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.
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.