At Tuesday’s council meeting, NPA Coun. George Affleck wanted to know what made the Waldorf Hotel so different from other lost cultural spaces in Vancouver.
Why, he asked, did Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson recommend slapping a 120-day protection order on the property?
“What makes it different than the Ridge or Pantages or W2, or etc.?” Affleck told the Courier Wednesday.
Successive Vision-dominated city councils put protection orders on the Waldorf Hotel and York Theatre, both of which are “in the heart of Vision country,” he noted.
“We had people from the bowling alley walking to city hall protesting — for God’s sakes — in walkers, and the mayor didn’t even come out and speak to them,” Affleck added.
Affleck ultimately voted in favour of the motion that would prevent a demolition permit from being issued on the Waldorf property and provide time for the cultural and historical significance of the hotel to be determined. He said he was assured councillors wouldn’t be placing themselves in a precarious legal situation by introducing a protection order on a property that is the subject of a real estate deal.
“It’s a unique situation for sure. Clearly there’s a desire by the community that this is something that they care about,” Affleck said. “This was new to me, to be honest, that this [protection order] process existed… It might have been something I suggested [for the Ridge], so lesson learned.
Affleck added council was told the Ridge wasn’t an issue that would come before them. “There’s also that question of what’s our role in the private sector, how involved we get and at what stage.”
Leaseholder Waldorf Productions announced Jan. 9 that it would vacate the hotel Jan. 20 because the property is being sold to developer Solterra Group and the production company couldn’t operate on the offered week-to-week lease.
Solterra Group has said it had no plans at this time to demolish the hotel. It expects the sale to close in the fall.
Brian Jackson, the city’s general manager of planning and development services, said the Waldorf property at East Hastings Street just east of Clark Drive differs from the Ridge and Pantages because it lies in an industrial area where a demolition permit could be issued without a development permit.
He said a councillor could have introduced a protection order motion on the Ridge and the Pantages before the development permit process started.
In 2008 council issued a 120-day protection order to save the York Theatre on Commercial Drive near Venables Street from the wrecking ball and a proposed townhouse development. It was saved when developer Bruno Wall bought and restored the theatre in exchange for permission to build a larger building elsewhere.
Kitsilano-based community activist Mel Lehan hopes city councillors can belatedly save the Ridge complex.
“I’m an avid supporter of the Waldorf and I’m thrilled that they’re working to save it,” he said. “The bowling alley is a centre of incredible importance to people, socially, culturally, recreationally, and I would now hope that they would do the same thing for the Ridge bowling alley, and the theatre if possible.”
The city’s development permit board approved a four-storey commercial and condo building to replace the Ridge complex in October.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal did not return a call and email from the Courier.