Demolition work is no longer permitted for residences built before the 1940s located in First Shaughnessy, one of Vancouver’s oldest and wealthiest neighbourhoods.
Vancouver City Council made the decision on Tuesday to protect heritage homes in the area framed by West 16th Avenue to the north, King Edward Avenue to the south, Arbutus Street to the west and Oak Street to the east. This is Vancouver’s first official ‘Heritage Conservative Area’.
The area was developed in the early decades of the 20th century and consists of distinct homes built with neo-Tudor, Federal Colonial, and Arts and Crafts styles of architecture. Many heritage home are also accompanied with lush landscaping and mature trees.
Approximately half of the 595 properties in the neighbourhood are affected, including a number of large mansions. Prior to the decision, 80 properties were already listed on the municipal government’s Heritage Register that protects homes of heritage value.
“First Shaughnessy is one of our most historic neighbourhoods, and in a city as young as Vancouver it’s important that we protect its unique heritage,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a statement. “By designating First Shaughnessy as Vancouver’s first Heritage Conservation Area, we are taking a balanced approach that will prevent the demolition of these historic homes while providing new opportunities to add very modest density where appropriate.”
The policy was put in place following a rise in demolition permit applications for pre-1940 homes in the neighbourhood, such as a now-demolished 1910-built home on Hudson Street with ceilings, fireplaces, a ceremonial staircase and built-in buffet. In many cases, the historic homes are worth more than the land, with existing structures not taking advantage the City’s structural square footage allowances.
A staff report submitted to Council earlier this year states 202 demolition permits for homes in Shaughnessy were issued between 2005 and 2014. As well, demolitions in the area rose from 0.4 per cent to five per cent from December 2013 to June 2014. And as of June 2015, there were 19 active demolition proposals submitted to the City.
In response to the drastic rise in applications, a temporary moratorium on demolitions was enacted in 2014 to allow a review of the neighbourhood and creation of a conservation plan for the area’s heritage buildings.
There have been concerns by both home owners and real estate agents that the new policies could cause the neighbourhood to fall into decline, particularly with tear-down homes. Potential impacts to property values are another area of concern, with homes built between 1940 and 1999 only rising by 51 per cent over the last five years. In contrast, the average sale price of unrenovated pre-1940 homes rose by 73 per cent while renovated homes rose by 83 per cent.
However, the City says the new strict heritage policies are offset by the allowance for homeowners to densify their large lots.
For example, 15 townhouses were built on the 1.3-acre lot on the century-old Nichol mansion property on the southeast corner of West 16th Avenue and Granville Street. This project was completed in late-2012.
The concept of a Heritage Conservation Area is not unique as it is also used by other municipalities in North America to protect historic buildings and neighbourhoods. This includes 60 Heritage Conservation Areas in B.C., with nine of these areas located in Victoria.