Redevelopment plan proposed for site of former Granville 7 Cinemas

An eyesore building that has been empty and neglected for over four years in Vancouver's entertainment district may be about to get a new lease on life.

'It's a bit of a missing tooth on that block. We'd like to see something happen'

The complex at 855 Granville St. has been empty since the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas were closed in Nov. 2012. (Don Marce/CBC)

An eyesore building that has been empty and neglected for over four years in Vancouver's entertainment district may be about to get a new lease on life.

Local architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership has a redevelopment plan for 855 Granville St. which housed the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas until it closed in Nov. 2012. 

The development application to the City of Vancouver shows an updated design for the interior of the complex, including a mix of retail and office space. 

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) has feared that the building shuttered for so long has become an obstacle for retail growth in the area. 

"It's a bit of a missing tooth on that block. We would like to see something happen," said DBIA president Charles Gauthier. 

More change coming 

Earlier this week, Tom Lee Music announced its flagship store one block south of the empty theatre building will be moved to West Georgia Street. 

"It's just the ever changing landscape within both the downtown retail and downtown office market that really keeps us on our toes and creates some interesting challenges and opportunities," said Gauthier. 

Tom Lee Music will vacate the first three floors of a five-storey complex at 929 Granville St. (Don Marce/CBC)

The music store building was recently purchased by Bonnis Properties.

The plan is to subdivide the music store space at street level into four separate retail units, according to Kerry Bonnis of Bonnis Properties.

"We don't have anyone yet but it could be fashion to food," said Bonnis. 

As well, he said, an application has been made to the city to change the facade of the building to one closer to its original look. 

Bonnis Properties put up the building that includes Best Buy and Winners at the corner of Granville Street and Robson Street. 

"They are great owners and operators. We believe they will turn that Tom Lee building retail at ground level into another success story as they have done elsewhere," said Gauthier. 

Not everyone confident 

Granville Street through the downtown core — in particular the 800 block and 900 block — has struggled for years. 

"There was a time a few years ago where they thought there would be a rejuvenation. A few stores opened up but generally it's been a street in trouble," said Raymond Shoolman, retail consultant with dig360

"I think there are problems there at night. There's a lot of homeless vagrancy hanging around there, so I think it's intimidating for a lot of people to go down there."

The area needs to be cleaned up, said Shoolman, so that retailers, bars and restaurants will be enticed to move in. 

The proposed retail space at the revamped cinemas could potentially attract high-profile retailers but Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership has not revealed any negotiations. 

The application was submitted to the city in Nov. 2016 and is still in the early stages of review.