Main Street condos on the radar of Mount Pleasant residents
Mount Pleasant’s history as Vancouver’s first suburb is fondly remembered in an application for a condo development more than 150 years after Europeans arrived there.
Arno Matis Architecture has asked city hall to rezone a long-time car lot at 2290 Main Street, at the corner of East 7th Avenue, for a mixed-used building with 89 residential units.
Included in its submission is an account of some of the highlights of Mount Pleasant’s past after European settlement, starting in the late 1850s, when pioneers from B.C.’s gold-rush era came to the area. Years later, a resident named the spot in honour of her birthplace in Ireland, and Mount Pleasant was born.
In the 1890s, the intersection of Kingsway, Main Street, and 7th Avenue “became the centre hub of Vancouver’s first suburb”, the chronicle goes. It was the ease of access to the city centre and industries at Brewery Creek and False Creek that attracted many working families to settle in the neighbourhood.
The streetcar had a stop at Main Street and Broadway to the south, and by 1908, that spot was “one of the busiest intersections of the city”.
Based on the recorded history of the property where Arno Matis plans a mixed-use building, a brewery was located there. From 1931 on, it was occupied by Johnston Motors Used Cars, Kingsway Plymouth Chrysler, and City Gate Motors.
During the First World War, Mount Pleasant lost its waterfront to the north when the tidal flats of False Creek were filled to create two railway terminals.
The neighbourhood has a rich multicultural heritage. By the mid-1900s, Japanese Canadians made up almost 10 percent of the area’s population. However, they vanished with the internment of Japanese people during the Second World War.
According to the 2006 census, 62 percent of residents in Mount Pleasant speak English as a first language; 10 percent speak Chinese; and five percent claim Tagalog as their native tongue. The history set out by Arno Matis Architecture also weaves in the story of the developer of 2290 Main Street: Amir Virani.
The Ugandan-born Virani opened J B Café at the corner of Main Street and 29th Avenue in 1979. “As a tribute to the area that supported his entrepreneurial spirit, his attention has returned to the area to make a significant contribution to the community where he made his first Vancouver home,” the chronicle avers.
A UBC account, which is not part of the application package, relates that Virani and his brothers purchased a bankrupt coffee-roasting business on Main Street in 1976. “He used the new business as a platform to start importing, wholesaling and distributing dried fruits, nuts and seeds,” the report goes.
“Over time, he added a manufacturing arm to the business. When Amir finally sold his company in 2007, Golden Boy Foods was the largest manufacturer of peanut butter in Canada and the Western United States with sales of over $250 million annually.”
In 2011, the sale of the 17,424-square-foot property was handled by Colliers International. The brochure predicts that Mount Pleasant will become even more popular as a residential area when the planned rapid transit on Broadway going to UBC comes about. It also notes that in Mount Pleasant’s community plan, developments along Main Street are allowed up to six storeys.
The development application calls for a nine-storey building. According to documents filed with city hall, the project includes a variety of housing types, such as artist live-work studios that can be owned or leased through a nonprofit. The mix also includes ground-oriented homes, strata residences, and “attainable units”. An open house is scheduled for Tuesday (March 19) starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Native Education College (285 East 5th Avenue).
The project is on the radar of the Residents Association Mount Pleasant. On its website, the neighbourhood group states that the building should not be taller than six storeys: “When additional height and density goes up on one property, it forces the price of land up on properties around it and the taxes increase. Land goes up, taxes go up, and rents go up.”