City council voted unanimously Tuesday morning to place a 120-day protection order on the Waldorf Hotel while it explores the venue's historical and cultural merits.
City staff will determine whether the 1947 building should be placed on the city's heritage register and likely develop a statement of cultural significance for the venue.
City manager Penny Ballem said the heritage value of the Waldorf has been discussed but "the homework hasn't been done."
Leaseholder Waldorf Productions announced Jan. 9 that it would vacate the hotel by Jan. 20 because the property had been sold to developer Solterra Group and the production company couldn't afford to operate on the offered week-to-week lease.
Ballem said she spoke to legal representatives of the landlord on the weekend and to pending owners Solterra Group. She said both were pleased the city was working to clarify the heritage value of the property at East Hastings Street and Clark Drive.
Ballem said staff would have to report back to council on the Waldorf's historical and cultural significance before May 15.
Ballem's statements were made in response to questions from NPA Coun. George Affleck who wondered what makes the Waldorf different from The Ridge bowling alley and movie theatre and the Pantages Theatre, which will be redeveloped without extra protection from the city.
Zoning of the Waldorf property allows mixed commercial and industrial development. If owners were to redevelop under this zoning, the Waldorf could be demolished if the city doesn't take measures to protect it.
Brian Jackson, head of the city's planning department, told council before the motion passed that any rezoning for the property would take a minimum of two years.
"At this point we certainly have no intention of demolishing the Waldorf Hotel," Solterra CEO Gerry Nichele said in a press release Jan. 10.
Robertson requested the report from Ballem for the Jan. 15 council meeting. "This may not be a solution that solves the predicament," said Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson before he forwarded the motion for a protection order. "But it's clearly a next step."
Ballem said the city brought the property owners and Waldorf Productions together in the hopes they'll work out a solution on their own.
A press release from the mayor's office Jan. 11 said city staff was to meet with Waldorf Productions to discuss its business plan and identify possibilities for continuing an arts and culture venue, including partnerships with other organizations.
Norman Armour, executive director for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, said at its opening gala Monday night that funding is an underlying issue for arts groups. "If we are not talking about the under capitalization of the arts then we are not addressing the problem," he said.
Artists including Paul Wong, Rodney Graham and Douglas Coupland have all praised what Waldorf Productions created at the Waldorf Hotel in two and a half years. A Vancouver Loves the Waldorf group sprang up on Facebook after the Jan. 9 announcement to champion the cultural hub, with a rally organized for noon Tuesday at city hall.