Cohen family sells Vancouver’s iconic Dominion Building to Toronto company

Cohen family sells Vancouver’s iconic Dominion Building to Toronto company

The Dominion Building at the corner of Cambie and Hastings streets was at one time the tallest commercial building in the British Empire

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Toronto-based Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust has bought Vancouver’s iconic Dominion Building from the Cohen family.

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In a prepared statement, Allied CEO Michael Emory said the company would be a “worthy successor owner to Army & Navy Properties in terms of both sensitivity and commitment to Downtown Vancouver.”

Army & Navy Properties is the holding company for assets belonging to Vancouver’s Cohen family, with its genesis being the Army & Navy store opened by Sam Cohen in 1919 — the year after the end of the First World War when there was a lot of military surplus around.

The store, at 44 West Hastings Street, stayed open until last year when it closed due in part to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The building is currently in use as a homeless shelter and will be redeveloped into rental housing.

Army & Navy Properties has significant real estate holdings, including their retail locations in New Westminster, Edmonton and Calgary, and until now the Dominion Building.

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According to the Allied press release, the Dominion Building (on the northwest corner of Cambie and Hastings streets) is a class A heritage structure completed in 1910 and was at that time the tallest commercial building in the British Empire — at 13 storeys.

It was superseded in 1912 by the Sun Tower two blocks away on West Pender Street that was 17 storeys and is also owned by Allied.

The Dominion Building’s anchor tenant was The Dominion Trust, later The Dominion Bank, later the Toronto Dominion Bank (whose logo now graces the helmets of the Vancouver Canucks).

At that time it was the epicentre of Vancouver’s colonial financial scene just prior to the start of the First World War.

Sam Cohen bought the building in 1943 and the family had held it since.

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Emory said Allied would accommodate smaller users with flexible lease terms — focusing on tech, advertising, media and information technology businesses.

He said these sort of businesses were interested in the Gastown neighbourhood, where the company also owned The Landing at 375 Water Street.

The deal will close in mid-November and will be paid for using the company’s line of credit. No sale price has been revealed, however, Allied is a public company so that detail will come out at some point.

According to the B.C. Assessment Authority, the building is worth around $40 million.

The Dominion Trust building at Hastings and Cambie under construction in 1910 is in the bottom right of this photo of the 100-block of West Hastings. Note it is was built with steel not wood framing.
The Dominion Trust building at Hastings and Cambie under construction in 1910 is in the bottom right of this photo of the 100-block of West Hastings. Note it is was built with steel not wood framing. Photo by Bullen Photo Co. /City Of Vancouver Archives

dcarrigg@postmedia.com

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