Wednesday, April 13, 2016

26 years since the Eaton/Bay Centre opened and it has never been a good fit

Eaton's building facing Broad Street
In 1990 Caddilac Fairview opened a mall in downtown located where a dozen heritage buildings were located.    26 years later and the Bay Centre remains a blight on the city landscape.    Malls started to become a big thing by the mid 1960s and hit their heyday in the early 1980s.   By the time the Eaton (Bay) Centre was proposed the classic suburban mall was in decline.

Overall the Bay Centre mall harms the streetscape for blocks around

Issues with the Bay Centre

  • A very bland suburban mall - the stores are national chain stores and the interior has nothing that lets you know you are in Victoria.    The mall was supposed to have four floors for stores but never managed to rent out retail space on the fourth floor
  • The Bay Centre has no destination stores, it is not a draw for the general public.  It replaced a whole series of small downtown boutique type stores that did draw people 
  • The mall bisects Old Town.   Before the mall opened there was a natural flow of pedestrian traffic from the Inner Harbour to City Hall along Gordon and Broad Streets.   The loss of this path for the public means that on either side of the mall traffic is down from what it used to be.   You can see this impact clearly in how often store fronts on Broad street south or north of the mall are empty.
  • Government street between Fort and View Street is cold because of the huge empty facade of the mall on the east side of the street.    It is also the only block side on Government between the Inner Harbour and Pandora that has very little street level retail
  • View Street between Government and Broad has never regained the vibrancy it had - it is a very cold and dead.   
  • Victoria Old Town is small enough already, the loss of the heritage buildings reduced the tourism draw of the city.
  • The mall is very closed in and does not have clear sight lines to the outside.  Once inside the mall it is as of you are no longer in Victoria.   The mall not only is not drawing people downtown but it is keeping people away.
What we really need to have happen is for the City to develop a plan on how to deal with the failure that is the mall.    There has to be some way to improve the streets around the mall and to bring more people out onto the streets


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