Integrated Big Box Retail in Downtown Vancouver


This is not what most people on vacation take pictures of when they are in Vancouver, but I had never seen a better integrated Costco in the urban fabric. Costco is an interesting retailer because they need a warehouse of space, typically the footprint of an entire city block.

The fact that we don't see a humongous parking lot in front is one difference that made me want to call out this example. The parking garage is tucked away below and behind on several levels. (It's like that in San Francisco too.) The Costco parking lot is also shared with Event Parking at BC Place and Rogers Arena, both were used in the Vancouver Olympics and are located adjacent to the retailer. Talk about convenient for independent food vendors that sell during events! Just roll your cart of concessions out the door at Costco and onto the street. That's not more impressive than the great shared use of parking during off-peak hours.

The mass of the Costco, which is tremendous in some cities, is completely integrated below the street grid. Check it out from a map. The street above this is Hwy 1A and West Georgia Street, both are arterials that lead into the Yaletown neighborhood of downtown Vancouver. When you enter the streets above, you can find a pedestrian entrance that takes you on a glass elevator ride, which you can see in the image above. Classy! Also, safe and compelling for a pedestrian.

Above the Costco? Can you see it? Those are some very desirable Vancouver condo's overlooking False Creek. Expensive real estate. Costco is also coexists with Chinatown, which has many smaller retailers and independent small business. How convenient for anyone living in this neighborhood.

Also convenient, tons of transit. The photo is taken at the entrance to the SkyTrain's Stadium-Chinatown Station. It is also walking distance from the Plaza of Nations Ferry Dock. And 3 bus stops within a 1/4 mile. So it looks like you could get there by car, bus, train, or ferry. I'm sure the sea planes and helicopters could also get pretty close too, but it's not as economical.

Please note that it's not because I love Costco that I chose this example. It's because this example demonstrates so many of the possibilities for integrating large retailers into existing neighborhoods. I'm sure there were many compromises and that the process has its own long story, but here it looked like the players were able to demonstrate efficient land development, an admirable accomplishment worthy of a photograph! and a lovely article in the Vancouver Sun.