Proposal to transform Marine Drive's historic Casa Mia mansion into care home

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Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion

The proposal to convert and expand Southwest Marine Drive’s historic Casa Mia mansion (1920 SW Marine Drive) into a seniors care home will go to public hearing on March 13.

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia has been floating in the market for much of the past decade with no buyers willing to purchase the architectural treasure until 2010 when The Care Group purchased the property at slashed prices for $10-million – $2-million less than its peak asking price.

The Spanish Revival mansion was built in 1932 by George Reifel, a liquor magnate and rum runner who also gave the city the Commodore Ballroom and the Vogue Theatre. His luxuriously curvy wood-paneled, art deco furnished residence is built on a 65,612 square foot property that overlooks the Fraser River and Sea Island to the south.

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

It features eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, backyard pool, and a 21,000 square foot ballroom in the basement (larger than the Commodore Balroom) that has a sprung dance floor and stage which was heavily used for massive Gatsby-esque parties in the 1940s.

An incredible amount of workmanship and architectural detail was placed into the residence at the time. This includes its third floor “Dopey’s Room” – a playroom with murals of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs drawn by by artists from Walt Disney Studios who were flown in from California.

While the mansion was built by a beer baron who spared no expense, it never had a secret tunnel to the Fraser River for storing and exporting liquor to the United States – what was and still is a long running myth of Casa Mia and the operations of Reifel.

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

However, with the property’s acquisition by The Care Group, a proposal is moving forward to convert its spaces for senior residential care use. It would incorporate:

  • 62 beds (a decrease from the original plan of 92 beds)
  • add in a new 2-storey wing (previously 3-storeys in the original plan) with basement on the mansion’s front lawn facing Southwest Marine Drive
  • 16 parking spaces (a decrease from the original proposed 23 spaces).

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

The expansion building would increase Casa Mia’s floor area from 22,037 square feet to 45,869 square feet and will be built to LEED Gold standards with features such as a green roof, sun shades, and triple glazed windows.

However, the project has its critics as it would arguably destroy the mansion’s classy, heritage feel and bring additional traffic to Southwest Marine Drive. In response, project proponents downsized their original proposal (details above) and have stated that they will preserve architectural and landscaping elements, where it is possible to do so, as a concession to heritage enthusiasts and local neighbourhood residents.

Supporters argue the project is needed given the aging community and increasing need for senior care and housing.

In order for construction to proceed, the project must be rezoned from single-family residential to comprehensive development. The Care Group also operates six other local community care facilities including Point Grey Hospital, Qualicum Manor, Sherwood Crescent Manor, Braddan Private Hospital, The Madison and Lakeshore Care Centre.

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

Casa Mia Vancouver Mansion
Image: Stuart Howard Architects

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]vancitybuzz.com
@iamkennethchan

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