This is What Notable Vancouver Intersections Used to Look Like

Exploring the big-city changes that play out at street level.

A close-up look at some of our city’s notable areas reveals our skyline isn’t the only thing to have changed over time.


Alberni and Bute

It’s hard to believe character houses were once commonplace downtown. Back in 1971, office towers were already creeping in on residential areas, but this single-family house endured with vacant lots on either side. Today this strip at Alberni and Bute has been transformed into a crowded commercial area offering ultra-modern conveniences to West End residents, high-end tourists and business clientele in the downtown core.

Then: Stay at the Hotel Vancouver: $16 for a single room, $21 for a doubleNow: Weekend stay at the Shangri-La Hotel: $645 per night for a Superior room

Then: Car rental, mileage and gas: $9 a day at Host Rent-a-CarNow: Car2Go day rate:  $65 plus tax

Now: Six-pack of Central City Red Racer Pilsner at BC Liquor Stores: $9.99

Downtown Waterfront

Proof of Vancouver’s birth as a port city, this photo from the 1960s shows piers B and C for the Canadian Pacific Railway in front of a much-sparser downtown. Built in 1927, the piers received cargo and visitors from all over the world until they closed in 1955. In the 1980s, the buildings came down to make way for the distinctive multi-sailed structure we now call Canada Place.

Then: CP Railway standard train fare for two from Vancouver to Montreal: $224.50Now: Alaskan cruise for two on Princess Cruises (oceanview cabin): $2,414.40


Mainland and Helmcken

Like so many things, the Yaletown of the 1980s is nearly unrecognizable today. Around the time of this 1981 shot, the area was a neighbourhood-in-waiting, home to abandoned industrial warehouses, a few gay bars and something of a rough reputation. Today the über-trendy area is the epitome of urban renewal with its hip start-ups, bustling restaurants and beauty bars making it a very palatable place for a real estate investor.

Then: Sale price of a “Yaletown property:”  $525,000­Now: Asessed value of this building at 1122 Mainland St.: $51,233,000


Dunsmuir and Beatty

For evidence of the city’s progress in weaning us from our reliance on the car, look no further than this intersection in the southeast corner of downtown. Once a veritable ode to the automobile, as in this 1974 shot, this prime piece of real estate has become a city-sanctioned safe haven for cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders—much to the chagrin of anyone angling for a parking spot.

Then: Parking: 10 cents for the first hour at Downtown Parking Corp.Now: Parking: 10 cents for three minutes at a downtown parking meter (or skip it altogether and take the SkyTrain: $2.75 for a 90-minute one-zone trip).


Homer and Robson

Back in 1981 Robson Street had yet to become Vancouver’s upscale retail row. Rather, the modest houses, mom-and-pop storefronts, and concentration of German residents gave it the moniker Robsonstrasse. Today pricey commerical rent downtown has driven distinctly unglamorous (but necessary) amenities like gas stations entirely out of the area—but you can bet you’ll never be left without a place to fuel up on caffeine.

Then: Gas: 29 cents a litre; minimum wage: $3.65Now: Starbucks Grande Latte: $4.25; minimum wage: $10.85


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