Vancouver heritage expert wants St. Paul's Hospital fixed

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      A Vancouver heritage advocate believes it’s an “opportune” time for “substantial investment in the buildings” at St. Paul’s Hospital.

      “Our main issue, from Heritage Vancouver’s point of view, is of course the Burrard Building,” Donald Luxton, president of Heritage Vancouver Society, told the Georgia Straight by phone on February 22. “That’s where we think the focus for conservation should be. How they handle the rest of the site is really just a matter of prioritizing what they need to do first in what is obviously an ageing and unloved facility.”

      The Renaissance Revival Burrard Building opened in 1913, replacing the original 1894 wood structure. Additional wings were added in the 1930s.

      Luxton lives two blocks from the West End hospital. On the same day he spoke to the Straight, Vancouver–West End NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and Brent Granby of the Save St. Paul’s Hospital Coalition accused the B.C. Liberal government in a news conference of neglecting the hospital. Last weekend, the hospital suffered a 10-second power outage.

      However, Luxton said the hospital “seems to be staying put” downtown. Last year, then-health minister Kevin Falcon told the Straight that the B.C. Liberal government will not downgrade the Burrard Street acute-care facility, even though Providence Health Care had developed a draft business case for creating a new hospital at False Creek Flats. Luxton said that he no longer fears “demolition by neglect”.

      “Not if they do the renovations, and they are in an excellent position now to move forward and actually do something,” Luxton said.

      Dianne Doyle, president and CEO of Providence, told the Straight by phone that she is “grateful for anyone from our community who’s supporting our efforts to get renewal of St. Paul’s Hospital”.

      “I think the recent events are another signal of the urgency to get a solution here,” she said. “The next step we need, though, would be to get a business case developed, so that the ministry and health authorities can prioritize our needs in relationship to other needs around the province.”

      Doyle said the timeline is “complicated”, but noted Providence has already drafted a concept paper suggesting public support seems to be leaning toward maintaining the downtown location. The paper contains suggested options for renewal of the site, Doyle added.

      “We will be discussing that with the [health] ministry, and if they agree with the concept, then we’ve got a year to a year and a half of work to do the business case,” Doyle said. “And it’s during that phase that groups such as Heritage B.C., other providers, and the community, have an opportunity for more input into it, so that our final plan would address all those issues.”

      Doyle said she would welcome input from Heritage Vancouver, which included St. Paul’s on its annual top 10 list of endangered sites in 2007 and 2006.

      “I think we’re out of the woods on that one,” Luxton said of St. Paul’s. “But they need to get on with it.”