Century-old Ming Sun Benevolent Society building to be demolished

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      The City of Vancouver has ordered the demolition on Monday (December 9) of a Downtown Eastside building that used to house seniors and an arts space.

      Citing public safety, on December 2 the city directed property owner Ming Sun Benevolent Society to tear down the two-storey building that has 437, 439, and 441 Powell Street as its addresses.

      A little over two weeks earlier, on November 15, the city advised the group that the building had been declared “unsafe”. It also ordered the demolition of the structure “immediately”.

      David Wong is a descendant of one of the founders of the 88-year-old Chinese organization. According to the Vancouver architect, the group wants to restore the more than 100-year-old building, if the city approves.

      “There’s a lot of architectural merit inside,” Wong told the Straight by phone. “It should be documented and not treated like a piece of trash.”

      The building had been the home of the Instant Coffee Artist Collective. In a statement, the group called for a three-month extension of the demolition order.

      It indicated that this would give its members the opportunity to clear out their belongings as well as giving the Ming Sun Benevolent Society and the police time to investigate vandalism that occurred in the building after a city vacate order.

      City officials ordered upstairs SRO residents to vacate the premises in July after a wall from an adjoining building, at 451 Powell Street, partially collapsed on it.

      The vacant building at 451 Powell was owned at the time by the Philippine Women Centre, and it previously served as the base of Filipino-Canadian organizations operating under the banner of the Kalayaan Centre (Freedom Centre). The property’s structure was demolished by the city on July 24.

      In September, the Ming Sun Benevolent Society filed a court claim for damages against the Philippine Women Centre.

      According to Wong, the case is still pending.



      Alan Layton

      Dec 4, 2013 at 12:55pm

      I think you can say goodbye to all of those wonderful, old, wooden buildings on that block of Powell. As a matter of fact the entire neighbourhood is facing significant changes and wholesale destruction since the city is planning to build a large amount of low-cost, rental housing around Oppenheimer Park. The city plan states "a variety of new housing forms encouraged" which is pretty well a death warrant for historic buildings. Of course with the lure of low-cost rentals I don't expect the people living down there to put up any sort of a fight to preserve our history - not sure it would make any difference if they did since Poverty Inc will be in full support.

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      Dec 4, 2013 at 1:51pm

      Instant Coffee's banner states that on July 24, the city "hastily demolished" the neighbouring building, which "caused incredible damage for which they have not taken responsibility."

      However, an article in Business in Vancouver (I know, people with money, ugh) from Sept 11 indicates that Ming Sun was suing the Philippine Women Centre (the next door tenant) for doing nothing while watching its building erode for at least five years.

      Then the wall fell over and the city moved in the next day to demolish, presumably to reduce hazards.

      In the suit, the city is not a named respondent.

      Sounds very unpleasant and unfortunate, but in this case can it be the city's fault?

      I sympathize with the art collective but the rhetoric is unhelpful. Fingerpointing is unhelpful, particularly when pointing in the wrong direction.

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      Mark Bowen

      Dec 5, 2013 at 10:58am

      It's worth noting that just because something is old doesn't make it automatically deserving of heritage preservation.

      There are many beautiful old buildings that should be preserved for architectural and historical reasons.

      This place kind of looks like a dump. Even if restored (and who is going to put up the money to do that?), it would still be really unremarkable at best.

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      Mouse Chaser

      Dec 5, 2013 at 1:28pm

      The City Wants To Get Rid Of Our Heritage, To Make Way For Condos. We Now Live In A Concrete City.Where There Will Be Nothing Left.Just Concrete.

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