City inspectors converged on Ming Sun building in a snowstorm without warning owners
Yesterday morning, Vancouver architect David Wong was hoping to sleep in to help him recover from the flu.
But this plan was interrupted when he received calls telling him that the City of Vancouver had blocked traffic in the 400 block of Powell Street beside the 122-year-old Ming Sun Benevolent Society building.
A bunch of firefighters, city officials, and even a few police officers were on the scene.
This prompted fears that the city was going to tear down a building that Wong and other society members have been working so hard to save.
"No one knew what was going on," Wong later told the Georgia Straight by phone. "The city did not contact anyone from the society."
As Wong scrambled to reach the society's elders by phone, his son drove him downtown in a snowstorm to find out what was happening.
"There were about 20 people there by the time I got there around 11:30 a.m.—ordinary people from Dunbar, Kerrisdale, and the Downtown Eastside," Wong said. "The city and the firefighters were keeping everyone at a distance with yellow tape, taping up the block, practically."
Wong recalled firefighters telling him that people had to keep their distance because inspectors were inside the building.
There has been an ongoing controversy over whether the city damaged the building when it tore down a neighbouring structure earlier this year. It's an allegation that the city has vehemently denied.
Both the city and the society have pointed to problems with the exterior veneer. But Wong, spokesperson for the Ming Sun Benevolent Society, insisted that the building is not structurally compromised.
"We have already sent the city two independent structural engineering reports," Wong said, adding that more will be forwarded to the city in the future.
In the end, it turned out that the Ming Sun building wasn't going to be torn down in the snowstorm.
That left the citizen observers wondering why the city spent so much money and staff resources to block off the road when it was just sending out a team of inspectors.
"If they asked the Ming Sun to open the door, we would have let them in," Wong said. "No one notified us. We're quite surprised on a winter's day like today to have this huge show of force."
He added that the citizens' response indicates that many people love the Ming Sun building. He said that all the society wants is a chance to restore it to its former glory.
Wong pointed out that carpenters and other tradespeople in Vancouver have even stepped forward to help.
"They're going to volunteer their efforts and save it," he said.