City considering heritage status for Waldorf Hotel

City council will be asked next week to add the iconic Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings Street to the Vancouver Heritage Register.

But the city staff report recommending the provision clearly states such a designation does not mean the 1949-era hotel can be kept indefinitely from the wrecking ball.

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Properties on the Heritage Register are not protected from demolition, said the report authored by Brian Jackson, the citys director of planning. This would require council to approve a heritage designation bylaw and compensate an owner for the reduction in market value.

Or, the report said, council could enter into a heritage revitalization agreement which can vary or supplement certain bylaws and permit conditions.

There is no rezoning or development permit application or a formal enquiry on the property at 1489 East Hastings St., said the report, which goes before council Wednesday.

The Puharich family owns the hotel and has a sales agreement in place with Solterra Development. That agreement is scheduled to conclude in the fall. Related to that completion date is the ongoing preparation of a new Grandview-Woodland community plan that is expected to conclude by the end of the year.

The final plan will provide clarity on future policy directions for the property site, the report said. Therefore, building retention discussions at this time are premature and are anticipated to occur in the future when ownership transfer and a clear policy context are in place.

The city report is a result of city council approving in January a 120-day temporary protection order for the interior and exterior of the Waldorf. That order led to the hiring of James Burton of Birmingham and Wood Architects and Planners, who completed a heritage assessment of the hotel. Burtons work entailed preparing a statement of significance, which identifies and assesses the key heritage values of a site.

In summary, the statement on the Waldorf concluded: The Waldorf Hotel is valued for its location on East Hastings Street in the blocks east of the old downtown, its 1949 and 1950s exterior and interior detailing, its commercial history as a family-run full service hotel and drinking establishment, and its persistence as a hospitality venue over six decades since the Second World War.

The statement also noted the Waldorf is a good example of a streamline moderne style hotel, which includes a popular tiki bar lounge and Polynesian room restaurant.

The Waldorf Hotels tiki-themed rooms in the 1955 addition [to the hotel] and basement of the 1949 building are now a rare authentic record of the importation of this interior decoration style in Vancouver, Burton wrote.

The protection order from city council came after news broke that the hotel was being sold to a development company and there was concern the hotel would be demolished and replaced with condominiums.

Council was concerned about the loss of the hotel and its historic value to Vancouver, along with its recent use as a popular arts and culture venue. News of the hotels potential demise triggered a public Save the Waldorf campaign that saw almost 19,000 signatures collected on an online petition.

Solterra Development has told city staff that it had no objection to the hotel being added to the heritage register but wants to be consulted on the final wording of the statement of significance.

The Puharich family had not responded to city staff at the writing of the report. Council meets at city hall at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to decide whether it will add the hotel to the register.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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