The Tinseltown Mall: where retail outlets go to die

http://vancouver.metblogs.com/archives/images/2007/01/Tinseltown-thumb.jpgI don’t understand Tinseltown Mall.

Tinseltown has some great anchor tenants: the movie theatre, food court and the T&T supermarket (not technically in the same building, but a close enough neighbor that it ought to bring in some pedestrian traffic).

It is near the heart of the downtown eastside, but far enough away from the chaos of Hastings and Main that it really shouldn’t be an issue. Besides, multiple condo developments in the neighborhood have brought potentially thousands of customers to its doorstep. Boutique retail outlets on nearby Water Street have transformed Gastown from a deserted assortment of carpet stores and gift shops into a cool kind of place where fashionistas and urban professionals wander.

But the mall stands empty.

Sure, the theatre draws in the odd curiosity seeker and the home furnishing stores attract a few of them while they are waiting, but they only outnumber by a small percentage the street people that security vigilantly keeps from their echoing commercial fort.

The timing was assuredly not right when the mall opened, but perhaps the city could help a few retail tenants beside furniture outlets move in with subsidized rent. The area has gentrified sufficiently that the mall really ought to be attracting more people – and becoming a lively market where people want to be.

Tinseltown: the time for your ressurection is at hand… hopefully. It’s too big a piece of real estate, in too crucial a part of the city to just let stand like some fading monument to high-end capitalism.

10 Comments so far

  1. (unregistered) on January 31st, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

    I would disagree with you. It’s close proximity to Hastings and Main is an issue. In my experience it’s not uncommon to see random acts of violence, drug abuse, prostitution and aggressive behavior at and all around the the mall area. Seems like people are just sticking their head in the sand when it comes to East Hastings and Main. After living and traveling abroad for many years, there are very few places, third world included, that compare to our slice of heaven on East Hastings and Main. Yes it truly is that bad.


  2. ron (unregistered) on January 31st, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

    There’s also no critical mass of shoppers in the area. i.e. there’s no sustainable local economy. Closer into the downtown core, you have many more jobs and lunchtime shoppers or food fair goers. The Amec Building and VCC are close by, but there are also restaurants on Beatty street that could cater to them and they probably don’t provide enough shoppers to hit critical mass.

    The same applies to Yaletown – there aren’t enough shoppers to sustain a healthy retail presence. Over the years, Yaletown has moved (with rising rents) from destination furniture stores to high end destination restaurants. Some clothing stores have come and gone – Le Chateau, Boys’ Co., Mark James, etc. However, Restuarants have been able to take advantage of the pedestrian patterns. The surrounding area is largely occupied by residential buildings that are empty during the day (when their occupants are at work) and occupied at night. There isn’t a sufficient daytime population – to support retail (the high tech folk help, but a bunch of warehouse offices barely registers versus, for example, a Bentall or TD Tower.)

    The same principel applies to International Village – the retail won;t survive without either a major drawing card (the theatres help) or a ready office worker population.

    BTW – the development’s name is “International Village” not “Tinseltown”.
    “Tinseltown” is a trademark of US-based Cinemark Theatres used to designate its theatres trought the US and internationally (incl. Mexico).
    The local analogy is Cineplex/Famous Players’ branding of “Silver City”, “Paramount” and “Colossus” for its theatres.
    So unless you call that building over in Metrotown the “Silver City Mall”, it doesn’t sound very smart to call International Village, “Tinseltown Mall”.


  3. ron (unregistered) on January 31st, 2007 @ 11:57 pm

    And I understand that International Village is a very small asset owned by Henderson Developments, a branch of a large Hong Kong based company. i.e. they don’t necessarily care if the mall makes money.


  4. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on February 1st, 2007 @ 8:30 am

    RON: A few things – while it is true that the official name of the Tinseltown Mall is in fact International Village, very few people actually call it that – including previous bloggers on this very site and contributors to sites like the Discover Vancouver forum. I went with the name that people would actually recognize, rather than the technically accurate one that people won’t know. My apologies if that ruffles feathers.

    Secondly, businesses always care if they make money, that being their reason to exist. I’d be careful before suggesting that this Hong Kong corporation has infinite patience for a ghost-town of a mall.


  5. john trenouth (unregistered) on February 1st, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

    “After living and traveling abroad for many years, there are very few places, third world included, that compare to our slice of heaven on East Hastings and Main.”

    I too have spent many years living and traveling abroad, and now I live just off Main and Hastings–and I’ve yet to see a random act of violence with my own two eyes.

    I can’t imagine where the nameless poster has traveled abroad or when he/she last stepped foot in this neighbourhood, but not only is it nothing like whay you’ll find in developing countries, but its vastly safer than most cities just south of the boarder. Ever been to New Orleans, East St. Louis or Fort Wayne? How about Lima, Tijuana or Naples?

    Main and Hastings has some very serious problems, and perhaps actually having uniformed police officers walking the street might help clean it up a bit. But comparing it to the “third world” is just absurd.


  6. Sensible (unregistered) on February 1st, 2007 @ 2:58 pm

    “After living and traveling abroad for many years, there are very few places, third world included, that compare to our slice of heaven on East Hastings and Main.”

    Give me a break. I know of, and have visited places, in the US, England, Malaysia, Cuba, and South Africa that are far worse than the Hastings+Main area. If you travel for work or pleasure you may not see the bad parts of towns. I also walk through Hastings+Main and there is not alot of *random* violence going on there.


  7. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on February 1st, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

    Yeah I’ve had no real run ins downtown. That’s not to say that the visible poverty isn’t a problem that should be dealt with, but I’ve been to New York and in the wrong areas of town at the wrong time it’s a lot scarier than anything in Vancovuer.

    That’s not to say that International Villiage doesn’t suffer from the location. I’m sure it does.


  8. callie (unregistered) on February 1st, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

    Over the past twelve years, I’ve lived in the ‘downtown’ centres of Montreal, New York, and London.

    In between moves, I came back to Vancouver and lived downtown for a month. It was quite a shock to see all the homeless in the streets.

    Vancouverites might be used to it by now, but it’s a huge problem – not so much the violence, but the panhandling, public drunkeness, etc.

    Whenever I pointed this out to my friends, they refused to believe me, or tried to downplay it. (“Yeah, but it’s still worse in some parts of New York” or “Every city has their homeless problems”).

    Sadly though, it really is that bad in Vancouver – it’s a big black mark on the city that makes some people not want to come back. (As friends in these other cities have told me).


  9. (unregistered) on February 1st, 2007 @ 4:47 pm

    I have lived in and been to places where abject poverty is the norm(China, Cambodia, India). In between all the crack houses, violence and despair, Vancouver’s East Side really does make some of these places look like a walk in the park. In my opinion, part of being a Vancouverite is having, what we perceive as, this great reputation, and thinking we are a ‘world class city’. I can see there is nothing world class about that area around and close to the mall and it’s only getting worse.


  10. Caitlin (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

    at least it povides a great affordable space for the fantastic ayden gallery! a pearl of local culture and urban art in the tacky oyster of hong kong real estate. VERY vancouver.



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