Heritage advocates visit Fairmont Training Academy, Chinatown, and Gastown on tour of endangered sites

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      On Saturday (June 9), members of Heritage Vancouver went on a bus tour around Vancouver to see the group's annual Top 10 list of endangered historic sites in the city.

      Ranking first this year is the Heather Street lands and the 106-year-old Fairmont Training Academy.

      The 8.5-hectare site is owned by MST Development Corporation and Canada Lands Company.

      MST is a partnership of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations; Canada Lands Company is a federal Crown corporation.

      For decades, it was the regional headquarters of the RCMP, which has historically been seen as a colonial and hostile police force by many First Nations people.

      "The Heather Street Lands are also home to the Fairmont Academy Building, an A-Listed heritage building, that has played a number of roles through Vancouver’s history," Heritage Vancouver states on its website. "There are painful histories embedded for First Nations people, and the MST partners have requested the removal of the building as a form of reconciliation, with a new cultural centre taking its place."

      Ranking second on Heritage Vancouver's list of endangered sites is Chinatown. According to the group, it's facing a "significant threat" from the development of a new hospital on Station Street and the looming demolition of the viaducts.

      The Wing Sang building is one of several heritage treasures in Chinatown.
      Charlie Smith

      The removal of the viaducts and the relocation of St. Paul’s Hospital would fuel new development that could irreversibly impact the neighbourhood’s identity.

      One significant threat to the heritage of Chinatown actually comes from the misunderstanding of heritage itself.

      "Narrow definitions of heritage—the more traditional ideas around preservation of materials and buildings of historic importance and/or architectural significance—have dominated debates surrounding Chinatown’s heritage and planning guidelines," Heritage Vancouver states. "This has led to planning policies and property development that view satisfying design rules as sufficient for the retention of 'heritage'. This focus on built heritage has unfolded to the detriment of the area’s unique cultural heritage."

      In third place is Gastown, in part because of proposals to add "bulky new buildings behind and above the facades".

      The positive features—retaining the facades of the historic Stanley Hotel and the New Fountain Hotel, as well as providing rental and social housing—are far outweighed by the negative aspects. 

      Abbott Street in Gastown has become a popular shopping district since the Woodward's project revived the neighbourhood.
      Michelle da Silva

      Rounding out the Top 10 list in order are:

      * David Lloyd George elementary school

      * neighbourhood businesses

      * the industrial heritage of False Creek Flats

      * Sinclair Centre

      * the Britannia Community Centre complex

      * Takehara/Yada Apartments

      * UBC War Memorial Gym