Gord Price: I’ll be giving a talk on Vancouver civic politics for the Vancouver Historical Society in January of next year (they plan ahead!). The society has started to tape its lectures – and here’s a recent sample: transportation historian Henry Ewert speaking extensively on the amazing streetcar and interurban system Vancouver once had.
A bewildering mix of local and state agencies, councils, government bodies, local planning instruments and environmental controls mean determined developers can drive a wide-shovelled bulldozer through preservation laws.
“Profit-driven developers and Asian buyers in search of ‘trophy’ homes are responsible for the rapid disappearance of these dwellings,” says Almeida.
Buyers worried about unsuitable redevelopments should employ a town planner to check land titles or contact the local council, says Daren McDonald, a partner with ShineWing Australia, which advises property developers. …
Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 14th annual Heritage House Tour
Sunday, June 5
10 am – 5 pm
To purchase tickets visit here or call 604 264 9642.
The 2016 one-day self-guided tour offers an exclusive look inside nine historic Vancouver homes, ranging from charming Craftsman homes built for working families to grand estates offering luxury to well-to-do early citizens, each home on the tour offers inspiration and intrigue.
Awaiting a plan to see it repurposed, the historic South West Marine Drive estate home, WilMar will be open in its current state, untouched for almost a decade and unfurnished. This is a singular opportunity to see it before any work begins.
You will also not want to miss the one-of-a-kind Barber Residence. Built in 1936, it is one of the city’s few examples of Art Moderne residential architecture. This home is a landmark for innovative architectural design, beautifully restored and revitalized by Architect Robert Lemon and Designer Robert Ledingham..
Those with a love for global art will also not be disappointed as we see how one owner has used their collection of Asian and African artwork and furnishings to blend seamlessly with an almost entirely untouched 1913 Craftsman home.
1. Bayview Community School (1913-14) – Heritage Schools
2. Crown Life Plaza (1978) – Recent Landmarks
4. Salvation Army Temple (1950) – Community Gathering Places
5. St. Stephen’s United Church (1964)
6. Red Light District of Alexander Street
7. Commercial Drive – Our Main Streets
8. Townley & Matheson homes – Demolition Derby
9. Vancouver College (1924, 1927, 1957)
10. False Creek South – The ideal planning community
Details and pics here.
Walking Tours: Hastings Park and the P.N.E Fairgrounds & Art Deco Downtown
Hastings Park and the P.N.E. fairgrounds have been central to our city’s entertainment history for over 100 years. In that time they have undergone many transformations in order to become the entertainment and sporting destination that we see today. With sites that evoke moments of sporting glory, including the early home of the Vancouver Canucks, buildings with architectural and cultural significance, recent greening efforts and the return of wildlife, and its sobering darker history, this area is full of fascinating stories. Join us for a walk around the grounds and visit the key sites, both past and present, to learn about this favourite Vancouver destination.
Friday, May 20
10am – 12pm
Register Here $15 (inc. tax)
Art Deco Downtown
Vancouver has some amazing examples of the ebullient Art Deco movement. With its rich colours, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation, this highly decorative style still maintains a dedicated following. We’ll revel in the grand dames of this elaborate architectural style, both past and present including a closer look at the remarkable Marine Building. Join us to also get to know some examples you have walked by but probably never noticed. Wear your Bakelite baubles!
Friday, May 27
10am – 12pm
Register Here $15 (inc. tax)
Heritage House Tour 2016
The Heritage House 2016 tour includes several grand estate homes ranging from impressively retained, to conversion into suites, to one that has sat empty for years waiting for a plan to give it new life. In these three homes you can see the changing desires of Vancouver’s wealthy citizens and how sprawling estates can be utilized in our modern city. You will also see a beautiful Arts & Crafts charmer that has hardly been touched over its 100 year life span.
This is also a great tour if you are a fan of the Craftsman style. We have several examples of the different types of Craftsman homes built in Vancouver, some with small nods to the style, others with almost all the original features.
Sunday, June 5th
10am – 5pm
Register Here $40 or $30 with valid student ID
This tour is eligible for professional development credits including 6 Non-Core LUs AIBC
You want tall? This is what Brooklyn is getting: 9 Dekalb Avenue – at 73 storeys, nearly twice as tall as any existing building in the borough.
Just approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, it passed the final hurdle after securing the air rights from the adjacent temple bank building. In other words, it is heritage preservation that allowed it to be so tall.
The site at 1245 Harwood was a source of significant controversy in the West End in 2014 when Council decided to allow the demolition of the Legg mansion. (Here’s the Sun’s story, with video by John Mackie. And the Price Tags item: “Tiptoeing past the Tulip Tree: How much do people really value heritage?“)
The unfortunate choice seemed to be the loss of the house or removal of one of the largest tulip trees in the West End (or, arguably, anywhere). Council changed its opinion several times, influenced in part by residents behind the site who wanted the maximum view.
Today, a small tower designed by Bing Thom Architects is almost finished:
The gray screens have imprints of tree leaves. Cute.
The latest Sean Ruthen book review in Spacing:
With affordable housing in the Metro Vancouver region now a daily topic of discussion, Vancouver Vanishes – Narratives of Demolition and Revival by local novelist Caroline Adderson is a formidable addition to the conversation. Combining several photos of demolished Vancouver homes, the book’s main events are the stories and essay contributions from some of the heritage community’s most outspoken proponents, including Michael Kluckner—who provides an update since he published his similarly titled Vanishing Vancouver a few years back. The editor of the book provides an alarming snapshot of the predicament we presently find ourselves in, while Kluckner gives us a brief history on how we came to be in this predicament.
From the City of Vancouver Archives:
Over 2100 more maps are now online
Thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program, we’ve recently completed a project to digitize over 2100 maps and plans and made them available online for you to use and re-use. We’ve tried to digitize these maps with enough resolution to support future types of re-use and processing, including optical character recognition and feature extraction.
These maps and plans hold quite a variety of information. We have put a small selection of images on flickr as a sample.
Want to see how the city was reshaped? You can see the before and after of a section of Point Grey in 1925, before it was part of the City of Vancouver.
Click to enlarge
More here from the Archives blog.
Go here for information and reservations.
New in 2016, the Vancouver Special House Tour is expanding its parameters to include two houses from a similar time period as the Vancouver Special, but in different styles. These homes also offered adaptability and potential to their owners.
An extraordinary photo-based animation project. The music sucks but the images of New York in the 1930s, especially, come alive.
809 West 23rd Avenue
The last PT Guest Editor wrote about comparing Burnaby’s density to Vancouver’s in Who Does Density Better?.
A 1920s-era church at 23rd Ave & Willow could be saved if it’s turned into 6 townhouses with the flexibility of 4 lock-off suites. It’s 600m from King Edward Station and the neighbours are outraged it will no longer be a Single Family Home (SFH). There seems to be more outrage about this lot than there is about skyscrapers going up in Burnaby.
Let’s start with what we know then learn a bit more:
- Metro Vancouver has mountains to the north, a border to the south, and an ocean to the west. Therefore it can only expand to the east, which it has been doing. We need to limit urban sprawl for all kinds of environmental, health, and economic reasons.
- It is estimated that by 2030 the region’s population will be about 1 million more people than it is today. They will need places to live.
- The City of Vancouver has, for about 2-4 mayors now, been encouraging density and running on platforms of density.
- Friendly-density or “gentle densification” describes alternatives to high-rises such as 3-7 story multi-unit dwellings, townhouses, quadruplexes/fourplexes with a coach house, etc. and this density debate article is more amusing/sad 4 years later, depending on your point of view.
- Transit-oriented development (TOD) “is a mixed-use residential and commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership.”
- The Marpole Community Plan, approved in 2014, allows for RM8 (Townhouse, Rowhouse) and RM9 (Townhouse/Rowhouse/Low-rise).
- The Cambie Corridor Planning Program Phase 3 was approved by City Council in April, 2015. It covers Ontario to Oak Streets, 16th Ave south to the river. Since then the City has held launch events, walking tours, and workshops on Phase 3. It is currently in progress.
- There’s a Cambie Corridor Phase 3 Community Guide. Thomas Beyer, parking permits are on page 69. The saddest page is page 70 which shows all the streets with one or no sidewalks.
- There was an open house in September, 2015. From the City’s website: “Staff have completed their initial review of the rezoning application and have requested revisions to the application including changes to improve the heritage conservation approach, explore further on-site tree retention and improve the relationship of the proposal to the surrounding residential neighbourhood. Once revisions are received staff will notify the public and invite further community feedback.“
- I asked staff what “improve the relationship of the proposal to the…neighbourhood” meant. Basically, due to feedback, revisions have been requested. They want to give people more time to give feedback. They would like to hear from people why this church is worth saving.
- There is still time to provide online feedback on this development application (with no clear deadline in sight).
Hair splitting leads to split ends:
- This property is within the Cambie Corridor near Douglas Park but about 1 block outside the area where changes are likely to be permitted.
- Once Phase 3 is complete, it could be applicable without rezoning but this application was submitted months before the completion of Phase 3.
- The residents who don’t want it say it’s spot zoning.
- The City and developer say it’s not spot zoning it’s an application to rezone from RS-5 (Single Family) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District under the City’s Heritage Policies and Guidelines, including the Heritage Action Plan.
This Vancouver Courier article from October, 2015 explains what’s going on in depth.
What do you think?
SFH – (Single Family Home) is also the abbreviation for at least 2 other meanings. Those who don’t want more density in Vancouver – are they Stronger, Faster, Healthier or So F’ing High?
When people are outraged at building townhouses on a large lot in Vancouver, is it a sign that the reality of density, the people who want different housing options, and the future Vancouverites who don’t usually get a say are winning?
Should this sort of scene survive in Greenest City? By “this,” I mean the year-round heated outdoor patio in Vancouver, at 50 degrees north latitude, where outdoor sitting used to be a 5-month gig. Will the Green Police shut them down, or is “green” merely a metaphor for a particular kind of lifestyle?
These sour, no-fun thoughts were prompted by a chance meeting on the street with a neighbour who is renovating a century-old Grandview house and getting the full blast of new “Green” building-code requirements thrown at her. She has a thousand-square-foot house on a half lot – I’ll bet her heating and electricity bills are under $1,000 a year total – and yet the city is demanding she upgrade her walls to R-20, which she can’t do with the house’s vintage 2×4 framing.
Given that 4% of a house’s heat loss, typically, is through its walls (and 3% through single-glazed windows), her efforts will cost her a fortune, possibly doom the house, and save a piddling amount of energy year-over-year compared with the constant consumption of natural gas in cafés such as this one.
The city wants “Green,” which means in part to re-use and adapt rather than demolish, but has adopted a building code and enforces it in a way to make renovation onerous if not impossible. Is “the greenest building the one that’s already built” in Greenest City?
The issue was explored recently in “Reno vs. Demo: When is it easier to just start over?” by Bethany Lindsay in the Sun. The article was a depressing, realistic view of the myriad hoops the city makes renovators go through – whether it’s for ‘heritage’ or just upgrading.
Geoff Glave was one of the homeowners interviewed for the Sun story.
“There’s a lot of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over demolition of what I would consider perfectly fine houses in Vancouver,” Glave said. “I think if the city wanted to encourage renovation, they certainly could by making it a more cost-effective option than tearing the whole house down and sending everything to the landfill and starting from scratch.”
In Vancouver, the costs really start to add up as a renovation project becomes more extensive. Once construction costs exceed $5,000, the builder will need to meet certain new energy-efficiency requirements. Over $50,000, and walls may need to be deepened to allow for thicker insulation, while the building will require sealing around spots like windows and doors to prevent heat leakage.
When the project reaches about $95,000, city engineers will usually order a new sewer connection at a cost of $16,000 as part of an ongoing, long-term plan to separate rainwater from sewage. If the renovation hits 50 per cent of the replacement value of the home, a sprinkler system will have to be installed.
And any new addition to a home will have to meet all modern building codes, which include triple-glazed windows and accessibility requirements like wider doors and levers instead of doorknobs.
From a sustainability point of view, they said that the city would prefer to see people maintaining as much of their homes as possible, rather than sending piles of demolition waste to the landfill. Preserving historically significant homes is also a priority.
But they insisted that while renovations are more expensive in Vancouver than in the rest of the region, there are good reasons for the costly updates required by the building code.
‘We’re not doing things just for fun. We’re doing things because they’re safety improvements, they’re environmental improvements. They’re things we need to do anyway,” said Doug Smith, Vancouver’s acting director of sustainability. “What typically happens is we’ll do it and then within 10 years, other municipalities will catch up and do it as well.”
Making homes more energy efficient goes a long way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he maintained, while retrofitting homes to be more accessible is essential as baby boomers hit their retirement years.
When does safety become nannyism? When do the energy inputs into a renovation far exceed any potential savings of greenhouse-gas emissions? And, vis-à-vis the café on The Drive, when is the system fair?
Rundown Granville Street redone as a new tech hub? This is something of an old story now, having been featured in The Sun a couple of weeks ago, including this quote from Downtown BIA head Charles Gauthier:
There are more than 20 vacancies “concentrated primarily in the southern three blocks of Granville Street between Smithe and Drake” that could be used to house businesses favoured by the rising contingent of tech workers in the area, Gauthier said in an interview last week.
During the late 1990s dot-com boom, the office parks of Silicon Valley were another world to most San Franciscans, a place somewhere to the south that they needed never go. But increasingly Silicon Valley is rooted in the city itself, which makes it inescapable.
The consequences for people who do not make their living from technology are increasingly unpleasant. The city is bulging at the seams, adding about 10,000 people a year to a record 852,000 in 2014. A one-bedroom apartment goes for a median $3,500 a month, the highest in the nation.
“Tales From the West End” is an evening to explore and experience our community through stories about our common past. The event is held at one of Vancouver’s intriguing historic sites, formerly known as “Maxine’s Hideaway” and now home to a JJ Bean coffee shop.
Tuesday, February 16
5:45 – 7:30 pm; storytelling from 6 – 7:00
JJBean Coffee Shop, Bidwell & Davie
Admission: Free, Complimentary coffee and tea thanks to JJBean
This month museum educator, researcher and tour guide, Isaac Vanderhorst is our featured story teller. Isaac has many tales to tell about his ancestors, the Abbott family, who lived in the West End.
People are encouraged to listen, sketch and bring their own stories and historic photographs of the West End to share with the community.
February 15 – 21 is Heritage Week in B.C., with a theme of ‘Distinctive Destinations: Experience Historic Places,’ honoring the vibrant tourism history of our province and the heritage places that make Vancouver a distinctive destination today.
To purchase tickets or for more information visit here or call 604 264 9642.
Monday, Feb 15: National Heritage Day and Official Launch of Heritage Week 2016
Join us for this fun, free public event where Deputy Mayor, Councillor Heather Deal, will read the official City of Vancouver proclamation celebrating Heritage Week. Take a short walking tour of the Roundhouse area with civic historian John Atkin. (Sign-up for the walk will begin at 12 pm and will be first-come, first-served for 30.
Roundhouse Community Centre, Turntable Plaza. 12 noon – 1 pm, Free.
Tuesday, Feb 16: Selling Vancouver to Tourists: 1890 – 1960
Author and Artist, Michael Kluckner will explore how Vancouver was marketed by the Canadian Pacific Railway and others as a tourist destination in an illustrated lecture at beautiful Hycroft Manor. He will look at the influence of natural attractions and how people traveled, the rise of tourist hotels and later “auto-court” hotels as well as how First Nations culture was first represented.
Hycroft Manor, 1498 McRae. 7:30 – 9:30pm, $15 or $9 with valid student ID
Saturday, Feb 20: Spending the Night: Vancouver’s Historic Hotels
John Atkin leads this walking tour of downtown Vancouver hotels, past and present, to discover the history and architecture of these storied buildings. Vancouver’s historic hotels speak of the way early travelers experienced our city, and how design was integral to the type of clientele the hotel was hoping to attract.
Downtown Vancouver. 10am – 12 noon, $15
Sunday, Feb 21: Historic Stanley Park: From British Enclave to Urban Oasis
Historian Maurice Guibord leads a walking tour and illustrated lecture on Stanley Park. After centuries of use by local First Nations, Stanley Park was transformed into an ode to British gardens, where Vancouver’s settler population could feel at home. We’ll explore elements of the park’s First Nations history along with some of the sites that launched the park as a British enclave. From there we’ll enjoy the comfort of the Vancouver Rowing Club with warm beverages, a short introduction to the history of the Club from General Manager Keith Jolly and an illustrated talk on other aspects of the park’s fascinating history by Maurice.
Stanley Park and Vancouver Rowing Club. 9:30am – 12pm, $20 or $15 with valid student ID
From the Daily Scot:
Looking back on my seven years living in Auckland, there was one specific moment residents and visitors alike took notice that the City of Sails was serious about providing world class civic spaces and amenities. That moment was the opening of Wynyard Quarter.
Sure we had access to the waterfront through Prince’s Wharf and The Viaduct (developed for the 2000 America’s Cup) but this new linear waterfront space expanded our imagination, accommodating and celebrating working industry and the site’s gritty past.
Wynyard Quarter’s programming and placemaking is superb: used-book libraries inside shipping containers, playgrounds, interactive water features, restaurants, giant steps cascading into the ocean tempting a toe dip, and the event node that is Silo Park.
In addition to constantly evolving placemaking by a dedicated team, what set this development apart from similar projects I have visited are the vernacular of the architecture/landscape materials and the preservation of existing industrial site features against new refined material palettes. And the use of colour!
Alan Gray, Senior Urban Designer for Panuku Development Auckland, refers to this juxtaposition as “Friction.” Beautifully illustrating this friction and, hands down, my favourite space along the waterfront, Silo Park comprises six former concrete silos preserved to recall the site’s past while re-purposing the infrastructure to house events ranging from art installations to providing a backdrop for outdoor movies.
Fridays during the summer months meant heading to Silo Cinema for classic films like Goonies and Ghostbusters, family-friendly flicks viewed from the lawn surrounded by food trucks and a shipping container serving beer and wine. Because it’s now a victim of its own success, grabbing a spot means showing up a few hours early with blankets in hand to stake your claim amongst fellow moviegoers.
Wynyard Quarter has many components. Spreading south from Silo Park, filling in the adjacent blocks, is a future comprehensive mixed-use development. Here, business headquarters, hotels, apartments and linear parks are taking shape after years of master-planning and staging. Think Vancouver’s Olympic Village with the added commercial and lodging component.
Check out the two informative videos on the Wynyard Quarter website which highlight its transition from scruffy light-industrial area to amenity-rich mixed-use precinct.
Scot Bathgate (‘The Daily Scot’) is guest editor this week.
Much has been made with good reason about the loss of heritage homes in Vancouver recently, but there is an equally upsetting trend happening throughout the city: the destruction of our historic fine-grained retail strips. These storefronts, located along the cities once prevalent streetcar routes, are systematically falling victim to developer lot assembly as the push for ever more density to house the masses reaches a fevered pace.
Here is an example along Dunbar Street on the west side of Vancouver.
Before: A functioning retail landscape providing affordable leases and supporting a wide variety of businesses along Dunbar Street.
After: Gone Forever. Instant destruction of 240 feet of functioning historic high street shops
I know some will argue I’m being too nostalgic and that I am neglecting function over form. How else are we going to house everyone if we don’t pick the low-hanging fruit, i.e. increased density along our arterials? It’s a tough one. Who wants the fight of densifying in the single-family neighbourhoods behind (Grandview-Woodland anyone?). It has been done before: a case in point a post from Gordon awhile back on Kerrisdale.
In the case of Dunbar Street, I believe there is another option to achieve density targets along the corridor. With roughly 10,000 linear feet of street frontage currently occupied by single-family homes, why not consider using these lots for residential infill intensification similar to the row homes along Oak Street and preserve the retail fabric as is?
The problem with replacing older storefronts with shiny new mixed-use developments goes beyond loss of human scale and history; new developments require amenities such as underground parking to meet code, which balloon retail leases. Essentially it’s gentrification in the neighbourhood retail context.
Here is the new Boheme development on East Hastings whose retail ground floor has sat empty for months aside from a Starbucks occupying the corner. I suspect it’s partly a consequence of location, or traffic volume, perhaps demographics in the area – but the end result appears to be unrealistic rents or contract terms keeping potential shop owners away.
Unleased shops sitting empty for months on the groundfloor of a new development
Infill on a used-car lot or a service station is a no-brainer, but we have a finite amount of historic retail strips left in this city, and when they’re gone they’re gone for good. Think about the enjoyable experience strolling Queen Street in Toronto or Portland’s Mississippi Avenue. Or any high street around the world. Ask yourself what made it special (eclectic shops? scale? opportuntities for lingering and loitering? architecture?) and ask yourself if we can preserve and fight for those same experiences here in Vancouver before it’s too late.
The eclectic shops along Main Street in Vancouver – hipster paradise. How long until these storefronts see the wrecking ball?
This is an event that probably illustrates some of the good and not so good parts of the development control processes that we were developing in the mid 70’s and early 80’s. …
When I came to the City in 1973 one of the first priorities was to produce a Downtown Plan to guide change over the next 20 years or so. …
As a result of years of community work in developing the Downtown Plan, we had overhauled the whole system from the overall vision of the Downtown through the urban design guidelines, from views, overall shaping and details of those things that made the place more liveable, like canopies and signage, to development control processes and zoning. Council. …
Some strong feelings about development had been expressed by the community. They did not want to see the public realm go underground into malls and passageways. They wanted our mild climate to be experienced primarily at grade. They were looking for neighbourly developments that emphasised good relationships between buildings and to the street. They wanted active pedestrian streets. They were looking for well designed buildings that enhanced the overall cohesive vision for the area, not individual “stand outs.” At the time there was much debate about the height and shape of future highrises, the overall shape of Downtown and there was a strong lobby to retain the views of the mountains and especially the iconic “Lions” from important public places in and around Downtown.
Developers were informed about these policies when they came to ask about the city’s plans and generally went off to prepare their plans in that context.
At one time, (I cannot remember the exact date, as I write this draft), a development group came to my office with their proposal for development of the Georgia, Burrard, Alberni, Thurlow block. I do not yet recall what process they had been through but my recollection is that there had not been much contact with us before this meeting …
The block today
As I reviewed their presentation I began to see numerous features that were not compatible with the City’s plans for the Downtown. I described where their plans were in conflict and suggested they needed to revise accordingly. They were shocked that the grand plans that they were so proud of were not accepted by me. They said they would take their case straight to the Mayor. I said that was of course their right, but explained how our plans had come about and they could expect the Mayor to support those plans.
[I should explain here that the developers, while having a local development consultant advising them, were internationally renowned developers and architects from New York. They conveyed the sense that we were rather a small, unsophisticated sort of place that would be best advised to see the special benefits of their scheme.]
A few days later I briefed the mayor about their proposal and how it related to the city’s policies. The subsequent meeting with the developers was held in his office. …
At one moment, when we seemed unable to communicate with them and they continued to push us about how good their scheme was, the Mayor took them to the window, which looks north across downtown to the spectacular mountain ranges. Changing the tone somewhat, he described the scene and then asked them where their proposed big highrise would be seen from this point of view.
After some reflection, one of them said, something like this, “Well, if you look at the mountains behind Downtown you can see a couple of small but noticeable peaks sticking up. Do you see them?” The mayor said, “Yes, I do. We call them the Lions.” “Well,” said the developer, “Our tower would be right in front of them from this viewpoint.”
The Mayor suggested we return to the table and said he would like to summarise his position for them. He then came up with this description.
“I can summarise our position under three headings. I will call them the three Ms: they are Moles, Mountains and Monuments.” He went on to explain that we did not want to develop an underground city, we wanted to preserve the views of our iconic mountain forms from important public places, and were not looking for stand-out monuments. He suggested they rethink their proposal.
They went away looking perplexed and annoyed. I don’t remember ever seeing them again, although the local consultant, to this day, tells the story about how wrong the City was.