Note: The Grandview Heritage Group sent the following e-mail December 30, 2013.
To: Brian Jackson, Director of Planning
Copies: Marco D’Agostini, Heritage Planner, Mayor and Council
Subject: The Green House at 1885 Venables Street next to The Cultch
Dear Mr. Jackson:
We write to you concerning the Green House at 1885 Venables in Grandview, part of the CD-1 zoned parcel including The Cultch designated under heritage by-law 8951.
This historic building, constructed in 1912 as the rectory for the Methodist Church, has been a part of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s operations for many years, having been used as performance, rehearsal, and administrative space. The images below show its building permit and its location on Lot 16 from the 1912 Goad’s fire insurance atlas.
Here is the applicable by-law for The Cultch precinct:
We have watched with alarm in recent years as the building has been allowed to deteriorate. A blue tarpaulin put over the roof to avoid the latter’s replacement has itself ripped and frayed as the years have gone by, causing unknown damage to the interior. If it were a private developer who owned it, we would say “demolition by neglect” and “blockbusting.” Yet, in spite of this abandonment, the house’s ridge line is still straight; it appears to be structurally in good condition, with more of its original fabric intact than many other buildings that are candidates for heritage rehabilitation.
We are further alarmed to read of The Cultch’s plans, for example as reported below:
From “More Construction for The Cultch,” in the Straight, December 11, 2013:
Now that the York Theatre renovation has been completed—which overlapped with the Historic Theatre renewal and construction of new offices—Heather Redfern is now turning her attention to the green house at 1885 Venables Street. The 103-year-old property, which sits adjacent to the Historic Theatre, contains a rehearsal hall and office space. These were, until recently, rented out to various arts groups, providing an added revenue stream for the Cultch’s operations.
The plan, Redfern told the Straight, is to take down the current structure, which is in disrepair, and replace it with a new building designed by York Theatre architect Gregory Henriquez. Provided the City of Vancouver gives its blessing, she intends to have it renamed Jim Green House, in honour of her partner, the activist and politician, who passed away in February 2012.
This proposed redevelopment is clearly a challenge to the city’s recently passed heritage action plan, specifically Action # 1, which states that the Director of Planning is “under no obligation to consider any application that seeks development approval under the conditional provisions of the applicable zoning regulations. This principle will be more stringently adhered to for any application or proposal that seeks to demolish or significantly degrade a resource that is identified in the Heritage Register or for applications or proposals that involve heritage resources that are reasonably eligible for inclusion on the Heritage Register.” (italics added)
Clearly, the Green House at 1885 Venables deserves scrutiny under the Heritage Action Plan. We in the neighbourhood who value its historic quality have always treasured The Cultch precinct, which has evolved from a church with a rectory and a hall (now the WISE Hall across the lane facing Adanac Street) to its current form. The Cultch administration itself is also aware of this history and has accepted a city heritage plaque for the Historic Theatre and a Places That Matter plaque for the building’s previous use as the Vancouver Free University. However, when it comes to the re-use and adaptation of the Green House, the current Cultch administration seems willing to turn a blind eye to this layered history.
We would very much like to avoid a community confrontation with The Cultch and ask that you put together a meeting of key people to explore options other than demolition. Specifically, the Green House should be evaluated with a Statement of Significance and an assessment of its physical condition before any further public money is expended by The Cultch on new architects and plans.
We look forward to working with you on this matter in 2014.
The Grandview Heritage Group
(contact: Penny Street, Bruce Macdonald)