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People entering and exiting the main doors to the Hudson's Bay Company store at Yonge and Bloor streets, Aug. 13, 2004.Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail

Hudson’s Bay Co. is closing one of its two department stores in downtown Toronto, the fourth to shut down since the company went private two years ago.

On Thursday, the Toronto-based retailer confirmed it would close its store at Yonge and Bloor Streets at the end of May after almost 48 years. In the past two years the company has closed flagship locations in Edmonton and Winnipeg, as well as one in suburban Montreal.

In addition to paring down its store footprint, the company in 2020 announced plans to “modernize” other locations by redeveloping some of its large store buildings into mixed-use spaces. That would shrink the square footage of the stores and convert the extra space to other purposes such as offices, other retail shops and, in some cases, residential units. HBC has been refurbishing its downtown Montreal store to add office space, for example, and this week announced plans to redevelop its Vancouver location, downsizing the department store and adding an office tower and other retail and restaurant spaces. Unlike the locations the company owns, Hudson’s Bay leases the Yonge and Bloor store, at the base of an office tower, from Brookfield Properties.

“HBC continually looks at opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio,” company spokesperson Tiffany Bourré wrote in a statement Thursday, noting that the downtown store at Yonge and Queen Streets is just 2.5 kilometres south of the store slated to close. “Given the unique proximity to the Hudson’s Bay Queen Street flagship location in Toronto, Hudson’s Bay has made the decision to close its Bloor Street store on May 31, 2022.”

Industry publication Retail Insider first reported the store closing plans Thursday.

“While we are sorry to see the departure of an iconic long-term tenant from this location, Hudson’s Bay remains a strong and valued tenant at a number of Brookfield’s properties and we look forward to our ongoing partnership with them,” Brookfield spokesperson Laura Montross wrote in a statement. “We are, however, excited by the opportunity to re-envision and transform this key asset at one of the most important locations in the City of Toronto. We will be submitting an application to the City of Toronto for planning approvals to bring Brookfield’s vision for the future of the property in the coming months.”

The five-floor, 270,000-square-foot store was the company’s first foray into downtown Toronto when it opened in 1974, at a cost of $15-million. (The Queen Street location now considered its flagship in the city was a Simpsons until it was converted to a Bay store in 1991.) An unnamed company official told The Globe and Mail at the time that competitors T. Eaton Co. Ltd. and Simpsons Ltd. “have had it their own way in Toronto for too long.”

Hudson’s Bay currently has 85 stores across Canada, including the location set to close.

“We are committed to treating every associate with respect and fairness through this process,” Ms. Bourré wrote in the statement. “All eligible associates will receive appropriate employment separation packages and transfer opportunities will be explored where feasible.”

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