June 25, 2021

Buildings that Changed Vancouver – Bentall Centre

The Bentall Centre on the west side of Burrard is our Rockefeller Center.

Not the 1930s Art Deco megaproject in Manhattan, anchored by ’30 Rock.’  The precedent for the Bentall Centre is its post-war extension built on Sixth Avenue in the Sixties:

Rockefeller Centre in the Sixties

The head offices of corporate America.  Mad Men country.

Toronto did the same at Bay and King – the Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Centre.

In Vancouver it was the four towers built between 1967 and 1981 on a huge site between Burrard and Thurlow, Melville to Pender, with a final one on the east side of Burrard.

Same kind of International-Style architecture.   Same underground shopping. Same sterile plazas.  Same purpose – to be the centre of a downtown moving west.

Bentall under construction, Vancouver Archives

The Bentall Centre became one of the most successful commercial projects in Canada, and it has remained so, with an almost unbelievable 98 percent occupancy.  At least before the pandemic.

Once built, the Bentall Centre didn’t need to do much to remain successful.  And so, public-space-and-amenity-wise, it didn’t do much.  Once the fashion of Bentall-era amenity was Executive Parking.  It took half a century to get a gym and bike parking.

Then comes Covid, not to mention some major new projects on Georgia (notably the fully leased Post) that is pulling the centre of high-value real estate eastward,

So how is the Bentall Centre going to adapt and innovate in this very uncertain world?  Stay tuned.


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