Homeless in Vancouver: Popular South Granville mural to be destroyed by condo redevelopment

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      A popular mural in the 2300 block of South Granville Street, which was created less than two years ago at a publicly funded cost of $20,000, is already facing certain demolition due to redevelopment.

      Sharon Townsend is executive director of the South Granville Business Improvement Area (SGBIA), which oversaw the funding and creation of the mural in the summer of 2016, on the north wall of 2319 Granville Street.

      She said that efforts will be made to convince the developer to replace the mural, which has become both a popular selfie backdrop and a signature visual in South Granville promotional material.

      An unexpected development on South Granville

      North end of 2300 South Granville St. as it looks today (top) and with proposed 8-storey, 48-unit condo development (bottom).
      IBI Group Architects/Google

      Townsend said that her BIA watched as several properties in the 2300 block of South Granville were purchased and (she adds) flipped at least twice.

      One of these transactions took place March 3, 2016, when 2301 to 2311 Granville Street were sold by Goran Holdings Ltd. to Staburn South Granville 7-26 LP for $12.3 million.

      “We knew,” Townsend explained, that the days were numbered for the mural on the side of 2319 Granville Street.

      What wasn’t clear, she added, was how long it would take for the properties to be developed.

      Last year, a development permit application for 2301 Granville—a seven-storey mixed-use condo above/retail at grade, with an FSR of 3.3, all within the current C3-A zoning guidelines—was promised by Three Shores Development Ltd. for November of 2017, with approval expected in the first quarter of 2018.

      What has actually happened is that IBI Group Architects Inc, on behalf of Aoyuan International, a Guangdong, China-based property developer, has now applied to the City of Vancouver for a permit to build a nearly identical, eight-storey development with, 48-market dwelling units over retail at grade, with two levels of underground parking and an FSR of 3.3, all to be addressed as 2301 Granville Street.

      The proposed project, dubbed “The Granville”, will occupy four of the 2300 block’s five building lots: 2301, 2311, 2319 and 2329. All four lots are presently occupied by one- and two-storey commercial buildings, except for 2311, which is a paved parking lot.

      The only building lot on the block not swallowed up by this condo redevelopment—the south corner property of 2331—has itself been for sale for an unspecified price for over a year.

      Of the properties included in the big redevelopment, the corner property of 2301 has been empty for quite a while and the former tenant of 2319 Granville—the Ian Tan Gallery—has already moved itself, and what art that it could, across the street, to 2342 Granville.

      The one piece of art, however, that cannot be moved out of the way of the wrecker is the SGBIA’a colourful mural painted directly on the masonry brick of the north side of 2319 Granville.

      The city’s information page on the permit application to redevelop 2301 Granville Street suggests there is nothing exceptional about the application and that it could be granted routine approval at the end of April.

      Under the site’s existing C-3A zoning, the application is ‘conditional’ so it may be permitted; however, it requires the decision of the Development Permit Board.

      The application is scheduled to go before the development permit board on April 30 at 3:00 p.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room (1st Floor, City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue). The public is welcome to attend and make submissions for and against the application.

      However, reading the city’s overview of the development permit board, it sounds like a rubber stamp body designed to catch errors of permit drafting. It cannot deny a development if it satisfies all the zoning and parking regulations, as well as the Official Development Plan (ODP) provisions that city council has enacted.

      Certainly nothing as thin as a painted mural is going to come between this developer and their permit approval.

      Placemaking is hard when places keep getting knocked down

      The mural on the side of 2319 Granville Street, late one evening in the summer of 2016.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      The mural on the north side of 2319 Granville Street was undertaken by the South Granville Business Improvement Area (SGBIA) at a total cost $20,000, according to the SGBIA’s executive director Sharon Townsend. The bulk of the cost: $12,500, came out of the BIA’s annual budget (raised by special tax levy of property owners within the BIA boundary) and the remainder was covered by the City of Vancouver.

      The project was $20,000. The city of Vancouver kicked in about $7,500 but that was a bit of a secret handshake deal with SGBIA as they don’t normally fund murals to such a high value. They were eager to see it done.

      The mural was completed over a three-week period during the summer of 2016 by Vancouver muralist Milan Basic. It reproduces a painting by Hamilton-based Kristofir Dean—an artist associated with the Ian Tan Gallery, then-tenant of the building.

      In 2016, murals were a new addition to the SGBIA’s ongoing efforts at placemaking and place branding, which already included unique black-laquered steel benches and planters, light pole pennants and seasonal hanging flower baskets.

      The bright and colourful mural on the side of 2319 Granville Street was an instant success. Like the other mural completed in 2016 (by Ola Vola, just off South Granville at 1520 West 13th) it quickly became a popular backdrop for selfies on social media—as its makers no doubt hoped.

      The SGBIA lost no time incorporating details of the vibrant mural in South Granville marketing and promotions, such as on the light pole pennants displayed along the shopping street. The mural’s distinctive colour rays also began gracing the South Granville website and annual reports.

      However, rather than becoming an iconic and long-lived South Granville landmark, the mural (along with most of the 2300 block itself), will likely end up as landfill, or whatever else becomes of construction waste these day, unless, that is, the developer does something to save it from destruction.

      City should be as eager as the SGBIA to keep the the mural

      Sadly, as underlined by the the unconscionable painting-over of the stunning 1999 Boyer mural in East Vancouver (ironically next door to the Hootsuite office with its city-funded mural), even the most beautiful murals have no more protection from Vancouver City Hall than the dullest coat of paint. This is one reason why I question publicly-funding painted murals.

      Townsend said that the SGBIA (hopefully backed by strong support from the city) will be asking the developer of The Granville (Aoyuan International) to provide the funds to recreate the mural that its development will destroy. This, she explains, would have to be in a different location and probably it would have to be painted by a different artist.

      It has to be hoped that the city is every bit as eager to save the mural as it was to see it created in the first place!

      Meanwhile, the SGBIA knows of no threats to its other three completed murals and Townsend indicated that her organization is definitely considering a fifth mural—on the back wall of 3157 Granville Street—as a joint venture between the city, the property owner and the BIA. She said that she would also “love” to put something on the back wall of 2750 Granville, namely the building housing the famous Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.