The block of Robson Street between Granville and Seymour Streets is home to one of the last single-storey commercial real estate properties in downtown Vancouver — but not for much longer.
The wood-and-brick building dates back to the turn of the last century and currently houses a bike shop, two restaurants, a picture framer and a cannabis store.
The building was recently sold to a developer who intends to tear it down to build a 12-storey office block with ground floor retail.
The people who run their businesses here employ dozens of people. While the development was expected, it comes as a warning to a city that people say is fast losing its independent businesses.
“Retail on Robson Street has all been replaced by corporate,” said Simon Coutts.
Coutts owns Simon’s Bike Shop and is one of the last independent bike dealers in downtown Vancouver.
“Whether it’s the chains from back east, or down in the states, everything has gone big business. Here is like Cheers. You can walk in and you know the owner, the mechanics. We’ve been here since the early 1980s.”
WATCH: (Aired: Oct. 9, 2019) Retailer sounds alarm over Robson Street rents
Coutts will likely look for a new space further down Robson Street, but some of his neighbours won’t be so lucky.
The India Gate restaurant has been in this building for 41 years. Family owned, it was the first Indian restaurant in the downtown core.
They’ll now likely have to close, a prosect the owners knew would come sooner or later.
“The building was valued at $18 million, but it just sold for $28 million,” said India Gate owner Gurmeet Gupta.
“If it wasn’t the building coming down, it would likely have been the taxes that forced us out. We can’t afford endless tax increases.”
The project is being developed by Bonnis Properties. It will be a 12-storey commercial tower with ground floor retail.
The rents for those spaces will likely be on par with rents elsewhere in the area.
“Across the street a space this size is renting for $56,000 a month,” said Coutts.
That’s a number most small business owners can’t afford.
The Time Frame Gallery at the corner of Seymour and Robson Streets was just sold to a new owner two years ago.
Christie Scott said she has no plans to close her business, but she can’t afford to relocate to any of the major streets downtown.
“Look on Robson Street, there are plenty of empty storefronts for this very reason. Nobody can afford to go in there. It’s overpriced,” said Scott.
Scott said she’s looking at possibly opening a smaller retail storefront with a manufacturing facility off-site.
The block’s tenants have to vacate before the end of July.