Shaughnessy to curb demolition by becoming city's first heritage district

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Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood may be preserved as a heritage district if a proposal by City Council passes with public support.

The City’s Heritage Action Plan is currently reviewing policies and tools in place to conserve Vancouver’s heritage buildings, including a special plan to encourage character and heritage home retention in the First Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

During a consultation process earlier this spring, 64 per cent of respondents supported the plan to establish a Heritage Conservation Area in First Shaughnessy, one of possibly several neighbourhoods to receive the designation in the future.

“The purpose of this review is to strengthen the City’s long-standing goals for the conservation and preservation of neighbourhood character and pre-1940 heritage homes in the First Shaughnessy area,” the report summary states.

A review and update of the First Shaughnessy Development Plan, created in 1982, was established in December 2013 upon the adoption of the Heritage Action Plan and calls for preservation of the area between West 16th Ave. and West 15th Ave., West King Edward Ave. and Oak Street and East Boulevard.

Though the city has been mapping buildings in Shaughnessy built before 1940 for the last two decades, many of these heritage properties have been demolished. As well, “new development has not necessarily contributed to the area’s historic character to the degree desired by the neighbourhood or intended by Council.”

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According to the Council report, proposals to demolish heritage buildings in the neighbourhood rose from 0.4 per cent per year to 5 per cent between December 2013 and June 2014, and 202 demolition permits for buildings in Shaughnessy were issued between 2005 and 2014. They are currently 19 active demolition proposals.

The neighbourhood holds significant historical prominence in part due to its connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway’s 1907 plan to develop the area as a lush retreat from the busy downtown core.

“Aimed at drawing the city’s elite from the increasingly crowded West End, the new neighbourhood of First Shaughnessy was to be both tranquil and elegant. An example of the “Garden City” movement, the neighbourhood still possesses many of the fundamental characteristics that defined its origins: winding, tree-lined streets that followed the topography of the land, and layered views of elegant homes on lushly landscaped lots,” the development plan states.

The architecture of pre-1940 Shaughnessy homes, 317 still standing, are greatly inspired by the British Arts and Crafts, Tudor Revival, Queen Anne Revival, Craftsman and Colonial Revival styles.

In short, the proposal allows City Council to easily turn down demolition applications without having to compensate the property owner for any perceived value of loss. The plan will also create higher density in the area by allowing owners to subdivide larger properties into stratified units and owners of medium lots to build coach houses.

While Shaughnessy is the only proposed neighbourhood to receive this designation at the moment, other high demolition-high heritage areas like Kitsilano, Dunbar and Grandview-Woodlands could be next.

Even though the proposal has obvious advantages, some residents may be concerned of decreasing property values. The City reports, however, the average sale price of unrenovated pre-1940 homes rose 73 per cent in the last five years and renovated homes rose 83 per cent. Meanwhile, homes built between 1940 and 1999 only rose in price by 51 per cent.

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
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