Former Granville 7 cinema complex set for renovation

Architects filed building permit earlier this month, expect development permit soon

Architects plan to transform 855 Granville Street and save two of the site's three façades | City of Vancouver

Architects overseeing redevelopment at the former Empire Granville 7 cinema complex at 855 Granville Street are hoping that city staff approve permits in the coming weeks so work can start by the end of August.

Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership partner Bill Reid told Business in Vancouver July 26 that his company applied for a building permit for the site earlier this month.

BIV reported in January that the company had applied for a development permit.

News that a building permit has been filed is a clear indication that owner Terrma GP I Inc. is anxious to redevelop the site.

Reid estimated that the fee to file the building permit was in the $50,000 range. The project will also involve some development cost charges, although those are likely not substantial because the construction will be a renovation and not a new building.

“They have a couple tenants lined up,” Reid said. “I’m not at liberty to say who they are and I’m not sure that the absolute bottom line has been signed off on that.”

CBRE executive vice-president Mario Negris is the broker heading efforts to find retailers for the 27,011 square feet of retail space planned for the basement and the street-level of the complex.

He did not return BIV’s request for an interview by press time.

“It’s a huge positive for the street, for sure as this could be the beginning of other investors coming in and looking for space on the street,” said Raymond Shoolman, who is a retail analyst at DIG360.

“The street is probably going relatively cheaply right now. That part of Granville Street is going to be a hard one to change, even though I think [renovation at 855 Granville Street] is a terrific start.”

He said that the best thing for the street would be if the future tenants have recognizable brand names or are able to draw customers from Robson Street, or other parts of downtown – “something that is going to bring in a different type of customer than what is there right now.”

The cinema complex closed in November 2012 and the site has since been a dead zone that has attracted buskers and homeless people, who sleep in the doorway.

(Image: The Coronet Theatre opened in 1964 for Odeon Theatres | Cinema Treassures/Bryan Krefft)

He predicted that future tenants are more likely to be restaurants or bars than stores that sell clothing or shoes but added that he has heard that Adidas renewed its lease across the street, at 860 Granville Street, so that would be a good sign for any future apparel retailer at the site.

“If I was looking for 27,000 square feet, even downtown, I would be very nervous about going in on Granville Street while I wouldn’t necessarily be nervous going in for a 6,000- to 7,000-square-foot store,” he said

Renovations are also expected to add 29,784 square feet of office space on the second and third floors of the complex and Reid said he does not believe any of that space has yet been leased.

Façades to be saved

Work on the site will include saving two façades.

The exterior of the cinema complex includes what appear to be three separate buildings. Façades on the north and the south buildings will be saved while the centre building, which has glasswork, will be torn down, Reid said.

The southernmost of the three façades is the oldest, and dates back to 1893. The building was converted into the Palms Hotel in 1913, according to the heritage website Changing Vancouver.

“If you look closely, there are steel pilasters on the columns with little fake metal palm fronds sticking out the top of them,” he said.

The façade to the north was the Coronet cinema, which opened in 1964 and operated until 1984, according to the website Cinema Treasures.

That façade has some neon lighting and inset plaster work.

Both those façades were saved in the 1980s, when the Granville 7 complex was built.

“It’s a bit of an eyesore now as it’s been sitting empty,” Reid said.

“We’re hoping that all the permits flow through fairly quickly over the next two or three weeks and we can get going.”

To read a BIV feature from last year on recent heritage restorations in Vancouver, click here.