The Merchants Bank building, as photographed in 1972. Credit: City of Vancouver archives

If you’ve been by the corner of West Hastings and Carrall Street or Pigeon Park lately, you may have noticed the scaffolding around the old Merchants Bank building.

The historic building at 1 West Hastings Street has been under renovation for several years now. It originally opened as the Merchants Bank in 1913, back when the Downtown Eastside was Vancouver’s downtown core. The three-storey building was built in the Beaux Arts (Neoclassical Revival) style and was originally constructed with a steel frame capable of supporting an additional four to seven floors.

As the Downtown Eastside began to deteriorate, the building fell into disrepair and the extra floors were never added. It most recently housed a pawn shop called Peter’s Buy and Sell Bargain Shop, which was forced to close in 2014 after chunks of concrete fell from the façade onto Pigeon Park below.

The Merchants Bank building, photographed when it was being used as a pawn shop in 2004. Credit: Parks Canada

The upper floors of the building haven’t been in use for decades and a report from the City of Vancouver’s heritage conservation group several years ago described the building’s interior as “renovated beyond recognition.”

Since the pawn shop closed, Millennium Group, the developers of the Olympic Village, have been busily restoring the building to its original glory and it appears work is nearly complete.

The property is currently up for lease on Spacelist and is described as “an opportunity to lease high-profile restaurant, retail and office space located in the heart of Gastown.”

The listing goes on to say that the building has been restored to its “former elegance” and includes a reclaimed limestone façade, and heritage architectural elements mixed with state of art modern features. Mechanical and electrical systems have also been upgraded.

“The Merchants Bank provides the perfect opportunity for a keen restaurateur as well as high-tech office users to join this progressive and innovative area and to capitalize on Gastown’s growing patronage and reputation as Vancouver’s culinary and high-tech core,” the listing states.

A leasing information document from Millennium Group says patio space for restauranteurs is a possibility.

Interestingly, Millennium has also notified the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee that it intends to develop a new micro unit rental building on a vacant lot adjacent to the Merchants Bank at 333 Carrall St., and also plans to rehabilitate the heritage facade of 325 Carrall St. while adding a “significant four-storey rooftop addition.”

This corner of the Downtown Eastside is poised to see a dramatic transformation in the coming years.