Developing Story: Firehalls on Heritage Vancouver’s endangered list

Writing about development in Vancouver often means touching on heritage concerns. In a June 24 column entitled “Firehall to include social housing,” I wrote about the plans to build a new Firehall No. 5 at 3090 East 54th and add 31 units of supportive housing units for low-income women and their children.

I failed to mention that Firehall No. 5 is on Heritage Vancouver’s 2014 Top 10 Endangered Sites list, along with six other modernist firehalls — Numbers 2, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 20.

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Firehall No. 5 was built in 1952 and designed by city hall architects Townley & Matheson.

The Top 10 list states that the plan to replace the firehall “is symptomatic of a general lack of consideration for the heritage value of postwar modernist architecture. It is important to give consideration to adapting No. 5 and other modernist firehalls to modern use or repurposing for another use rather than demolishing them,” the organization argues.

Heritage Vancouver noted that Firehall No. 5 is one of the oldest of the seven mid-century modernist firehalls in the city and that it “represents an important part of the movement towards modernist civic architecture in Vancouver during the post-war period.”

Other such examples it mentions are the former central public library at Robson and Burrard, smaller neighbourhood library branches and the soon-to-be-demolished East Wing of City Hall.

While the organization acknowledges that the Firehall No. 5 site is a desirable location for affordable housing, it points out that the city has a history of hybridization, and has already successfully formed a hybrid structure out of a firehall and community facility: Firehall No.4, at 1475 West 10th, which includes a public library.

“It is perfectly reasonable to meet affordable housing goals by constructing non-market housing around Firehall No. 5. It is entirely possible to do so without demolishing the original heritage building,” according to Heritage Vancouver.

For more details check out its website

CP’s plans for Arbutus Corridor on track
As mentioned in the July 4 edition of the Courier, CP’s plans to begin using the Arbutus Corridor rail line again are well underway.

On Monday, a Twitter user operating under the handle @streetsandparks tweeted that three workers, accompanied by a uniformed member of the CP police service, were putting up signs along the corridor, including one at Southwest Marine Drive and East Boulevard, which reads:

“Danger. Private Property. No Trespassing. Violators will be Prosecuted.”

CP sign

CP spokesman Ed Greenberg told the Courier there have always been “No Trespassing” signs on the property, but CP is now putting up additional signs as part of the process to prepare the line for operations.

“As for our police being present, it is normal for them to be with the crews to ensure the signs are put up in appropriate locations along the property and it gives our officers a chance to re-orient themselves in terms of trespass sign locations should enforcement become necessary in the future,” he explained.

On June 5, Mayor Gregor Robertson sent a letter to CP on behalf of city council outlining their concerns, but CP has not responded, according to the city’s communication department.

The Courier asked the city if it had been in contact with CP about the Arbutus Corridor — formally or informally, and if it has entered or if it will enter negotiations about purchasing the land.

The response via email: “Yes, the City has been in discussions, however, any discussions that may have taken place between the City and CP Rail are confidential, other than the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision which supported the City’s vision that the corridor be maintained as a greenway for residents of Vancouver until there is a viable case to use the rail for transit purposes.”

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