Century-old West End tulip tree could get a reprieve if city works with neighbour

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      Vancouver’s century-old tulip tree could be saved after all from a developer’s chainsaw.

      That is if councillors seize what appears to be the game-changing opportunity provided to them by Shaun Wong.

      Wong and his family own 1225 Harwood Street, the property adjacent to 1245 Harwood Street, where the more than 100-year-old tulip tree is located.

      Forty percent of the tulip tree’s root bulb is at 1225 Harwood Street, and according to staff, the property owners did not make a commitment to help protect the tree.

      Based on this point reported by staff, council decided in June 2010 not to designate the tulip tree, which is the tallest of its kind in Western Canada, as a heritage resource.

      Now, Bing Thom Architects is proposing to chop the tree, adjust the location of a heritage house that is also located at 1245 Harwood Street, and put up an 18-storey luxury condo tower.

      At a public hearing on May 17, councillor George Chow said that the tree seems to be a “goner”.

      But then, Wong entered the picture.

      Appearing at another public hearing by council on May 19, Wong stated that he and his family are, in fact, willing to cooperate to preserve the tree.

      “I’m open to protecting the tree,” said Wong, who related that his family had owned 1225 Harwood Street since the 1960s.

      He further stated: “My family loves this tree.”

      Wong added that he made no deal with anyone before because the city couldn’t give him a guarantee that his family will be given consideration if the time comes for the Wongs to redevelop their own property.

      Wong also recalled to councillors that he gave his word that he will help protect the tree, but this wasn’t accepted.

      He said that city staff wanted him to put his promise in writing, but staff in return won’t provide him a written pledge to help his family.

      Wong also said that he is open to the idea of a joint development with owners of 1245 Harwood Street, a move that will preserve not only the tulip tree but also the heritage house.

      Under current circumstances, the owners of 1245 Harwood Street can chop the tree down, demolish the property, and put up an 11-storey residential building without requiring council’s approval.

      Council is expected to address the matter regarding 1245 Harwood Street on May 31.



      Policy Observer

      May 21, 2011 at 2:03pm

      The title of this article should more accurately be: "Century-old West End tulip tree could get a reprieve if City Council rejects overly-generous density bonus application and encourages two neighbouring property owners to co-operate with each other on a solution that preserves heritage without damaging the community."


      May 21, 2011 at 8:39pm

      Under current zoning, the developer at 1244 Harwood would be allowed to build approximately a 4 storey building, not an 11 storey tower. The 11 storey tower is a conditional height that is granted only when it doesn't affect the community negatively.

      David Hauka

      May 22, 2011 at 2:49am

      The Tulip tree is beautiful and gives great pleasure to all that experience it. That the City and developers approve of its destruction is indicative of just how far we as a community have drifted from caring about quality of life and a healthy environment. The situation is not hard to remedy - all it would take is time, effort and thought. So get to it, Mr. Mayor!


      May 26, 2011 at 8:27am

      Doesn't Vision claim that it is going to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world?Perhaps they could start by negotiating to save one tree.The City Hall staff are directed by the politicians and it's time to show them how to protect our green heritage.


      Jun 2, 2011 at 4:30pm

      It should also be mentioned that the tree comes down in the current proposal to afford underground parking. That a city that wants to be the "greenest" should allow the destruction of this tree that not only affords humans pleasure but is visited by a host of bird species for more parking is hypocrisy at its finest. I realise density is important but to develop this particular pocket of character and beauty in such a grandiose way ( no low-cost housing here) seems wrong. In a city that will keep on growing, filling with more people, transport, hubbub - Isn't it more important to keep this tree breathing for us? Save the tree - put in a bike locker!