If you are in one of the 60,000 cars that drive past the old Fraser Arms Hotel at 1450 Southwest Marine Dr. every day, you may have noticed a new sign posted above a Budweiser beer banner: "Coming soon: 5,965 sq. ft. cold beer, wine and liquor store."
The project is the brainchild of developer Amir Sadath, owner and director of the Imperial Hospitality Group, which will quietly open the new store in two weeks, and then two weeks after stage a grander launch with music, hot dogs and wine tasting.
The Fraser Arms property will be renamed Luminaire Plaza, and the hotel's liquor store will be called Value On Liquor Store. Sadath, who took over the Fraser Arms 18 months ago, conceived it as a joint venture with the Musqueam Indian band. The Musqueam own the land in fee simple, which sits upon an ancient burial site or midden, land which the band will never sell.
The opening of the liquor store in the legendary but defunct Fraser Arms will likely impact another property a few blocks north. Last year, city council approved the massive redevelopment of the Granville Street and 70th Avenue corner, which will include a larger Safeway, a new government liquor store and a 16-storey residential highrise. In a few months, Safeway and its small liquor store will close for two or three years of construction, although a smaller temporary version of the liquor store will be housed at the corner of Granville and 68th Avenue during the construction period.
"I think there's still enough room in Marpole for two liquor stores, and there are other cold beer and wine stores around the city," said David Battistella, manager of the government store. During the Safeway construction phase, it will be a good time for the Fraser Arms, he admits, and he hopes but cannot predict that many of the government store's customers will return when it reopens in the new development.
But Sadath thinks many customers will switch permanently to Value-On during the construction. "Value On Liquor Store will be the first large-scale private retailer liquor store in Vancouver to match government prices on all applicable products," its publicity boasts. The store claims some items will be cheaper than at a government store and at other private liquor stores. Unlike the government store, Value On's workers are nonunionized.
The redevelopment of the Fraser Arms, once home to an infamous strip bar, will not include its former coffee shop, pub and nightclub. The parking lot will remain, but there are other plans for the 12,000 square feet of buildings around the liquor store. "We are negotiating to close the lease on that space, a few months from now," Sadath said. "We have two major actors in retail, very popular ones."
One is a multinational, which Sadath would not name, looking at a 9,000-square-foot area. The hotel will be renamed the Luminaire Hotel, and will stay as a month to month furnished residential hotel. The changes at the Fraser Arms site are the latest developments to hit Marpole, a quiet working class and immigrant community of 23,000.
A handout for Luminaire Plaza reads: "It feels great to be part of a larger movement towards revitalization of South Vancouver and Marpole, Vancouver's fastestgrowing community."
As noted in a Courier cover story last Nov. 25, many local residents fear that Marpole is changing too fast, with the Safeway condo development being only one indicator.