In its annual list of the Top 10 Endangered Sites, Heritage Vancouver has highlighted how the pace of development poses a threat to preserving the city’s history.
“As the economy continues its slow improvement, more and more heritage sites face redevelopment,” the group states in the preamble to this year’s list. “Our Top Ten sites for this year demonstrate a variety of issues that affect our heritage environment, ranging from individual buildings to entire streetscapes and neighbourhoods.”
Topping this year’s list is the VanDusen Gardens Forest Education Centre. Known as MacMillan-Bloedel Place when it was built in 1976, it included a 50-seat theatre and an educational display called "A Walk in the Forest".
"In 1986, MacMillan-Bloedel donated the Centre to the Park Board, which continued to offer educational programs until its new Centre opened in October of 2011," Heritage Vancouver says on its site. "Since then it has been used for storage and offices. Today the Park Board claims it has no use for the Forest Education Centre and has plans to demolish or abandon the building."
Number two is the East Hastings corridor, which has attracted a great deal of interest from the real-estate industry in recent years. According to Heritage Vancouver, there are more than 25 projects in the works.
“A number of specific properties of heritage interest, most notably the Walforf Hotel, remain unprotected,” Heritage Vancouver says. “The area is at a turning point where its heritage character will be ‘let go’ unless new civic policies are put in place to protect this area.”
The Waldorf Hotel is also mentioned at number seven on the list.
Other residential neighbourhoods at risk with historic significance, according to Heritage Vancouver, are Delamont Park in Kitsilano (number five), the southwestern corner of the West End (number eight), and Shaughnessy (number nine).
“There is a new marketing ploy in Shaughnessy—realtors put up orange ‘snow’ fencing to indicate an imminent demolition for houses that have received a building permit for Shaughnessy—usually accompanied by a ‘for sale’ sign for the proposed speculative house,” the group says. “The realtors’ pitch—‘build your hown dream home’—is destroying Shaughnessy’s ‘English Picturesque Aesthetic’ heritage character homes in favour of new, bloated suburban-style houses that are out of scale with their lots and their historic context.”
Delamont Park includes 20 city-owned single-family homes, one duplex, and one commercial building, which were all built in Kitsilano before the First World War. Some of these homes near West 7th Avenue and Arbutus Street have been used as movie sets.
Individual buildings on the Top 10 Endangered Sites list are the Main Post Office (number three) at Hamilton and West Georgia streets, L’Ecole Bilingue (number four), and the Burrard Building at St. Paul’s Hospital (number six).
The final entry is for several blocks of low-scale downtown buildings along Granville Street.
“The fact that this is the fourth successive year that this stretch of Granville Street has been on the Top 10 Endangered List recognizes that this threat remains chronic,” Heritage Vancouver says.