems the school board owner needs the revenue to support the members who’s salaries are north of 150K a year while administering cuts.

    I, too, am an old user of the supermarket (’82-87). I won’t miss crossing Kingsway at 10th on foot (back when there wasn’t a light), nor the grand entry into a parking lot, or the terrible migraine-inducing flourescent lighting, or the formulaic bland suburban mall materials, but it certainly offered price points geared to the demographic of two starving students, young families just starting out, and a community with its fair share of poverty.

    I share Chris’s concern about the new development not encompassing the needs of the neighbourhood, but then the neighbourhood has certainly changed with new development over the past decade. Still, I’d be surprised if luxury condos were proposed on this site in great numbers.

    I’m not sure whether the entire 12,200 m2 block is owned by the SB, but if so then the impetus may well be to develop it in phases to avoid closing down their revenue stream from retail.

    Nonetheless, perhaps a small public plaza can be placed in the centre, or at least deeply incised into the site from the edges to mitigate traffic noise and create an enclosed outoor space to which most of the retail would be oriented.

    Think of a European block with a hole in the centre. We have such a raft of monolithic towers in this town. Now how about some ventilation?

  • Bill Lee

    We should be throwing all this into the Plumber Column on the left hand side.

    However Madame Bula has injured her hand, falling at Kingsgate mall, so little editing. (See twitter chain at top right hand )

    “A Public Plaza in the Centre”
    They fail. See Rosemary Brown Park in the ex-Carling complex east of Connaught Park.
    W 11th Avenue & Vine Street (2299 Redbud Lane) Only used by the rats of the complex despite being open to the street.
    [There is another one in Montreal’s No Damn Good for similar political marking reasons]

  • MB

    @ Bill Lee

    I used to live in a 1913 brick apartment building in this neighbourhood (I still live nearby). It was U-shaped with a very pleasant courtyard where the main entry was. The residents often set up a neighbourhood party in the courtyard, and there was always enough foot traffic and cats to keep the rats away at all times.

    An expanded version of this courtyard was what I was thinking of. Public space is too often shoved off to the skinny perimeter of development projects where private floor space dominates. I don’t see building a smallish plaza in the centre of the Kingsgate block as overly problematic.

  • brilliant

    @Chris Keam-Future site for one of Vision’s patented Neighbourhood-Busting Towers®. If it was good enough for Rize Alliance a block away, it will be good enough for you.

  • @Brilliant:

    People are trying to have a reasonable conversation about grown-up stuff. Could you leave us to it please? Not every thread is in need of your jejune trolling.


  • brilliant

    @Chris Keam 12-Merely trying to point out in simple terms for you the hypocrisy of not making a peep when Vision was dropping an unwanted tower a block away and yet getting all in a lather when its suggested to remove a tired, shabby auto-oriented mall.

    And really, should someone who plumps anal beads on another thread be lecturing about
    having grown-up conversations? LMFAO.

  • You might try to discern the difference between what your pinched mind consideres ‘vulgar’ (value judgement much?) and an obvious attempt at some humor, with your off-topic junk comments.

    I didn’t offer my opinion on Rize, because I don’t know enough detail regarding planning and development to offer any worthwhile comments. This might an approach you could consider.

    I do know a bit about the Buy-Low, from roughly a decade of shopping there, and my question was clearly one couched my own self-interest, along with concern about access to reasonably-priced food for my community.

    The bottom line brilliant is that you poison the well again and again. You have no interest in seeing people have reasonable dialogues about important issues. That much is clear. The only real question is what motivates you to continually engage in this behaviour?

  • brilliant

    @CK 14- is “poisoning the well” code for pointing out the hypocrisy of those who cry for higher density to save the planet, except when it threatens their favourite mall?

  • waltyss

    no, brilliant not, poisoning the well is code for being a boring nasty old piece of negativity. I am apparently a hypocrite because I live in Dunbar in a single family house but support greater densification in the city.
    Apparently Keam is a hypocrite because he supports greater density but questions a development that might gentrify a neighbourhood.
    All of these are valid points for discussion which as CK has pointed out do not require your bitter nastiness. I have yet to see one, not even one fo your posts which offers something positive.

  • Michael

    Just a slight off topic note to Chris, instead of buying soup I suggest making your own, its good for the soul, has way less sodium, and makes your place smell great while your cooking. Plus if you make 3L at a time like I do, there’s loads more time to do other stuff than cooking! Put your extra in the freezer! Happy cooking! m