History & Heritage
September 28, 2008

Old Stuff – Mossback’s Seattle

Knute Berger, a regular writer in Seattle’s online e-mag Crosscut (The Tyee of the Evergreen City), has penned a reflection on his city that could as easily be applied to Vancouver.

I complain a lot about how the city has evolved, but despite growth, upheaval and displacement, I am often struck with ways in which Seattle hasn’t changed. Vacant lots have disappeared, housing is more expensive, some parts of the city have been radically over-hauled (South Lake Union, the light-railed portions of Martin Luther King Way), landfills are now parks, downtown sprouts a fungi of ugly high rises. But many parts of the city are stoic in the face of a century of radical transformation.

Full article here.

Berger, who writes as ‘Mossback’, is often irascible (and he’s not a big fan of Vancouver) – but he’s always insightful.  We have to get him up here sometime soon.

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So much happening, it’s hard to keep up.  Here are a few samples.

The curtain has been drawn to reveal the upgraded Portland Hotel:

And just down Hastings Street, another new non-market housing development in the final stages:

Robert Fung’s Salient Group is near completion on the Paris Block and Annex:

As well as the Terminus project, including a spiffy new paint job and restoration on the Alhambra Hotel, one of the oldest buildings in the city:

From the roof of one of the condo additions, you can look down on the roof garden of the relocated Inform Interiors on Water Street:

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Signs of change are everywhere in Gastown and the Downtown East Side these days – most notably the Woodward’s tower, rising above it all.   But the scaffolding has just dropped away from another development nearby, revealing what will undoubtedly be one of the heritage gems of the neighbourhood – the Flack Block.

This restoration and discreet addition at the corner of Cambie and Hastings, across from Victory Square, is another of Robert Fung’s projects by the Salient Group.  One of the first to see the potential of a languishing Gastown, he is currently transforming the Alhambra Block and Mews at Maple Tree Square.  But the Flack may be the project with the greatest architectural merit, though it had been badly treated over the years.

Designed by Vancouver architect William Blackmore, it was built during the Klondike boom in 1898 for about $100,000 – a substantial amount back then – and reflected the commercial optimism of the time.  The design is Richardsonian Romanesque, with a remarkable entrance worthy of a heritage award all on its own:

Acton Ostry are the architects.  Says Mark Ostry:

The project was incredibly challenging, from convincing the City Surveyor and Engineering Department to permit us to reuse and restore the areaways under the sidewalk, to restoring stone work, to adding a new floor on the roof. As you know, the ground floor and public realm were butchered over the years to the point of losing all of its original character and meaning on the street. When Money Mart vacates, we’ll be able to complete the project and restore the integrity to the urban enclosure and backdrop to Victory Square.

Robert Fung also notes that Joel Solomon’s groups, Tides and Renewal, will be the office tenants.  Altogether, a very nice package.

 

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  Check out this interview with Michael Kluckner by Charles Campbell in The Tyee. 
Here’s a clip:

On density as an excuse for redevelopment:
“If the current [Vancouver] council collectively had a brain, they would realize that eco-density is an area like South Granville. These walk-up apartments — that to me is eco-density. There are 10 suites on a 66-foot lot. They’re affordable suites. If you tore that place down, and replaced it with a building that was in theory more environmentally friendly, it would take you about 40 years to pay back the energy that you used in building the new place. Plus you would lose affordability, which is another aspect of what I think of as eco-density. These are the people that walk, that tend to use transit, that are supporting the local businesses.
“We may come back in five years and find that the neighbourhood has changed because the buildings have been torn down and replaced by wildly ostentatious crap that people are building — the ‘limited collection of fine residences’ — and I think you’ll find that the net density will not really have gone up and affordability will be out the window. The place will work in a less environmentally friendly way, and you’ll lose heritage.”

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