Monday, March 16, 2009

Some Old Pics of the Eaton Centre

Back in the 80s I lived in Victoria and was involved in the campaign to oppose the Eaton Centre Mall. I took some pics at the time and found them again after a long time. This first picture is of the Douglas Street side of the Eaton's.

I went down on January 19th 1987, a sunny winter day, and took a series of pictures. I did a bunch of them from an office in the Central Building on View Street

I had completely forgotten where the old Marks and Spencers was, my memory had it on the corner of View and Douglas where the Macdonalds is now. The art deco facade was moved to the Macdonalds.

The Times building had a nice presence on Fort Street which has been lost with the mall, on the other hand the streetscape on Fort Street is better now than then.

I really liked the old buildings at the corner of Broad and Fort Street and was sorry to see them go.

I came back once it was under construction and took some pictures. I was amazed at the view one got of the Eaton's building from Government.

In general my fears about the mall all came to pass. The mall is a huge block that splits the centre of the city up. Government Street between View and Fort feels like a canyon. Fort may have a better streetscape, but the building looms over the street.

View street feels like an alley and not a street any longer.

The loss of Broad Street has blocked the natural walking route that existed there from Centennial Square to the Empress.

The interior of the mall has no relationship to the outside, no sense of connection. The mall on the inside is blandly North American, it could be in any city anywhere on the continent, there is nothing within it that connects to the city. The mall has offered the city nothing to make this a better place.

If there was a need for a mall downtown, it should have been built around Blanshard and Yates. The thinking that went into allowing this mall to be build is the same type of thinking that allowed for 20+ storey concrete bunker buildings like Orchard House or the View Tower(s).

Unfortunately this error of the 1980s can not be undone.


Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing these pictures! I like the mall, so I'll disagree with you on that point, but it is so good to see some real Victoria history!

Anonymous said...

I too grew up as a teen through out the 80's and miss the ol woolworths dept store with it's lunch counter. I agree with the view st analogy. it does feel like and alley, but they are getting fun stores in there now like Melanie Lynn and a few others from Quebec. WOuld be nice to have a more eclectic flavour in there and not so bland.

Paul Holmes said...

When I ran for City Council in 1996, the security at the mall banned me "for life" for standing on the street outside the mall and distributing leaflets.

So I've hated the mall for the last 13 years, at least.

I agree with most everything you've said ... namely, it would be nice to see some Victoria "character" incorporated into the mall somehow, and Broad Street is just not the same.

Anonymous said...

Being a teenager, the Bay is the only mall I know downtown. and I actually think it is one of the best malls in the city. It lets a lot of natural light come in and that is really nice when you compare it to the other malls in the city. Also, its always warm, a big plus in the winter, and they have chairs, another plus in my opinion.

-a vic city teen

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting those historic pictures. Apparently, the stub of a public space in front of the Starbucks that was carved out of Broad Street was fought for aggressively by city activists so I suppose we should be grateful for what little is there.

The mall cannot be called a full success as the top floor was never able to be leased out completely and died a slow death. A huge waste of thousands of square feet, much of which remains as it did the day of completion 20 years ago!

Jay Currie said...

As a relative newcomer to Victoria - and a long standing mall hater - I don't hink much of the Bay mall.

Great downtowns have small blocks divided by real streets.

Now, that said there are many worse blocks in downtown Victoria because they get the scale so very wrong. The development of View St. as an earlier commentor pointed out has reduced it to a sunless alley. the federal buildings on Government have much the same effect creating long, boring stretches.

It is entirely possible to build tall in an interesting city but you have to do it in towers which have no obvious street access. Put a twenty story tower dead center of a block but require that it be surrounded by human scale buildings. That can, and does work because the low buildings can sell their density to the high.

Ted Godwin said...

I miss the tunnel underneath Broad Street.

What still bothers me to this day was the boondoggle about Broad Street. They were permitted to build where the street had been on the condition that it was to be left as a public thoroughfare far in excess of mall store hours (at the time). The day the mall opened it was clear they had designed it to make it difficult to navigate, with no wheelchair/stroller access to the Fort Street side. Very shortly after they opened security guards began locking doors in contravention of the agreement and when you could access the thoroughfare they made their presence known in what would charitably be described as an intimidating manner.

Now Broad Street is gone and those who want the "mall shops" go to Hillside or Tillicum or will soon go to the rebuilt Town and Country.

Lets hope at least it can serve as a lesson to other communities.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what those original thoroughfare hours are? I'm guessing 10 pm daily? Surely they haven't been revoked and are still in effect.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I think that the Bay Centre is easily the most attractive mall in Victoria, and one of the best I've seen in Canada. It's bright, airy, consistant in its design, and utilizes its space nicely. Compare it to Mayfair, which is a maze of mismatched additions surrounded by a vast concrete parking lot.

I never lived in Victoria when the original Eaton's store existed. I'm surprised to see how the mall closely matches the original buildings.

Unknown said...

I was born in Victoria in 61 so I have seen a lot of changes. I really miss the old city. I used to always come downtown when I was a teenager and go to the Metropolitan and sit at the horseshoe counters for coffee and a chat with someone. The days in Victoria where everyone used to smile at you and the men would tip their hats. My grandparents lived on Olive Street and it was very English and friendly. Wonderful pictures thank you so much. Would you have any pics of the Metropolitan? Thanks again, Sherri

itunemp said...

nice :)