Homeless in Vancouver: Rumour of a new South Granville RBC branch you can probably bank on

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      If the South Granville branch of the RBC Royal Bank, located at 1489 West Broadway, closes for good in October (as bank staff say it will), where will its customers go?

      According to an increasingly credible rumour, a new RBC branch will be opening just three blocks away, at 2735 Granville Street.

      Until 2017 this was the location of an HSBC branch. Since then it has been the subject of a meticulous, two-year renovation—now nearly finished.

      Waiting on the banks of the mighty South Granville

      A 2014 panoramic photo of the now, all-but-empty, RBC Bank building at 1489 West Broadway.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Last week, I contacted RBC Bank media relations regarding the possibility of a new bank branch in the 2700 block of South Granville.

      I was hoping at least for a simple confirmation or denial—if not a full statement regarding the fate of 1489 West Broadway—RBC’s 1957-vintage, four-storey office building on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville Street.

      Since the second week of May, this building has been mostly empty, save for the RBC bank branch on the ground floor—the top three floors-worth of staff having all decamped six weeks ago for a new office off East Broadway, on Virtual Way, in East Vancouver.

      At that time RBC staff of the bank branch said that they would be vacating the building by October. They weren’t sure about the building itself but many expressed the opinion that it would be demolished to make way for a Granville Street transit station along the proposed Broadway subway line.

      Previous speculation regarding a Granville street subway station has focused on city- and Translink-owned property on the north side of the eastern end of the 1400 block of West Broadway.

      As the days ticked by without an official statement from RBC media relations, I sought out the informed opinion of a Fairview resident with decades of experience working in an area bank branch.

      This person scoffed at the idea 2735 Granville Street could become any kind of bank branch.

      For starters, they said, underneath the papered-over windows, what looked like a two-storey building was just a big empty one-floor space. This was too “open plan” for a bank, they averred.

      A bank—they explained—needs offices for privacy and secure places for safety deposit boxes and the like. The required walls would have been built as part of the original renovation.

      What about the bank vault, I asked.

      The retired bank employee explained that the best place for the main vault would be in the basement—which is where it had been when the old HSBC bank branch occupied the address, I was told with a knowing air.

      The HSBC’s safety deposit boxes had also been located in the basement, my informant added.

      At the same time they insisted that a small, secondary vault room was still required on the ground floor, behind the tellers. This was needed to store excess cash, bank drafts, and other valuables—both to keep such loot from cluttering the small teller stations and out of the easy reach of would-be theives.

      The one thing—my informant agreed—that spoke in favour of 2735 Granville being fitted out for banking was the top-to-bottom renovation, when demolition and redevelopment would have been simpler, quicker, and probably less expensive.

      The careful renovation suggested that there were features of the old building, relating to its previous use as an HSBC bank branch, that needed to be preserved for the new tenant.

      Such as the old bank vault and safety deposit boxes.

      Another thing that spoke in favour of the rumour turned out to be the construction crew at 2735 Granville.

      By Wednesday (June 26) these workers were happily telling any passersby who asked that they were working on a new RBC bank branch.

      The next day an official statement from RBC on the subject of 2735 Granville and the future of 1489 West Broadway finally arrived in my email in-basket. Six days in the making, it reads:

      “The RBC branch, located at Broadway and Granville, is open for business as usual. Our branch network continually evolves and changes, and when we relocate a branch, we inform our clients of the changes and work closely with our clients and the community throughout the process to ensure they are well-informed and supported.

      RBC does not own the building where our branch at Broadway and Granville is located.

      We cannot comment on TransLink plans for the area.”

      It may not seem like much but a carefully worded nondenial is nearly as good as a confirmation, at least in this blogger’s books.

      I take it to mean that yes—a new RBC bank branch is definitely going up at 2735 Granville and the old RBC building at 1489 West Broadway will most certainly be coming down.

      And I would now almost bank on the Granville station of a future Broadway subway being located on the northeast corner of Broadway and Granville.

      Update

      According to a June 29 comment on the skyscraperpage.com forum, the owner of 2735 Granville is Austeville Properties, which owns other properties anchored by financial insitutions, including Vancity and BMO. And CDC Construction, the building contractor for 2735, specializes in financial institutions.

      Meanwhile, blueprints for a tower redevelopment of 1498 West Broadway, which I Dumpster-dived on June 28th, includes a Granville-facing ground-level floor space marked "RBC Bank", so it appears that the move to 2735 Granville will be temporary.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.

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