West End tulip tree spared from the axe—for now

The tulip tree that’s as old as the city itself gets to live longer.

Vancouver council voted today (May 31) to refer back to city staff an application to redevelop 1245 Harwood Street, the property where the more than century-old tree is located.

Coun. Raymond Louie moved this motion that was supported by councillors George Chow, Andrea Reimer, Ellen Woodsworth, Tim Stevenson, and Kerry Jang, as well as Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Councillors Geoff Meggs and Suzanne Anton voted against the measure.

The property owner represented by Bing Thom Architects had proposed to build an 18-storey condominium tower on the West End site, and preserve a heritage Victorian-style mansion there but not the tree.

The tree seemed doomed since June 2010 when council decided at that time not to designate the tree as a heritage landscape resource.

Council made this decision based on staff advice that the owner of the neighbouring lot declined to help protect the tree. Such commitment is necessary because 40 percent of the tree’s root bulb is at 1225 Harwood Street.

However, on the second day of the public hearing regarding the 1245 Harwood Street redevelopment project on May 19, the owner of 1225 Harwood Street showed up and told councillors that his family actually loves the tree and would like to cooperate.

Owner Shaun Wong also told councillors that his family had wanted better assurances from the city that they will receive due consideration when it the time comes for them to redevelop their property but didn’t receive any.

In presenting his motion, Louie said that he’s not ready yet to give up on the tree, which is described as the tallest of its kind in Western Canada.

Voting against Louie’s motion, Meggs noted that West End residents who opposed the project and called for the preservation of the tree should be careful of what they wish for.

According to Meggs, the neighbourhood might end up with not just one new tower but two towers instead.

Anton said that council was just avoiding making a decision at present.




Jun 1, 2011 at 9:35am

Geoff Meggs advises West End residents who want to preserve the tree to NOT campaign to preserve the tree (otherwise we will end up with two towers) This is the surreal doublespeak we get from our council members after all the Vision/developer/planner backroom deal making in this city.

How about city council just tell the developer that they can't either destroy the tree or the house? We have heritage preservation bylaws and tree bylaws, how about just enforce them? If the developer bought this property thinking they'd get a special deal they could just chalk it up as a bad business decision and a learning experience.

Last time I checked Rome didn't need to allow a glass tower in the vatican to keep the Sistine Chapel from the wrecking ball. Instead I'm guessing their planners just tell developers "no you can't build a tower in the Vatican, sorry about that" and that does the trick. Not sure why Vancouver can't do the same ....