Tyler Stiem writes in the Guardian about the impending rubbleization of the Empire Landmark Hotel on Robson in Vancouver. And what this looks like from a heritage point of view.
On some level the demise of the hotel feels inevitable, part of the onward rush to a smarter, more glamorous future: one that includes greater density, more mixed-use and LEED-certified buildings, and a lot of glass and steel. Yet the news came as a surprise to many.
“Suddenly, tearing down a 42-storey high rise is economically viable? Even with the [real estate] market the way it is, no one saw that coming,” heritage expert Donald Luxton says.
Over the last two decades, thoughtful planning and a historic influx of global capital have turned the city into a contradiction: it is both famously liveable and famously unaffordable. The past two years have been feverish even by Vancouver standards. Ballooning land prices – commercial real estate values surged by 47% in 2016 alone – have made some of the city’s biggest, most imposing structures surprisingly vulnerable to redevelopment.
Seventies-era buildings like the Empire Landmark are at particular risk, thanks to their seismic vulnerability and the public’s indifferent relationship to the aesthetics of the decade. “We stand to wipe out a whole important era of Vancouver’s history if we don’t think carefully about what can go and what should be kept,” he says.