Balmoral Hotel's huge neon sign to be removed Sunday

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      The distinctive neon sign affixed to the front of the Downtown Eastside's Balmoral Hotel (159 East Hastings Street) will be taken down Sunday (June 26).

      The announcement on the City of Vancouver website said the decision to remove the sign prior to the building's planned demolition is "due to the [sign's] deteriorating condition and risk of injury to the public".

      The large red-and-green sign—almost four storeys tall and dating from the 1940s, according to city Heritage Conservation Program information—will be "transported offsite for further assessment".

      Although the sign removal is anticipated to last from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., westbound traffic on Hastings west of Main Street will be contained to only one lane for most of the day, the city said, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastbound traffic will not be affected, but the north sidewalk on Hastings will be closed for the day as well.

      The Balmoral Hotel, built in 1911, was a Chicago-style "early skyscraper" building. with Edwardian details, according to the city. But it fell into disrepair and disrepute as the Downtown Eastside deteriorated, and it became an SRO hotel.

      After decades of controversy between the hotel's notorious owners, the Sahota family, and the city—mostly regarding needed repairs and serious issues of resident safety—the city shut down the hotel in 2017. In December 2020, the city announced that it had expropriated the buildingo and would develop it for much-needed low-income housing in the area, but it announced in February this year that the structure had deteriorated to the point where it would have to be demolished.

      The derelict Regent Hotel, across the street at 160 East Hastings, was closed by the city in 2019 and expropriated along with the Balmoral in 2020. 

      The demolition date has not been made public, but the process is expected to take several months, the city said. For now, hazardous-materials abatement and other site work continues.

      The city also announced on the webpage that due to the Balmoral's long history in the neighbourhood and its reputation as a site of "harm and trauma" for decades, it recognizes that former residents might experience "emotional impact" with its demolition.. "We have started reaching out to community to seek guidance and involvement in providing respectful, healing, and culturally appropriate support and ceremony for community through the actual building demolition and redevelopment process." the city said.

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