Could Uniqlo open in downtown Vancouver on Granville Street?

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Granville 7 CBRE retail space for lease
The former Granville 7 cinema is in the process of being repurposed into a new retail and office development. Credit: CBRE

Japanese fast fashion retailer Uniqlo opened its first location earlier this month at Metropolis at Metrotown, but the suburban shopping centre wasn’t the company’s first choice.

Uniqlo CEO Tadashi Yanai told Business in Vancouver that the company wanted to open their first Metro Vancouver store in the downtown core, but couldn’t find the right space at the right price.

One retail space downtown that could work well — and is currently available — is in the redevelopment of the former Granville 7 cinema at 855 Granville Street.

Construction on the repurposing of the former cinema — made up of three buildings, two of which have heritage façades — is already underway. The building will be transformed into a mixed-use office and retail complex, with the façade of the original Palms Hotel (1893) remaining as part of the conversion, as well as the “deco frieze” from the Paradise Theatre (1938). The renovation will modernize the three buildings with articulated glazing, while respecting the existing heritage building façades.

In terms of retail, 14,388 sq ft. of space is available on the ground floor, with the addition of a 11,467 sq ft. basement. Office space is located on the floors above.

While the property is located only half a block south of major retailers like Nordstrom, Best Buy and Winners, Granville Street is facing some challenges. The project should help revitalize this stretch of Granville between Robson and Smithe, regardless of which retailer moves in.

Craig Patterson, founder and editor-in-chief of popular retail industry website Retail-Insider.com, says the addition of Uniqlo to Granville Street could have a dramatic impact.

“Uniqlo moving onto Granville Street could be a game changer for the area. Granville Street’s 800-block is in a state of transition and there’s an opportunity for it to become something of an ‘extension of Robson Street’, though that would require a clustering of premium brands, which isn’t currently happening.”

Patterson says Uniqlo wants a strong downtown Vancouver presence, but finding available space has been extremely challenging.

“Uniqlo, no doubt, wants a downtown Vancouver store. Real estate may be a challenge, given that it likely wants a store at least 30,000 square feet in size. That probably rules out CF Pacific Centre unless the proposed Howe and Georgia expansion is dedicated to Uniqlo as one tenant (and the landlord might have other ideas), or Uniqlo might otherwise look to Robson Street, although redevelopment would be required, or possibly even Granville Street.”

“Ultimately, Uniqlo will want a large, visible space that is going to be able to be accessed by a substantial number of people. The store will be very popular immediately, and I suspect a downtown Vancouver store would be the busiest in the country.”

Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), says there’s lots of potential for new retail and restaurants on Granville Street south of Robson, especially with new residential construction nearby.

“Granville Street is one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the city and well served by transit. With new residential towers being built in close proximity– Vancouver House by Westbank and Burrard Gateway by Reliance Properties — there will be thousands of new residents nearby, within easy walking distance.”

With Uniqlo’s stores typically running between 20,000-30,000 sq ft., the property could be an attractive option for the retailer, something which the company’s CEO seemed to be open to while in Vancouver for the opening of the Metrotown store.

“That could be a good idea,” Yanai told Business in Vancouver of locating on Granville Street. “Because, if we’re paying the right rent, the fair rent for the downtown, it’s very difficult to make both ends meet.”

Lease rates for the retail space at 855 Granville Street are proposed at $120 per sq. ft. for the ground floor, and $35 per sq ft. for the basement, considerably lower than retail lease rates at nearby Pacific Centre. Leasing agents are CBRE and more information can be found here.

  • Cop 663

    It’s not ideal. That area of Granville, though only a 2 minute walk from upscale Nordstrom, is a little sketchy. So many squeegee kids and vacant spaces on Granville Street (south of Robson) these days…

    Maybe Uniqlo can transform that area. But maybe not. It would be a risk for the retailer. I’m sure it would cost more, but a better location would probably be on Robson Street somewhere. Close to MUJI would be smart as their target markets have a big overlap (as I’m sure they’re aware of judging by how close their stores often are all around the world).