Frances Bula header image 2

Woodward’s goes to New York

November 25th, 2009 · 14 Comments

There’s no more exciting moment for some people in this town than when Vancouver hits the New York Times. Here’s the latest, a huuuuge article on Woodward’s.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Dan

    Frances, can you lend us your subscription info so we can read it? 🙁
    not surprised to see it though. I’m surprised its this late into the game where the times has even written about it.

  • Feesto
  • MB

    A pretty decently written article. I, too, think the jury is out on the social side, but the project (one of many attempts to plan for this challenging site) seems to have for all intents and purposes underscored success.

    Good luck to them.

  • gmgw

    Frances, when I saw your post my first thought was “Jeez, the NYT”s a little late” until I realized that you weren’t talking about the department store, but the development that’s usurped its name.

    I liked the store a lot better.

  • Bill Lee

    And Mme Bula still has the old photo of the rusty ‘W’ in the sky in the blog header.

    @Dan // Nov 25, 2009 at 1:36 pm Enter a online NYT subscription (it’s free) and a name and password. They don’t bother me and it gives you access.
    I’ve found that for some reason, they allow 3 to 5 free looks from external references before they ask you to enter some id.

    More urban design stories including bike fanaticism from this Portland freelancer at

    I’d be curious as to the officious security guards at the present SFU downtown boondoggle in the ex-Spencer-to-Eatons-to-Sears-to-Skalbania-to-Segal-SFULongLease building act when they are closer the the ‘grit’ of downtown.

    I’m waiting for a blow-up at the (SFU Chancellor Brandt Louie’s) London Drugs store in ex-Woodwards that is already stocked but not open yet.

    (and did you read the woes of West-of-the-Loop West Randolph Street in Chicago when Oprah decamps for L.A. and the end of gentrification of that part of the Windy City)

  • Otis Krayola


    I liked the store fine, too, until they led the charge to Sunday shopping.

    For all the good it did them.

  • Lionsgate

    “Mr. Henriquez said design details were intended to help smooth over class differences. Special window panels are being installed in the singles units to deter residents with mental health or addiction issues from taping over the glass to keep out the light, and offending condominium dwellers.”

    I never considered that would be a design consideration, or thought that would be chief among design considerations in dealing with both mental health and addictive issues.

  • Wally

    the real story at Woodward’s is the 250,000 square feet of transferable density that Gillespie got for “heritage revitalization” then only saved 2 facades of the building at Abbott and Cordova. Sweet deal he got; choking and almost killing the heritage density bank. The freelancer that Bill Lee refers to is the same author of the NYT article – Linda Baker. Yes an excellent writer.

  • MB

    My understanding was that heritage considerations did not extend into the store’s interior, which were relatively devoid of any heritage detailing because of the dominance of floor layout flexibility for retail. Most of the heritage detail was always in the facade, as with most buildings in the area. The exceptions include structures like the nearby Dominion Building which is richly detailed deep into its core, and is therefore protected.

  • Wally

    MB, the point is in HOW MUCH transferable density was granted and at what value. Read the reports – it doesn’t say for facade restoration. Ask Robert Fung if he thinks the Woodward’s deal was better than any that he got, dollar for dollar, for projects he did in the same area.

  • “There’s no more exciting moment for some people in this town than when Vancouver hits the New York Times.”

    Oh so true! Great quip, Frances. I love it. Absolutely love it.

  • Frances Bula

    Hey Condohype,

    You’re there! You’re alive! Nice to hear from you. Sometimes I go to look at the last blog entry, just to remind myself of when you were here.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Larry Beasley and I had a sort of “gentleman’s understanding” that the tower and podium belonged in the downtown peninsula, and not anywhere else in the city limits.

    The issue is the old one, that once the flood gates are opened, there is no stopping it. The huge profits of land lift, for the city as well as for the developer, are just too good to let go.

    There are many things about the Woodward’s site that we ought to regret. First, the Woodward’s site is Block IV of The Town of Granville, platted in 1870. Towers seem like the worst of all possible options for building in the very cradle of our city.

    Second, one wonders about the heritage strategy for dealing with the Woodward’s tower and the “W” sign. Moving historical buildings and structures robs them of the better part of their “cultural meaning”.

    Finally, this knee-jerk reaction that the only way we can finance neighbourhood redevelopment, including social housing, is by building new buildings and bamboo-tower condos at that.

    There is a race to the bottom enveloping our city design professions. Complicit in this decline is a confusion between the “profit motive” that properly drives capitalism, and the need to identify, defend and make thrive other values in society and our market place.

    If we leave it to the market forces acting alone, and unchecked, then Vancouver’s civic sense in the infamous words of Galbraith will be about “private luxury and public squalor”.

  • MB

    Very astute analysis, Lewis. This project was one big political football. The original 19th Century “land lift” would appear to have more to do with human values than land values.