Business & Economy
November 23, 2020

Hudson’s Bay Company Paddling Away From Landlord, Employee Obligations?

Three years ago I wrote about the turf of the  iconic Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Vancouver at Granville and Georgia Streets being for sale, and in 2018 I wrote that the store’s property had been bought by an undisclosed Asian buyer for 675 million dollars.

The Hudson’s Bay Company  had previously leased their New York City store location to WeWork, a shared workspace business, setting the stage for a suggested change in the ownership (and purpose) for the Vancouver store. This arguably is on one of the most important heritage sites in the city, a block away from the Vancouver Art Gallery, and right beside the Canada Line.

What a shift a Covid pandemic year makes, where trends that would have taken longer to come to fruition have had a chance for accelerated growth, with less angst expressed by the public.  It was expected that  Hudson’s Bay  was to sign a 20-year lease with the new owner, and have WeWork, the shared office space operator,  leasing  the top floors of the Vancouver and other Hudson’s Bay stores.  That was pre-Covid.

Department store retail  and the demand for downtown shared work facilities has shrivelled during the pandemic. Sadly even though Hudson’s Bay Company has been in Vancouver since 1887, first operating out of a storefront on Pender Street, their way of leaving has not been so glamourous.

As reported by Rachelle  Younglai and Susan Krashinsky in the Globe and Mail HBC have not paying their bills, and they are being a bit obstreperous about it.

The Hudson’s Bay store in Coquitlam  Centre was shuttered on the weekend, because the company did not pay their rent.

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC)  who also own Saks Fifth Avenue and  Saks Off Fifth department store chains, is “facing legal actions for unpaid rent in at least 20 locations in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, as well as in Florida, according to court documents.”

It appears that rent has not been covered by HBC for many Hudson’s Bay stores across Canada,  with Morguard REIT  alone out $2.79-million in unpaid rent for five locations in shopping centres in Ottawa, Toronto, Brampton, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C. And there’s more outstanding debt on leased space too.

HBC had privatized pre pandemic, and there had been accusations of the chain not running “first-class” operations, especially at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto which is the flagship store and a top producing mall.

In the “best defence is a good offence” strategy, HBC has responded legally by saying the same thing about the landlords that own the various properties that the stores are positioned on.

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Last week I wrote about 6 year old Arianne who saw the issue crossing Centre Avenue in Ladner with her brothers and sisters and Grandmother, wrote a letter to Council, drew a picture of the problem and collected on her own a supportive 30 signature petition. This story was followed up on in the news media by CBC’s Justin McElroy and  reporter/videographer at CTV news Emad Agahi.

We really don’t talk a lot about how disenfranchised the young, the disabled and the elderly are in the way that streets are configured, and we also don’t take into account that for these users being able to walk or wheel on the street or sidewalk is their major way of movement around the city.

Harriet Grant in The Guardian writes about a unique program in London England that utilizes youth thought and participation in design of streets and spaces.

Architect Dinah Bornat is the London Mayor’s Design Advocate and at the invitation of an east London local housing association and developers worked with youth on a new scheme for 1,000 residences in Aberfeldy Estates. Ms. Bornat’s first premise is that placing children first in the design process centres planning work around people and vehicle drivers.

Kids in this area are being driven to work because it is unsafe for them to cross the streets and walk to school. in involving children in the planning and design process, Ms. Bornat found that 89 percent of 16 to 18 year old kids said they had never been asked about any neighbourhood change or process.

Ms. Bornat states: “Young people can’t vote and they don’t pay taxes but don’t we want to know what they think? Too often we focus  on negative issues to do with young people and we don’t think about their happiness and joy.”

By asking where youth want to play and gather with their friends, she was able to identify what space was important in the public realm. With a background in urban geography in their studies, the youth also understood the issues about road users and road sharing and understood the importance of lower traffic neighhbrourhoods to stronger communities.

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The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Partners for Climate Protection program will be hosting a free webinar on the importance of measuring and monitoring your community’s climate action progress.

Hear expert advice from Michael Hay, Town of Banff’s Environment and Sustainability Manager on how to monitor, measure, and report your municipal climate action progress.

We’ll talk about:

Tracking the results of specific emissions reduction measures
Updating greenhouse gas emission inventories
Documenting progress and engaging stakeholder
How the Town of Banff monitors, measures, and reports on their climate action progress

This webinar is intended for municipalities in the Partners for Climate Protection program, working on Milestone 5. However, any interested municipalities or individuals are welcome to join.

Michael Hay’s Biography
As Manager, Environment and Sustainability, Michael leads the Town of Banff’s work in the implementation of their Environmental Master Plan, a comprehensive and courageous roadmap to a sustainable future for both the residents and visitors of Banff, and the ecosystems in which they live and interact.

Municipal Climate Change Action Centre
The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre was founded in 2009 as a collaborative initiative of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and the Government of Alberta. We deliver funding, technical assistance, and education to help Alberta municipalities, school authorities and community related organizations advance actions that lower energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve climate resilience.

Learn more at

Date: Wednesday November 24, 2020

Time: 1:00 to 2:00 pm. Pacific Time.

To register click on this link.

Image: Pinterest

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A six year old girl was trying to cross Central Avenue in Ladner between the Lions Park and London Drugs. She was with three brothers and sisters and her grandmother. A vehicle driver  came from around the corner at great speed and almost hit the four children. This six year old girl decided to Do Something About It.

She drew a picture of what had happened to her family and wrote a letter to Delta City Council.

In her letter she wrote:

“Dear Town Council

I think  we need a cross walk by lions park to the stores.

Lots of people cross there and it is a very busy road

and it is hard to see around the corner. I am six years old.”

She then drew up her own petition form to collect names and addresses of other people that also thought getting a crosswalk across Central Avenue between the commercial area and the park was a good idea. In knocking on doors and approaching people she also found out that other people had stories about almost being crashed into at that location. The six year old collected thirty signatures and addresses which she carefully appended to her letter to Council.

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This one is definitely worth getting up early for: Here’s a great discussion about Vision Zero or the Safe Systems Approach and the data behind it. In the United Kingdom 20 miles per hour or 30 kilometres per hour road speeds are being universally adopted as residential municipal speeds. And to those that say signage alone will not slow traffic, this panel begs to differ~it was Rod King in Great Britain that showed that 85 percent of traffic slowed to the posted speed on signage alone in neighbourhoods.


The safe system approach combines strategies and actions that are demonstrated by evidence to improve road safety faster and to a greater degree compared to more traditional approaches to road safety. Data can play many roles in the development, monitoring and evaluation of an appropriate road safety program for your city based on the Safe System and Vision Zero. This webinar will present an overview of how data is used in Sweden, the pioneer country of Vision Zero, as well as other examples, such as Colombia, and will invite questions about how to make the most of the data available in their cities.

This webinar will be conducted in English with simultaneous translation into Portuguese and Spanish. Professor Fred Wegmann, an early developer of the Safe Systems Approach will be one of the speakers.

Date: Thursday November 19, 2020

Time: 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time

To register please click on this link.


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There are a series of interesting webinars and events that are being sponsored by Future Cities Canada. The registration and choosing the items you want to hear are in a bit of an awkward format. But it’s well worth the trouble to hear luminaries like New York City’s Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver talk about Placemaking and Placekeeping (that’s on Monday November 23rd) or the City of Toronto principals involved in   “Sidewalk Labs” describe why that was  such a spectacular waterfront failure (scheduled on Thursday November 18).

You can take a look at the schedule here. You can also hear the recorded talks of the webinar presentations that have already taken place.

Earlier this week   urbanist Richard Florida discussed how cities would recover from the pandemic~he thinks it’s all going to be fine, and points out to the prosperity of the 1920’s  following the Spanish Flu of 1918 as an example. He did miss out that many municipalities had to lay off most of their employees in 1919 (including the City of New York) and many householders could not pay their property taxes. (It was actually a slow climb back to a temporary economic period of post-war optimism and boom.)

To register for the free “package of access” to the talks which go until Friday November 27, you can click on this link.


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Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Sustainability and Island Press are  featuring Island Press authors and Urban Resilience Project contributors.

Join Revolutionary Power author Shalanda Baker as she explains how this unique moment in history provides an unprecedented opening for a deeper transformation of the energy system, and thus, an opportunity to transform society.

Shalanda Baker is the co-director and co-founder of the Initiative for Energy Justice at Northeastern University.

Her book, Revolutionary Power, is a playbook for the energy transformation, complete with a step-by-step analysis of energy policy areas that are ripe for intervention. Baker argues that people of color, poor people, and indigenous people must engage in creating a new energy system to upend the unequal power dynamics of the current system.

Join us as Baker explains how this unique moment in history provides an unprecedented opening for a deeper transformation of the energy system, and thus, an opportunity to transform society.

Moderated by Kris Mayes, director of ASU’s Utility of the Future Center. This event is in partnership with Island Press, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that shines a spotlight on crucial issues and focuses attention on sustainable solutions.


This event is in partnership with Arizona State University.

Date: Thursday November 19, 2020

Time: 12 noon Pacific Time

Click on this link to register.

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We’ll put this under ‘Walking and Dancing.’

The principle at Xi Guan Elementary School, Zhang Pengfei, introduced his students to shuffle dancing  as a way to both provide some outdoor exercise for his students and to amuse them with a distraction from phones and computers. Undoubtedly Chinese: the principle leads and barks orders, the students are perfectly synchronized, the dancing is both comical and disciplined – and when you look at the kids, it seems charming as well as fun and healthy. (Click on title for video.)


“The dance is called the Melbourne shuffle, or shuffle dance, that originated in Australia in the 1980s. With energetic steps, it is becoming a new form of “square dance” occupying China’s urban spaces from parks to plazas and a popular pound-losing exercise for many elderly and middle-age Chinese.

What a blending of cultures.  Very West Pacific.


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Vancouver is the only city in Canada that still has a separate park board. That means that there is a separately funded staff that exclusively  manages parks and recreational centres, and reports directly to Vancouver City Council on their budget. The mandate of the Park Board is to “provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment.”

Part 23 of the Vancouver Charter sets out what the Park Board does, and allows for seven Park commissioners to be elected at the same time as the City of Vancouver’s council is elected. This section is pretty clear that the mandate of the Park Commissioners is for parks, things that happen in parks and recreational activities/buildings that are associated with parks operations.

For 2020 the Vancouver Park Board had an operating budget of 136 million dollars, with 63 million dollars coming from revenue and 73 million dollars coming from taxes.  The Commissioners themselves receive $17,600 a year with the chair of the Park Commissioners receiving $22,000 a year.  The Park Commissioners meet once or twice a month and you can view their schedule here. The meetings can be a bit surprising to listen to, and it appears that sometimes the Commissioners forget that the public are listening in to their chat on Zoom.

The Park Board has been a bit of a training ground for the politically minded that then go on to try for a Councillor position at the City of Vancouver. The highly regarded Mayor Philip Owen was first a park commissioner. He went on to serve on City Council and then was elected for three terms as Mayor, in 1993, 1996, and 1999.

There are two more years before the next Civic election and that may explain some of the posturing that is being seen as Park Commissioners publicly comment on things that are clearly outside their jurisdiction.

One Park Commissioner has been making unfortunate remarks on how the City of Vancouver manages its own Slow Streets and other initiatives outside of Stanley Park, specifically on Beach Avenue.

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