Heritage Vancouver - Bulletin

Endangered Sites Update
May 10, 2009

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Heritage Vancouver Society provides information about opportunities to appreciate, preserve, and restore our heritage structures and neighbourhoods through events, tours, films, forums, and reports. Working with developers, architects, businesses, associations, community groups, and arts and cultural organizations, we are helping to preserve significant heritage structures and neighbourhoods in our diverse city for the enjoyment of future generations.

Here are some of the sites and issues that we have been monitoring, and updates to their current status. In addition, our Top 10 Endangered Sites lists from 2001 to 2009 are continuously updated on our website (heritagevancouver.org/topten.htm)


Pantages Theatre (1907): High risk of total demolition
Regrettably there is no good news to report on the Pantages Theatre.  Last July the previous City Council turned down the current owner's final proposal to restore the Pantages Theatre. In September, instead of  purchasing  the Theatre, Vancouver City Council agreed o conduct a feasibility study, which to date  has not been started. The current Council has had no discussion with the owner and has shown no interest in reversing the previous council's decision.  

The sale of the Pantages is progressing and it is our understanding that the interested purchaser does not intend to retain the building. In the meantime the Theatre's condition has deteriorated so rapidly it is now off limits to visitors. It appears that Vancouver will lose a 101-year old theatre, unique in all of western Canada.

Photos and further info:
heritagevancouver.org/advocacy/pantages.html heritagevancouver.org/topten/2009/topten2009_01.html


Firehall #15 (1913): A Step in the Right Direction
Council has approved retention of one of Vancouver's last Edwardian-era firehalls. Despite our support of this initiative, we wish to express grave concerns about the potential approach to this restoration as described in the Staff Report. The description of the exterior work indicates a serious disregard of Heritage Standards & Guidelines, specifically the destruction of exterior features and their replication through the application of a new rain screen façade. It is too early in the project to make sweeping decisions about the approach to restoration. We strongly suggest that before any decisions are made, that there be sufficient investigation of the condition of exterior materials, and that every effort be made to retain, rather than replace, the historic exterior fabric.

Photos and further info:


Burrard Bridge (1932): Another Step in the Right Direction

Vancouver City Council has finally taken steps towards resolving a two-decade long deadlock on the fate of the Burrard Bridge. On May 7th, 2009 they voted to proceed with a trial lane re-allocation, to close one lane of traffic and re-route pedestrians to the west sidewalk. The reason for the trial is to determine whether or not reallocating car lanes to bikes is a viable alternative to the "outrigger" bike lanes that have been adamantly opposed by Heritage Vancouver. Vision is assuring supporters of the trial that communications about the process will be more effective than in 1996, when a similar trial was cancelled after 6 days. In the meantime, heritage elements of the Burrard Bridge continue to deteriorate, and it is unlikely that the Bridge will be restored or receive new lighting prior to the Olympics. Our heritage landmark remains a shabby shadow of its former glory, but this decision on the trial may allow the City to finally proceed with much-needed restoration and restoration.

Photos and further info:

City of Vancouver project info:


National Historic Site Status Granted

Good news. Gastown has recently gained the official status as a National Historic site, further reinforcing its heritage significance. Gastown has survived as a distinctive and tangible legacy of a formative period in Canada's economic and physical development in the West. Designation as a National Historic Site is primarily commemorative, and does not carry any regulatory obligations or constraints, but this announcement has been eagerly awaited and is a huge boost to the efforts to conserve one of our City's most historic areas.


First Shaughnessy: Walter C. Nichol House (1913) - Appears to be Saved
Over the past 27 years, fifty-one pre-1940 heritage houses have been demolished in First Shaughnessy District, despite the Overall Development Plan’s stated goals to preserve the heritage character of this neighbourhood.

This outstanding example of an Arts and Crafts residence – a prime illustration of the “English Picturesque Aesthetic” as outlined in the First Shaughnessy Design Guidelines, is widely-recognized as one of famed architect Samuel Maclure’s finest houses. Flanked by two outstanding Tudor Revival houses, the Nichol house anchors a perfect Crescent of pre-1940 houses – one of the few intact streets left in First Shaughnessy.

There has been ferocious opposition from the neighbourhood to the proposed development that would preserve the house, by allowing townhouses to be constructed on the lots to the north. The current plan accepts the home’s non-conforming position straddling two lots, meaning that it will not be necessary to strata title the house, avoiding the requirements for so that rain screening (which would destroy the exterior), and sprinklering and other code requirements (which would tear up the meritorious period interior). Rezoning the lower lot for townhouses is a similar solution as was achieved in preserving Hycroft. As one Councillor previously remarked when walking around the Crescent, the proposed HRA/CD-1 lot would have no visual impact on The Crescent. As for the underground parking, the same scale of parking is underneath the Chinese Consulate around the corner on Granville Street and has met with no resistance from Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association.

Despite a well-organized opposition from the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association, it appears that City Council is still supportive of moving forward with the townhouse solution, that will allow the Nichol House to be preserved.

Photos and further info:


Shaughnessey Hospital (1940-1944): Risk of Total Demolition
Heritage Buildings Remain Under Threat at BC Children's and Women's Hospitals

Children's and Women's Hospitals held an open house on April 27 to talk about the long-range redevelopment plans for their 46 acre Oak Street site. The drawings, models and information provided at this event were alarming for those who want to see heritage buildings preserved from the original Shaughnessy Hospital.

While a "Statement of Significance" on heritage buildings is apparently being prepared, the two hospitals envision a major reconfiguration in the exact location containing the original Shaughnessy Hospital structures: the 1940 A Block and the 1944 B and C Blocks. The A Block features spectacular Second World War era memorial bas reliefs at either side of the main entrance.

Architects in attendance at the April 27 event talked about saving small features on these original structures, but tended to downplay the idea of preserving entire buildings or even complete facades. The hospitals seem to want to locate all of their high technology medical functions in ultra modern facilities in the current location of the core heritage buildings, as opposed to converting these structures to less technologically demanding uses such as administration.

Photos and further info:


Heritage Register Update: on Hold
The Register Update is on hold, a victim of belt-tightening at City Hall. The original Heritage Inventory was adopted in 1986, and passed as a Register in 1994. Since its inception, it has never been comprehensively updated. Since that time we have developed a much broader understanding of what constitutes Vancouver's heritage. Potential historic sites are now 23 years older, and we are constantly tripping across sites that should be recognized for their heritage value. We also need better recognition of our modern-era buildings and historic interiors. We hope that this hiatus is temporary, and look forward to working with the City on this initiative whenever it gets started.

How are heritage buildings protected in Vancouver?
Being simply a "heritage" property does not offer protection. There are two main classifications within the City: The Heritage Register, and Designation. Many early and significant structures in Vancouver are not included on either list.

1. Listing on the Heritage Register: does not offer protection, but it does rate/flag properties in the planning process (A, B, or C rating). A building which is listed on the Heritage Register *can* be altered on the exterior, and may even be demolished.

2. Designation: the Heritage Register and heritage designation are entirely separate classifications. Heritage designation is a legal means of heritage protection. It allows the City to regulate, by By-law, the demolition, relocation and alteration of heritage property. Interior features can also be protected by designation. Changes to a designated site require a Heritage Alteration Permit, while changes to the exterior of a building on the Heritage Register do not require such a permit. Designations are noted on the property title; the Heritage Register is not.

Further info:


Heatley Block (1931; Houses 1889 & 1898): Threatened
Despite all of the efforts of the community, including a petition with over 3000 signatures, the media blitz, meetings with and appeals to both the library board and city politicians, despite the very clear message that the community is against the demolition of Heatley Block and its two very historic houses, the Heatley Block is still very much in danger.

The city seems to have made the decision to have the new library located on Hastings Street and is not interested in the alternative proposed by the community that would have the new library located in the 1921 Strathcona School Building, just one block south of Hastings—a proposal that would save another neighbourhood landmark building threatened with demolition.

Due to the vehement community opposition to the Heatley Block site and a recently completed SOS pointing to the heritage value of the buildings, the city is currently looking for a Hastings Street alternative to the Heatley Block. However, if they cannot find that alternative, it is likely the Heatley block and two houses (1889 and 1898) will be demolished and used as the site for the new East End Library.

Photos, articles, links and further info:


Roselawn Funeral Home (1941): Lost
The City's 1986 Heritage Register is out-of-date and full of holes; this exquisite 1941 Mission-style building was not listed on the Register, had no protection against demolition, and was demolished in March of this year by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

Photos and further info:



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Heritage Vancouver Society
PO Box 3336, Main Post Office, Vancouver, B.C. V6B 3Y3
604 254-9411 info@heritagevancouver.org