Heritage building's future uncertain with social housing planned for site of old Salvation Army headquarters

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      Plans are moving ahead for the redevelopment of a prominent heritage building that stands on the northeast corner of the intersection of East Hastings Street and Gore Avenue.

      Constructed in 1950 in the art-deco tradition, the concrete structure long served as a Vancouver headquarters for the Salvation Army. In recent years, its ownership passed to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), which left it looking derelict and only used it for storage.

      Now, VIA Architecture has been tasked to redevelop the site in a partnership with VCH and B.C. Housing.

      In a telephone interview, Peg MacDonald, an architect with the firm, said it’s still early days for the project and there are few details to provide. However, she noted that the site’s address, 301 East Hastings, falls within the Oppenheimer District of the Downtown Eastside local area plan (LAP), so there are specific provisions that the development must adhere to.

      To start, any new building must not exceed 120 feet. Also, its residential component must consist entirely of rental units and include social-housing units that account for no less than 60 percent of the total. (Of those units, one-third should rent at the welfare rate of $375 a month, one-third at a rate not exceeding the area’s housing-income limit ($963 for a bachelor suite in Oppenheimer), and one-third in line with “affordable market rents” ($846 for East Hastings).)

      MacDonald told the Straight the site would be developed to the maximum density allowed under those constraints. She said there will also be a sizable health-care component.

      She maintained that it is too early to provide an estimate for the number of housing units that will be constructed. A comparable development under construction at 288 East Hastings will stand 12 storeys tall and contain 162 residential units, 104 of those to be rented below market rates.

      The building that has stood at 301 East Hastings since 1950 is well known for its concrete façade. It’s listed in the city’s heritage register with a “C” designation, meaning it can still be redeveloped and even demolished, though either option requires the City of Vancouver’s official approval.

      “We have to talk to the city about that and we haven’t yet had an introductory meeting with the city as far as how much, if any, of that building needs to be preserved,” MacDonald said. “So I can’t tell you if we’re going to tear it all down or keep a piece of it.”