The glory days of the former Blue Boy Motor Hotel in Vancouver have long faded.
Named after a famous portrait by English painter Thomas Gainsborough, it once provided comfort and a touch of refinement to local guests and travellers at its location at Fraser Street and Marine Drive.
It was built in 1963, a time when the Fraser Street Bridge connected Vancouver to Richmond. It began to lose its lustre when that span was replaced by the Knight Street Bridge in 1974, diminishing the importance of the crossroads as a gateway to the city.
The Blue Boy later became the Quality Inn; presently, it is the Super 8 Vancouver hotel. This latest incarnation may also be gone soon, to be replaced by condo towers, townhomes, low-rise houses, and new commercial spaces.
Serracan Properties is planning to redevelop the almost one-hectare site, closing a chapter in the evolving story of the Fraser Street and Marine Drive junction.
South Vancouver resident and community historian Michele Paulse has done research about Fraser Street. According to her, the redevelopment of the hotel land is a “testimony of the changing needs of the urban area”, particularly the current demand for housing.
“In that respect, I think it’s a link between the past and the present, because the area continues to be used for what is most needed at the time,” Paulse told the Straight in a phone interview.
In March this year, city council voted unanimously to indicate its willingness to consider a future application from Serracan to rezone the property at 725 Southeast Marine Drive. Serracan is looking at a development that will include two towers, with possible heights ranging from 15 storeys to 26 storeys.
Paulse said: “It would be interesting to see what other changes it brings to the area of Marine Drive.”
Last June, Susan Haid, the city’s assistant director of planning for Vancouver South, was at an open house where city staff and a team from Serracan were on hand to answer questions from the public.
“Overall, there was general support for change and redevelopment of the site and improvements in the neighbourhood to provide more housing, especially for seniors and families, and more green space,” Haid told the Straight by phone. “And potentially some public amenities, so things like childcare and a neighbourhood house.”
According to Haid, Serracan Properties is expected to file its rezoning application in the fall. Based on the city’s timeline, the rezoning will be considered by council following a public hearing next year.
A glimpse of the old Blue Boy is preserved in Paulse’s online Fraser Street History Project: “In the six-storey hotel…off-white and gold decorated walls and ceiling.…A grand stairway spiralled from the foyer to the upper corridors of the 100-room hotel furnished in Italian provincial.”