Meeting Notes: January 2017

We had another great turnout for our first meeting of the year last night, and we managed to cover a great deal of ground.

  • Eric began with his regular What’s Happening in the Neighbourhood review
    • The Cultch’s Green House on Venables appears to be occupied now after an excellent program of renovation and restoration;
    • The old Bottle collection building on the corner of William and Victoria is now partially demolished and the structure can be seen as being constructed on concrete blocks;
    • It was noted that a large land assembly has been achieved at 11th & Victoria;
    • The continuing fine restoration work at 765 Victoria was noted;
    • Excavation seems to have started down at the old Iron Works;
    • The buildings at the old Bosa store at 540 Victoria, the condos opposite, and the Co-Housing development at 1st ad Victoria are all proceeding quickly;
    • the stumps for the trees removed at Grandview Park have now been ground down.
  • We discussed the potential for land assembly and development in the 1800-block westside of Commercial Drive (the Wonderbucks building) and Jak gave a brief history of the two buildings. It was agreed we should celebrate the history of the Wonderbucks building if it is threatened with demolition;
  • We reviewed the first proposal for the wording on the plaque to be placed at 1350 Graveley, site of the oldest house in Grandview. More editing required. There was also some discussion regarding grants for heritage restoration;
  • Following on from this discussion, and the fact that the house used to sit where a gas station stood for decades after, we had a long and interesting discussion about contamination in lots that were gas stations, dry cleaners, etc.;
  • After discussions with Via Tevere and acceptance of a budget of $1,025, it was agreed we will fix the Shelley’s sign. Victoria will be the artist, with assistance by Michael and Penny. The work to start when the weather settles;
  • We noted once again the continuing decline of the physical fabric at Brookhouse, 1870 Parker. There seems to be a dispute as to whether the City or the developer is causing the delays;
  • We briefly looked at the “temporary social housing” being installed at Main and Terminal;
  • We have been unable to secure a student this year from UBC Geography/History. We offered two possible topics for study (the 1979/1980 Community Plan process; and, GWAC in the 1970s) but neither were picked up. We will look for opportunities next year;
  • Neville reported on continuing developments at St Francis of Assisi and their desire to build a bigger and better school on Wilga gardens. There will be an open community meeting in the church hall, 2021 Napier, at 7pm on February 2nd;
  • It was noted that Wednesday 25th January is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Woodland Area Council;
  • Johhn raised the possibility of a federal tax incentive for retention of heritage homes. We look forward to more details later.

Update:  Re-examined research notes corrects the GWAC anniversary to Oct 25th rather than January 25th. My apologies for the error.

 

Progress on the Green House

greenhouse

The wraps are off the Green House – the former rectory of the Grandview Methodist/United Church on Venables near Victoria, which is being renovated to resume its role as the administrative and workshop space for The Cultch. Kudos to the city and the contractor! Earlier posts on this thread tell the story….

Notes From The March Meeting

Another full house attendance last night — the Boardroom was bursting — including several new attendees, with a lively level of conversations and questions.  As usual, we covered a lot of ground:

  • We began with a presentation by Tania Willard about a piece of public art she is organizing.  The art work will be two 5.5m diameter limestone rings on which will be imprinted an image of a Douglas fir’s complex root systems surrounding an image tree rings from a 1400-year old fir from the Island.  The work is to symbolize the interlocking roots of First Nations’ history and languages.  She is negotiating with Translink to have the work placed on the SkyTrain’s new platform in 2016 and its placement will also represent the First Nations’ presence in our district for scores of generations.
  • This was followed by another of Eric’s popular Happenings in the Hood series. It was noted that there are a lot of renos going on right now (2036 and 2038 Graveley, and the Cultch’s Green house [see below] for example), along with a high number of house sales.  We discussed the recent sale of 918 Salsbury, 2084 Commercial, 2154 E. 1st, and 2111 Kitchener [see below].  We noted the “sale pending” on the former Salvation Army Building at 1648 First Avenue, and the almost $1 million dollar price for each half of the new duplex built at Napier near Commercial. The lack of apparent progress on renovating 1731 Commercial was also mentioned.  This agenda item always evokes a great deal of lively discussion.
  • Michael discussed the current status of the Green House at 1985 Venables.  The Cultch had planned to demolish the heritage building and replace it with a modernist structure. GHG had opposed this and had met with Heather Deal and Libby Davies to discuss our concerns.  We also wrote a letter to Council.  The Cultch had $1m in its coffers that was going toward the $2m of the new building; however, that money will now be spent, after Council’s decision, on renovating the Green House.  A marvelous building has been saved.
  • 2111 Kitchener has been sold for $2.05.  It is on a double lot. It seems there are some issues with simply bringing the old house up to speed, which left offers only from developers.  We understand the purchaser may try to move the house closer to the Lakewood side of the property and then build a coach house behind. However, there may also be issues with an easement on the lane. We await developments.
  • Bruce showed us another of his video interviews with Grandview seniors.  This time it was with Doreen Herman who recently died at the age of 90, just a few months after the video was completed.  In the video, Doreen talked about going to school at Grandview School of Commerce, going dancing, working in the lumber industry for 30 years. She used to live on William Street in a Guinet-built house that was demolished to make way for the Britannia School expansion in the 1970s. She said she missed the house a lot.
  • We discussed the project to create heritage stories for houses being listed by local realtors.  Dorothy and Penny are leading this effort. They have met with a couple of realtors who are interested in the concept for special properties. Lance suggested that we try to get information from realtors, especially interior photographs, that we can place in the wiki.
  • We had our first brief discussion of the 2015 Heritage Signs Project. We noted that we have to soon collect and clean the signs that have been gracing houses since 2014. Maria suggested breaking down the map and having volunteers make the first cut of potentials for this year. A volunteer sign-up sheet was circulated.  We will discuss the 2015 campaign further at next month’s meeting.
  • The Community Plan and its effect on heritage was discussed.  It was noted that at the Commercial Drive workshop, there was some push to raise the height limit to 6 storeys. This was countered witgh a suggestion to downzone it to two storeys. However, we have to understand that downzoning or creating a form of heritage designation may well cost us additional density elsewhere in the neighbourhood. There was a discussion about the value of RT8 zoning such as is availabke in Kits.
  • Bonnie Beckwoman joined us for the meeting. She discussed the fire that has closed Beckwoman’s and her preparations for re-opening soon. She also discussed the issues facing small businesses in the current climate.

Lots to talk about indeed!

Green House report going to Council

Council is set to approve a report from the city manager that will see the funds that were to go to the demolition and replacement of the Green House (the former rectory next to The Cultch at 1885 Venables) used instead for the repair and upgrading of this historic structure.

Grandview Heritage Group is specifically mentioned as an advocate for the retention – our plea to the city was heard! We congratulate the City on this example of stewardship and the statement it makes about reusing and adapting existing buildings rather than the tear-down/build-new paradigm that is wrecking some of the city’s old neighbourhoods.

There will be an article coming out in the Straight this week on it.

Update from Heather Deal on March 4th: “Done – passed on consent!”

Green House Keeping?

1885venables

Here is a statement from the City through Senior Heritage Planner Marco D’Agostini about the Green House at 1885 Venables – the former rectory for Grandview Methodist Church referred to in previous posts.

“The Vancouver East Cultural Centre with the support of the city is looking at possible retention of the Green House for the purposes of providing rehearsal and non-profit space; however, there is a question of the physical state of the building and whether or not it can be retrofitted for those purposes at a reasonable cost. There will be a variety of activities occurring in the next few weeks to assess the building state and possible renovation and, based on the outcomes of those investigations, the VECC will make a decision on moving forward. In the interim the building is being secured and continues to be overseen by the VECC with City assistance.”

Meeting Notes: February

We had another excellent meeting last night, with some new people joining us for the first time. I think they had a good tme.  Our discussions included:

  • the Green House next to the Cultch.  Michael reviewed the history of our involvement and our desire to see the building renovated rather than demolished. It was noted that the City retains responsibility for the maintenance of the structure.  Given Clr. Heather Deal’s statement last month that the City would like to see a solution that retains the building, it was agreed that MK will draft a letter to Brian Jackson, James Boldt and others confirming our interest in ensuring the building’s survival.
  • Brookhouse — further to last month’s exciting news that our friend and colleague James Evans might be interested in saving this building in a manner similar to what he did with the Jeffs Residence, it was learned that he is still in negotiations with the current owner.  It was agreed that we would give him political backing by writing another letter to the City opposing any application to demolish the building.
  • 2014 Centenary Signs — It was agree that the next exploratory walk to find houses for this year’s celebration will take place at 10:00am on Saturday 15th March (or in the event of rain, on Sunday 16th).  A small working group will meet in advance to plan routes etc.
  • Scott’s Grocery — Blair advised us that Scott’s Grocery on Victoria is about to close.  It will cease operation at the end of this month and the building has been sold to a developer who, apparently, wants to put an apartment building on the small lot. We discussed the history of attempted “block-busiting” on both sides of that block.  It was also noted that the current zoning on Scott’s lot is RM4 and therefore a small apartment building would likely be within regulations. We discussed the history of Scott’s building (1920s) and the other corner stores (now all gone) in the neighbourhood. MK will inquire at the Heritage Commission meeting on Monday if there is any support for saving the streetscape on that block.  We also discussed the possibility of a project looking at the history of the various corner stores.
  • Astorino’s — No further developments to report.
  • Student Intern Project — No further developments to report. We hope to hear back from her soon.
  • Note was taken of two upcoming events:
    • 24th February: Meeting of the Commercial Drive Action Group at Britannia Boardroom at 7:00pm to discuss the future of Commercial Drive.  Seems like this might be mostly about bike lanes.
    • 6th March: Heritage Vancouver meeting at 938 Howe to discuss heritage in the context of the current Community Plans.
  • We finished the evening in high style with another in Eric’s Heritage Mechanics and Materials series of illustrated talks.  This was Part 2 of Home Heating.  After reviewing the various fuel types he had discussed at last month’s meeting, Eric took us on a tour of fireplaces, kitchen stoves, parlour stoves, various furnaces, steam and hot water systems, radiators, kerosene heaters and various furnace and radiator control systems.  Marvelous stuff that included the observation that the introduction of furnaces had a profound effect on building design as a basement (often a raised basement in Vancouver) was a requirement for the furnace and fuel supplies.

 

Notice of February 20th meeting

Our regular monthly meeting will take place from 7 – 9 pm in the boardroom at Britannia. On the agenda:

The Green House at The Cultch: a report on the meeting with director Heather Redfern, reported in an earlier post on this blog, and a discussion of how to proceed with a campaign to see it rehabilitated and continuing in use

– Moving forward on the 2014 Century Signs project: winter weather has delayed our usual slog through the ‘hood looking for likely candidates for our signs. This is the third year of our program that has already celebrated and researched 50 Grandview houses.

– Pending closure of Scott’s Grocery at Victoria and Georgia: neighbour Blair Redlin notified us of the “Closing Out Sale” signs at Scott’s, a 1920’s purpose-built grocery store that is the last one still functioning on the non-Drive/non-Hastings part of the neighbourhood. According to Blair, new owners of the lot are talking about building apartments – unfortunately from a preservationist’s viewpoint, the land is zoned RM-4, which permits “medium density residential development, including a variety of multiple dwelling types, to encourage the retention of existing buidings and good design, and to achieve a number of community and social objectives through permitted increases in floor area.”

Astorino’s update

Stephanie Chang‘s Geography 429 project focusing on the Woodland Park area.

– Upcoming events and new items

… and, our speaker …

Eric Phillips will present the second half of his illustrated talk on vintage home-heating systems of the early houses in Grandview, a continuation of his stellar Mechanics and Materials series.

All are welcome!

Meeting about the Green House (1885 Venables)

A few of us met today with Heather Redfern, director of The Cultch, who had commented recently to the Georgia Straight about her long-term plans to demolish the Green House – the old rectory, built in 1912, for the Methodist Church that is the ‘historic theatre’ of The Cultch’s precinct.

1885venables

The building has been abandoned and boarded up, with water leaking into it due to the long-term deterioration of both its roof and the blue tarp put there several years ago by the city as a stopgap. Heather repeatedly described it as “dangerous,” “rotten” and a “tear down” and said that the city (which is responsible for its major maintenance) has spent little or no money it for about a decade, since plans began to advance for a new building on the site as part of The Cultch’s master plan. Nevertheless, the building’s tenants, which apparently included rent-paying theatre and arts start-ups as well as administrative offices, occupied it until June, 2013. She also believed that the house, rehabilitated, would be “false heritage,” also her feeling about other old places in the city that have been maintained and adapted.

This is clearly a case of “demolition by neglect,” a state of affairs that the city would not tolerate if it were a privately owned rental apartment or office building. But as the city is the landlord it has been able to go its own way.

Our discussion revolved around whether a rehabilitated Green House, fixed up as many of Grandview’s old buildings have been, would be a viable rehearsal and office space for The Cultch, to which Heather’s answer was, tentatively, yes, although the space is said to be too small and there would have to be additional construction for a commercial kitchen and other unspecified uses. As the house sits at the front of its lot with a large area behind, it could probably quite easily be added to, with an elevator tower and accessible washrooms at the rear together with additional space for, indeed, food preparation or whatever. We pointed out the reworking of the old Hawkins-Agnew mansion a block away on Victoria Drive, recently redone for Britannia Lodge, as a successful example of the adaptive re-use of a deteriorated old house for an institutional use.

At the moment the issue is moot (other than the fact that the building desperately needs protection from water leakage) as The Cultch has no funds to build or repair anything, we were told – an application for capital funds to the Department of Canadian Heritage, which would have been matched by City of Vancouver funds, failed.

Our plan is to proceed with enquiries through the city heritage department, and political channels, to try to build support for the rehabilitation of the Green House. In our view, it is an essential part of the trio of buildings that made up the Grandview Methodist Church a lifetime ago: the church, the rectory and the church hall, now the WISE Hall across the lane on Adanac and operated by a different society. It would be inexcusable to wipe it out rather than adapt and re-use it.

We’ll keep readers posted at our regular meetings and here on the blog.