February 3, 2022

Jack Webster Looks At Granville Street Mall in 1978-Has Very Much Changed?

A blast from the past that has some relevancy today-from February 1987 here is Jack Webster a journalist who was once called “The King of the Vancouver Airwaves”.

Mr. Webster has a distinct Scottish accent and was punishingly direct  in any of his conversations with locals politicians or international superstars. There is one famous clip where Mr. Webster supposedly off-camera meets then Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau and asks “on good form this morning sir?”. Mr. Trudeau responds “No. No not when I see you”. 

In this clip below  that has been digitized by the B.C Museum you can view Mr. Webster discussing the Granville Street Mall area with Jonathan Baker  who had been a school trustee and was a City Councillor at the time.  That clip starts at 40:20 in the video.

The interview with Mr. Webster and Councillor Baker was a response to an absolutely blistering review of the functionality of the Granville Street Mall written in the Vancouver Sun by Brad Croome. Obviously not a mall lover, Mr. Croome posted half a page of scathing verbiage at the city’s Granville Mall, which he pointed out wasn’t even a mall by any definition. Mr. Baker was on a Council appointed committee in charge of the work on the Granville Street Mall, and this interview was a response to Mr. Croome’s half page of mudslinging about the mall, which was published on January 31, 1978.  A small exerpt is below:


In the video Mr. Webster expresses his disgust for the underground Pacific Centre Shopping Mall and then discusses what is wrong with the Granville Street  Mall, which is still open to all vehicular traffic south of  the shopping precinct of Granville and Robson Streets.

There’s a view out the window of Mr. Baker’s 16th floor law office that shows Granville Street’s low elevation profile with only the Chateau Granville having any height.

There is  a Granville street  walkabout where Mr Baker discusses the fact that the 75 foot height limit on Granville Street  is too low, and that the still newly designed bus mall installed in 1973-1974 needs new pavement.

There’s no discussion of street furniture or  amenities,  no discussion of the bus routes, the bus stops, the comfort of street users  or the way the street works for pedestrians. The purpose of the Granville mall’s installation appears to be giving bus access and priority.

Both Mr. Webster and Mr. Baker discuss why the street surface has cracked, and interview two shopkeepers that want the vehicles back on the street to improve their business.

In the 34 years since,  how much has changed?



Images: royalmuseum of BC, VancouverSun

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  1. It is even worse now. Bus travel along Granville ( Davie to Cordova ) is very slow slower than on Howe and Seymour St. Again Engineering Dept. have failed us. Bad signage , too many illegal cars on the Mall. No Traffic Signal Priority, some missing bus stops. Very Sad.

  2. Was in on PT that I saw a 1983 youtube clip of this guy going through watercolour renderings of a planned, vibrant Yaletown and Pacific Boulevard – all of which eventually came to be built? Mr. Webster seemed in awe of how the future areas would look, but with a healthy dose of optimistic skepticism.

    He didn’t seem like such a crank then but he evidently really hated the Granville Mall. I don’t know how it operated in 1987 but time has not been kind to it. These time capsules are great. Thanks for posting it.

  3. You’re so on – not much has changed. I had the misfortune to take on the job of changing it as a Vancouver planner in the early 2000’s. Even with the assistance of streets designers Allan Jacobs and Elizabeth Macdonald, the DVBIA resisted any change. The lowest point was when a major store owner along the “mall” broke his laptop computer over an engineer’s head. Designer Scot Hein made some significant improvements in the “decor.”

  4. The sad fact is Granville Street was far more welcoming and successful when it had neon lights and was open to traffic. The pictures from the 1950s show that. It is just plain scary now.

    1. Its problem isn’t limited car traffic. The problem is that it’s shrunk-wrapped as an architectural Heritage zone with over-prescriptive land use restrictions that don’t fit current demand trends. All it’s allowed to host are Dance Halls, Billiard Halls, Bars, Eateries, and whatever outdated retail can be shoehorned into its tiny buildings.

      So long as its zoning excludes everything but hostels, bars, and nickelodeons, it’ll remain a great place for runaway teens to permanently camp out and get high.

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