Ming Sun Benevolent Society’s building spared demolition for now

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Volunteers are guarding amid freezing weather a building under threat of demolition in Vancouver’s former Japantown.

The 24-hour vigil started December 9, according to David Wong, a descendant of one of the founders of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society that owns the property on the 400 block of Powell Street.

That was the same day the Chinese Canadian association was supposed to tear down the two-storey building, as ordered by city hall for public safety reasons.

“It’s really cold outside, so this is how dedicated the community is,” Wong told the Straight in a phone interview.

The Vancouver architect noted that city backed off from its December 9 deadline. According to him, the security watch is aimed at preventing further acts of vandalism and destruction, including arson.

He added that with the association’s consent, a crew hired by the city is taking the brick cladding off the building’s west wall that has caused some concern for a neighbouring property owner.

“The city wants the society to come up with a plan what to do next,” Wong said.

Meanwhile, members of the Instant Coffee artist collective have taken out most of their belongings from the building that has been declared “unsafe” by the city.

“We moved most of our things last weekend,” art curator and founding member Jenifer Papararo told the Straight by phone on December 10. “It was very stressful and a very sad day. There has been so much vandalism, and so many things that had been stolen.”

The group is looking for a new home although Papararo doubts whether it will find something equivalent to what it had. It used to rent 1,800 square feet of space with two storefront entrances for $1,000 a month at the Ming Sun building. Instant Coffee does a lot of public art projects.

“We have to downsize for sure,” Papararo said. “What we’re realistically hoping for is to find a thousand square feet for a thousand dollars.”

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