What was here before? The Kingsgate Mall

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The thing about the Kingsgate Mall at Broadway and Kingsway is you either love it or you hate it. It’s weird or wonderful, strange or quaint, creepy or quirky, but it rarely goes unnoticed.

The cupola (which is a replica of the one that used to top King Edward School  before the fire) has turned the mall into a bit of a landmark, but I can’t imagine calling it a destination by any stretch of the imagination. Aside from a dental surgery and a credit union, one of the only stores not found in most other shopping malls is the Lolli Pretty Clothing Company that has 74 Facebook Likes and the fabulous tagline “Your Candy Store of Fashion.”

Postcard ca.1906: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45379817@N08/9485117002

When the mall was built in 1974, it took out the Mount Pleasant Elementary School, an 80-year-old solid brick building built in 1892, that was originally known as the False Creek School.

Mount Pleasant School
Angus McIntyre shot this photo of the inside of a classroom in June 1972. “Someone did not agree with the plan to keep the school,” he says.
Angus McIntyre photo, June 1972

What somehow escaped the bulldozer, was a ca.1907 buried house at 350 East 10th Avenue, directly behind the mall and adjoining a Telus parking lot.

When the Mount Pleasant school was demolished in 1972 the kids moved into a new school at 2300 Guelph, and which is still very much in operation.

Oddly, the land underneath the Kingsgate Mall is owned by the Vancouver School Board and has been since the late 1880s. The VSB in turn leases the land to Beedie Development Corp for $750,000 a year, and they operate the mall. No surprise that Beedie would like to buy the mall, pull it down and redevelop it.

Perhaps the pinned tweet on the unofficial twitter account for the Kingsgate Mall says it all: “STILL NOT A CONDO.”

Courtesy Northern BC Archives, June 1971

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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  1. Ive been in that mall and it is not memorable. This might be the first time my sentimental grip on the past is not working.
    The perpetually in need of money VSB should bulldoze and develop or sell and allow developers to build.

  2. Traffic along Broadway near Kingsway is such a frustration. Still, I say build a better strip mall (surface parking!) with four stories of housing, no higher. I would prefer that to a hulking condo tower with a struggling retail podium on that corner.

  3. I recall the old Mount Pleasant school was demolished in 1972 or so to make way for Kingsgate Mall. The black and white historic photo of the original Mount Pleasant school was taken from the top of the Lee Building at Main and Broadway. Unfortunately today there is a huge mega condo tower built in the line of sight that blocks the view preventing taking of a then-and-now comparison photo.

  4. We used to ride our bikes down to what we called Nightingale School at that location from Charles Dickens elementary off of Kingsway at Glen Drive ,, to take woodworking for an hour and a half and then ride back to finish the days lessons.This was in the mid fifties.

  5. This mall is important to those who use it , a community that I see everyday.Those who do find a sense of comfort within.I never feel unsafe, or threatened,.a sense of pride, in the midst of poverty and displacement.

  6. There was also a public comfort station
    ie : public restrooms at the corner of Broadway and Kingsway, never used it as a kid because I was scared
    of the creeps that lurked around them, but as I grew up and went to pubs they a great relief of a belly full of beer.

  7. i love the mall… very friendly and sorry about all the snobs above… has community events and lots of variety… buy low is great!!! and a place for some small independent business…

  8. VSB doesn’t get the money from the sale if the land is sold. It goes to the government rather than the VSB. It’s of no benefit to the VSB to sell the property.

    I don’t know how anyone could find Kingsgate not memorable. I’ve never seen another mall like it. It’s even inspired a Vice article and a song you can find on Youtube.

    Personally, I go there on a regular basis and would be sad to see it go.

  9. The Kingsgate Mall is weird AND wonderful, quirky AND quaint, etc., but most importantly, a vital community service. There’s a liquor store, a Shopper’s, the Buy-Low, a florist and a few small shops necessary for a thriving neighbourhood. Haters gonna hate, but after living in the nabe for the last six years, I’ve come to love it’s low-key charm. It also provides someplace safe and dry for those less fortunate. It feels like a “real” place to me and it would be a shame to lose it.

  10. I have never been to Kingsgate Mall, but back in the nineties my sister Kathy Butts had a communications business (“Carrot Communications”) and for some years Kingsgate was a client…..for publishing a community newsletter/newspaper. If I remember right it was full of local stories, event information etc. I remember that she found the management staff there exceedingly friendly and community-oriented, and she enjoyed going there to get the flavor of the place etc. Sadly she passed away in 1999, so she can’t contribute to this. Somewhere I have a box full of samples of some of her work from that time…maybe there are a few samples of the Kingsgate material….

  11. Kingsgate Mall has everything you could need in a mall! It has a quirky charm that I find lacking in other “fancy” malls. Shoppers Drug Mart, Mark’s Work Warehouse, Payless Shoes, a florist, jewellery store, dollar store, liquor store, insurance office, ladies’ clothing, and a lottery kiosk – these are just a few of the useful businesses you can visit! How many malls carry sugar cane juice? The bathrooms are a bit sketchy, but usually functional. Go upstairs to Buy-Low, which always seems to have yogurt on sale; the smell of fresh bread hits you as soon as you walk in, and you feel at home. Near the Buy-Low is a Shoppers Drug Mart medical supply outlet! The toy store carries a lot of cool stuff – not just for kids. I’m glad that Kingsgate Mall lacks a Starbucks (well, there is one across the street). It’s a non-pretentious, friendly place to spend an hour or two. I don’t live close by, but I don’t mind making the 30-minute bus ride, ’cause they have everything I need.

  12. I love this mall – and not in an ironic way. It’s not really enough to entice me to spend too much money, just enough to fill some core needs (prescriptions, post office, groceries, wine, and just a little fun for the kids at the book/toy store). I’ll miss it when it goes!

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