Cobalt Hotel gets partial makeover in advance of Vancouver Mural Festival

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      Part of the charm of the Cobalt Hotel is its unforgettably grimy brick exterior at the foot of the Georgia viaduct. (See above.)

      Patrons in its famous cabaret immediately know they're in the gritty part of town, where anything can happen.

      As a very young reporter, I ran into a police officer in Vancouver Provincial Court down the road at 222 Main Street.

      This was long before the bar became a go-to destination.

      It was also before gentrification turned the area around Main Street-Science World Station ino a hip neighbourhood with gelato shops, paved cycling paths, and waterfront walkways.

      I asked the cop what was going on in court that day.

      He replied that a man had been charged in connection with stabbing someone 57 times in the Cobalt.

      "Fifty-seven times?" I thought to myself. "Why on earth would anyone be so full of rage that they plunged the knife in so many times?"

      That wasn't the only stabbing at the Cobalt in those days. There was a lot of rage in those days.

      But as Vancouver has evolved into a modern city of glass, it seemed inevitable that the Cobalt, too, would gain a new sheen.

      Fortunately, the Vancouver Mural Festival's Drew Young has come to the rescue with a remaking of part of the Cobal's exterior that retains the charm while adding plenty of razzle-dazzle.

      He unveiled the new look of the Cobalt entrance in the Intagram image below. I hope you like it as much as I do.

      The Vancouver Mural Festival takes place from June 24 to August 12. For photos from last year's event, go here.

      But don't kid yourself: there are many more changes coming to the area.

      They include a new seven-building Jim Pattison Medical Centre that will be built on Station Street. It will replace many of the services provided at St. Paul's Hospital.

      In addition, the viaducts are going to be torn down, which will reconfigure the road network. Like the arrival of the new hospital, this will probably attract more development.

      After all, it's just a short stroll from the Olympic Village, a 21st-century den of comfort and convenience.

      Is it any wonder that Downtown Eastside housing activists are freaked out about what this is going to mean to long-term residents of the area?

      The Cobalt is one of many old buildings in the neighbourhood not listed in the City of Vancouver's heritage registry.

      Drew Young's art work at the Cobalt is likely going to generate a lot of chatter in the coming weeks.

      Let's hope city council tries to protect it—and the residents above—when any redevelopment plan for the building comes forth.

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