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.

Thanks to Andy Clark / Reuters (Click to enlarge)

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.


  1. What the end game is for this type of knee-jerk preservationist sentiment? No more new buildings at all, with every existing structure preserved in amber for perpetuity? Or just preservation of the buildings that their personal wisdom deems “significant” by some definition? Or is this simply a call to start considering post-war architecture viable for preservation in certain contexts?
    I am clearly rolling my eyes at the thought of preserving this concrete turd, but I pose an honest question: in a perfect world, how would “preservation” work for PT readers? What would be considered for protection? Who would be responsible for this process?

      1. So for you, the goal is the enhancement – or at least preservation – of this “soul” thing. That’s a hard thing to define, let alone codify into some form of municipal bylaw.

      2. We can preserve any building that we choose to. It is unfair for the property owner to be prohibited from realizing the market value of what they own. The solution lies in everyone paying higher property taxes, in order to fund heritage preservation. The alternative is to not save older properties, and property taxes can remain at their present level. The potential value of Vancouver real estate makes heritage preservation an expensive proposition. Hard to get people who are barely making it to finance it.

  2. Kudos to the gutsy buyer of this property and decision to tear it down. The balls some people have does impress me. If someone is willing to invest 100s of millions into a new project there then we should all welcome that, as that is not the norm in many cities on the planet. It will provide many many jobs, huge tax $s and probably fantastic views from upper floor condos. Perhaps even an upper floor restaurant or bar where Gordon Price can do another event for readers or PT bloggers. First round of beer’s on me !

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