At a public hearing on May 17, West End residents overwhelmingly called on Vancouver councillors to preserve from a developer’s chainsaw a neighbourhood tree that is almost as old as the city.
The saga of the more-than-a-century-old tulip tree, believed to be the tallest of its kind in Western Canada, represents a story typical of modern times. It has to be chopped down to give way to a parking lot and an 18-storey luxury condo at a lot on 1245 Harwood Street.
With the city celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, local resident Denis Bouvier believes that the property can serve a better purpose.
“Our proposal is to save this place to become a centre of interpretation of the history of the West End as a gift to Vancouver for its 125th anniversary,” Bouvier told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview a day before he spoke before council.
By most indications, nothing may be able to save this tree that has survived what nature has thrown at it for over 100 years.
As Vision Vancouver councillor George Chow put it during the hearing, the tulip tree “seems to be a goner”.
A numbered company represented by Bing Thom Architects originally proposed in 2007 to preserve the tree as well as an old Victorian-style mansion on the property in exchange for a density bonus.
While the mansion can be saved, council decided in June 2010 that the tree cannot be designated as a heritage resource because 40 percent of its root blub is located in a neighbouring lot. The owner of this adjoining property made no commitment to protect the root.
The project proponent submitted a new application in October 2010 involving the preservation of the heritage house but not the tulip tree.
During the hearing, Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor David Cadman noted that the owner of the property is allowed under current circumstances to demolish the house, chop down the tree, and put up a building 11-storeys high.
But residents like Simon Robinson aren’t giving up hope. “Ways can be found and should be found to send this monstrosity back,” Robinson told councillors in an emotional statement against the 18-storey high-rise.
A handful of people—such as Janet Leduc, executive director of the Heritage Vancouver Society—expressed support for the development. Leduc told council that the mansion at 1245 Harwood Street is one of the three remaining heritage houses of its kind in the West End that predate the estates of the affluent and historic Shaughnessy neighbourhood.
Council will resume the public hearing on Thursday (May 19) starting at 7:30 p.m.