The old Mount Pleasant village at Main Street between Sixth and 12th avenues, combined with the triangle block formed by Main, Broadway and Kingsway, form what Heritage Vancouver Society refers to as “The Heart of Mount Pleasant,” which has acted as the “hub” of the neighbourhood since it began to develop in the 1880s.
Its ongoing value lies in the older buildings, diversity of longtime businesses, affordable artist spaces and the diverse demographics, according to Bill Yuen, the organization’s executive director.
Like many, Yuen appreciates the quirky mix of what’s offered.
“You have the book store, which I really enjoy going to — Pulpfiction books. It’s great that people walk in there and they all know the owner or the people working there. It’s almost familial,” he said.
“I quite enjoy the triangle building. It’s rather important. Obviously, there’s a lot of history in the building, but upstairs there’s a lot of artist studios that are affordable for artists. Downstairs, there’s Gene’s [café], of course, which is quite a beloved space. It’s a wonderful corner that people can use. People sit outside — there’s a lot of activity outside. It’s quite a wonderful building.”
What the area will look and feel like in the future remains uncertain, however. That concern, along with its importance to a lot of people, is why Heritage Vancouver Society (HVS) ranked “The Heart of Mount Pleasant” as No. 1 on its 2019 Top 10 watch list. The list — the organization’s 19th — was released June 20.
2019 TOP 10 WATCH LIST
- The Heart of Mount Pleasant
- Broadway Neighbourhoods
- Maritime Museum
- Dunbar Theatre
- Punjabi Market
- 525 Great Northern Way
- Fairmont Building
- Legacy of Expo 86
- Protecting Vancouver’s Heritage
Uncertainty around how the Broadway Plan, which is underway, will unfold was a key factor in the decision, and also why “Broadway Neighbourhoods” earned the No. 2 position.
“The heart of Mount Pleasant and the other Broadway Neighbourhoods are key areas that are distinct and beloved,” the watch list states.
“The combinations of small local businesses, streetscapes, public gathering spaces, demographics, more affordable spaces and older buildings make them significant for the benefit of the public.”
But advocates worry about what could be lost if heritage concerns, including the idea of “living neighbourhoods,” aren’t given due consideration during the city’s planning processes, Yuen said.
Launched in March, the Broadway Plan, which will take two years to complete, covers the Broadway corridor from Clark Drive to Vine Street between West First and 16th avenues, traversing four neighbourhoods — False Creek Flats, Fairview, Mount Pleasant and a corner of Kitsilano. It will address subjects such as housing, job space, and social and cultural amenities around the future subway route — an extension of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Street. Six stations are planned — five on Broadway, potentially at Main, Cambie, Oak, Granville and Arbutus. Conservationists fear the stations could intensify development pressure.
The Broadway Plan is not the only large-scale planning program underway that will impact neighbourhoods. A city-wide plan is also in the works. Council directed staff to start developing it last November.
“We’re talking about big impacts on neighbourhoods — on what constitutes a neighbourhood. We’re not just talking about historic buildings that people care about. This is much bigger,” Yuen said.
“With Mount Pleasant, we’re talking about the nature of the small businesses and the type of commercial identity that’s there. We’re talking about the demographic mix that is already there, there’s income mix and businesses that serve those different demographics. There’s artists, there’s affordable spaces. All those things come up when you think, ‘OK, is everything going to be demolished to make way for bigger buildings around the station area?’ This is really important for, not just people who are interested in local history or historic architecture, but for people who care about that neighbourhood and use that neighbourhood.”
HEART UNDER THREAT
Important historic buildings in the heart of Mount Pleasant include:
- the Ashnola apartments at 2152 Main St.
- the Royal Bank/Goh Ballet building at 2345 Main St.
- the Lee Building at Broadway and Main
- the Bank of Montreal at 2490 Main St.
- Belvedere Court at 2539 Main St.
- Wenonah Apartments at 2703 Main St.
- the Vernon Block at 225 to 245 East Broadway
- Williams Block at 154 East Seventh
- Western Front at 303 East Eighth
- Quebec Manor at 101 East Seventh
- the building at Eighth and Main
- and two brewery buildings at Scotia at Sixth and Seventh.
The 13 buildings are on the Heritage Register, but only four have an official legal designation.
Alyssa Myshok, co-founder of Mount Pleasant Heritage Group, is as concerned as Heritage Vancouver about the buildings, how they contribute to the neighbourhood and the area’s future. The group helped the society put together the position paper on “The Heart of Mount Pleasant.”
Position papers for the Top 10 list outline why particular entries were chosen — the threat against them, their significance, HVS’s position and actions the public can take.
For Myshok, the heart of Mount Pleasant’s “human-scale” buildings and long history combine to produce its character.
“There’s such a story contained in all those buildings about how Mount Pleasant came together. It was built around the streetcar so it’s almost like the first suburb built around public transit,” she said.
While the neighbourhood’s 2010 community plan emphasizes the importance of its character, Myshok maintains nothing’s been put in place to protect it.
“The heart really is under threat. Development has been really taking off in Mount Pleasant, of course, because it’s been more accessible for developers… It is heartbreaking that here is a really treasured part of not only Mount Pleasant, but of the city, [and] that the city hasn’t stood up to recognize [it],” she said.
“Now we’re going into the Broadway corridor plan. So far, nothing that the city has put forth has really said [that] this is a critical part of what Mount Pleasant means in the community, it’s important to the city, and we need to ensure it remains as such — at scale, with a community feel, [and] retains that character.”
Aside from getting involved with the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group, both Heritage Vancouver and Myshok encourage residents to take part in the Broadway planning process to share what aspects they think are important and should be preserved.
“Show up, attend the [Broadway Plan meetings], participate in them, and tell the city what is valuable about that area and what they feel should be kept,” Yuen said.
“I want to emphasize, even though this is Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10, this goes way beyond the historic buildings. It could be that the older buildings allow for more affordable rents — [it’s] anything that you value on that street. If you go to yoga, if you buy ice cream, if you sit and have a beer, if you have coffee — that local mom-and-pop business, they might get pushed out.”
REGARDS TO BROADWAY
“Broadway Neighbourhoods,” earned the No. 2 position on the watch list since numerous blocks along that route between Clark and Vine are subject to the Broadway planning process.
Heritage Vancouver says it supports “a progressive, performance-based planning process that truly listens to residents and does not have any preconceived notions of how transit-oriented neighbourhoods should look and feel.”
Yuen said residents’ participation in public consultation is key to ensure critical features are preserved.
“There’s a responsibility for residents to communicate properly what is important, aside from saying there’s a specific architectural look, which is important too, but that’s not the only thing,” he said.
“On the West Side, we hear that the neighbourhood is hollowing out, there’s less people there and [fewer] kids going to school, so how do you bring back what makes up that neighbourhood? What is really important in terms of neighbourhood character?”
Unique elements in the Broadway neighbourhoods, according to Heritage Vancouver, include the groceries in Kitsilano’s Greektown, the “pleasant” walkability of mixed-use Fairview slopes, Main Street’s “trendy” retail and casual street life, and the “dense leafy character of Mount Pleasant.”
The organization also calls attention to “First Nations’ activity on the slopes long before 1890 when the first road was built and became a major colonial thoroughfare.”
“This rich history has left numerous unusual architectural and place-making assets, along with many intangible patterns of daily use,” states the organization, highlighting the BowMac sign, the Main Street Triangle, the collection of outdoor stores around the old MEC site,
“Dingbat” apartments — low-rise stucco walk-up apartments, often with parking underneath at the main level — at Granville Street, and one of Vancouver’s first low-energy townhomes at Vine Street.
“[They] all represent important times and movements that deserve attention and protection. These are just a handful of examples in a long list of important sites. Few of these areas, buildings, signs and stores are protected in any legal or policy sense.”
Heritage Vancouver insists it’s not against change, it’s not opposed to the rapid transit line and it’s not against the Broadway planning process. Rather, it argues, it’s important to retain and enhance neighbourhood character, while allowing growth to occur.
“We’re not saying you need to keep everything, but we need to identify what’s important to keep,” Yuen said.
For the society, “a successful Broadway area plan that respects existing neighbourhoods may require careful control of land use and block by black negotiation in order to retain important concentrations of intangible patterns.”
Heritage Vancouver’s overall watch list, meanwhile, varies from specific sites to particular parts of the city to how heritage, in general, can be protected.
Yuen said the society’s overall goal with its annual list is to show the range of heritage in Vancouver, to expand the definition of heritage to beyond the buildings themselves — although they are important — to include how they support life in the city, and to underscore that there’s a lot at risk if important sites and features of the city are lost.
The complete list:
1) The Heart of Mount Pleasant
Read more about this entry on Heritage Vancouver Society's 2019 watch list HERE.
2) Broadway Neighbourhoods
Read more about this entry on Heritage Vancouver Society's 2019 watch list HERE.
3) Maritime Museum
The Vancouver Maritime Museum, located in Hadden Park at 1905 Ogden Avenue, opened in 1959. The wood-shingled and glass A-frame building, which was designed by C.B.K. Van Norman & Associates, was added to the museum in 1966. Read more about its significance and why Heritage Vancouver Society is concerned HERE.
4) Dunbar Theatre
The Art Deco-style Dunbar Theatre was completed in 1935. Heritage Vancouver Society says it's valued as one of the last remaining neighbourhood theatres in Vancouver. It was originally designed by Scottish-born architect David Colville. It's also associated with film producer J. Howard Boothe. Read more about its signifiance and the threat against it HERE.
5) Punjabi Market
Punjabi Market, in the Sunset neighbourhood, is the first and largest South Asian market outside of South Asia. The first South Asian shop opened in 1970 and the market will mark its 50th anniversary in 2020. In the mid-2000s, businesses started closing. Heritage Vancouver and advocates in the community would like to see it revitalized. Read more about this entry on Heritage Vancouver Society's 2019 watch list HERE.
6) 525 Great Northern Way
This buidling is the largest and most significant structure that remains from the original Finning International manufacturing complex, according to Heritage Vancouver Society. The organization considers it a significant example of an historic industrial building. Read more about the threat against the structure and the society's position on its future HERE.
Read a February 2019 Courier story about False Creek Flats gallery spaces that will be demolished for the Broadway subway extension HERE.
7) Fairmont Building
This 1912 building, which is listed as an "A" on the Vancouver Heritage Register, is located on the Heather Lands, which is poised to be redeveloped by the Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and the Canada Lands Corporation. As a measure of reconciliation, the building won't be remaining on the property due to its associations with colonialism. Attempts are being made to find a new location for it. If one isn't found, it will be demolished. Read more about this entry on Heritage Vancouver Society's 2019 watch list HERE.
8) Legacy of Expo 86
Except for some buildings and the SkyTrain Station, there's is physically not much left in Vancouver from Expo 86, according to Heritage Vancouver Society. "Given that Expo 86 ushered in Vancouver's era as a cosmopolitan city, efforts should be made to leave within public memory, meaningful reminders of Vancouver's over-the-top coming-out party," the organziation states. Read more about this entry on the 2019 watch list HERE.
The first generation of Japanese immigrants arrived in the early 1880s and settled along Powell Street. Pauera Gai — the Japanese translation of Powell Street — became the business centre for the Japanese Canadian community, and the commercial and social core of a larger residential area, according to Heritage Vancouver Society. "Despite a growing awareness of the importance of Japantown, there is little recognition of its surviving heritage buildings, and no specific heritage area planning protection," the society says. Read more about what the organization thinks needs to be done to address this concern HERE.
10) Protecting Vancouver’s Heritage
Although the city has taken some steps towards heritage conservation, Heritage Vancouver Society argues the threat against heritage remains significant. Read more about the organization's concerns and what measures it thinks should be taken HERE.
In 2018, the Courier published several stories about a property at 3737 Angus St., which suffered damage from a fire. After the blaze, the roof wasn't covered to protect it from the elements. Find one of those articles HERE.