Demolition halted for Japantown building

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | December 9, 2013 | Circulation: 280,000+


A Chinese-Canadian association scrambling to save its 122-year-old Japantown building from demolition has received a reprieve.

On Tuesday, the city will help the Ming Sun Benevolent Society remove an unstable, brick exterior wall on the building. Supporters trying to save the building, however, are asking why the heritage structure was ordered destroyed in the first place.

“There’s no proof our building is actually run down,” said society spokesman David Wong. “We appreciate that the city gave us a chance – that’s a game-changer.”

But City Coun. Kerry Jang said the building had “fallen into disrepair” and one of its walls was at risk of collapsing on an adjacent building. He said the owner failed to deal with city concerns for four months and demolition was a last resort.

“Nothing has changed,” Jang told 24 hours. “The place is unsafe.

“They have to get a plan together, but they haven’t done that for four months – we haven’t been getting anywhere with them.”

Andy Yan is one of dozens of community members trying to save the building.

“It seems very odd to see a demolition order by the city on something that really didn’t have anything (significantly) wrong with the building. It’s a veneer wall, it’s not structural,” said the urban planner.

“Why this building matters for Vancouver is that it is about affordable housing, about affordable studio space, and about working-class Chinese- and Japanese-Canadian heritage – it all comes together on this one site.”

The 439 Powell St. building, which had a 2013 assessed value of $866,700, was home to 10 seniors living in eight units. The city found alternative housing for them after an adjacent building was demolished in July.

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