City of Victoria, Eaton Centre, Victoria, British Columbia.
In the 1980's the downtown core of Victoria, B.C. was suffering from the loss of it's traditional retail revenue to the suburban shopping centres. Richard Talbot was retained as the retail market consultant to work together with a task force comprised of both the private and public sector to stem the leakage and to preserve and strengthen the downtown core. In this capacity, he was initially responsible for the renovation and leasing of derelict historic buildings and the development and leasing of complimentary office, residential and retail facilities. However it soon became apparent that without the re-development of Victoria’s “anchor” department store, Eaton’s, Victoria’s key “high street”, Government Street, would continue to decline and thus the long term retail revitalisation goal could not be achieved.
The key component to this major re-development project was the designing of a modern regional shopping centre which would not be merely architecturally sensitive to the historical buildings surrounding it but would actually integrate the shopping centre into the existing streetscapes through the retention of the heritage store frontages thus ensuring the retail revitalisation of the downtown core’s traditional “high street” retailing function.
In 1985 Mr. Talbot was tasked to put together the feasibility studies and was responsible for the land assembly that eventually resulted in the key to the entire retail revitalisation programme, the development of the Victoria Eaton's Centre. The retail re-positioning and re-merchandising studies were then carried out by Talbot Consultants and the architectural design for the centre and the surrounding streets by Waisman Dewar Grout Carter Inc. The resultant centre was, at that time, practically unique in that it was not purely internalised but instead placed as much emphasis on street frontages and street retailing as it did on the internal mall. The result has been spectacular. Retailing is again thriving not only on Government Street but also on the surrounding streets.
The preservation of Victoria's downtown core has thus been assured and it now functions as a world-wide tourist attraction as well as a thriving downtown retail destination for the local residents. If any further proof of the success of our "Retail Action Plan" is needed then it can be found in the recent announcements of the Eaton's department store closings. Unlike the pattern elsewhere in Canada in Victoria it was the suburban store that was selected for closure and the downtown store that was retained.