Meeting Notes from November 20th

A full house of about 25 for our November meeting…

• Our Geography 429 student, Kevin Shackles, introduced himself to the group. He will be working on a project in the Spring to map the old grocery stores and other commercial storefronts of “back-street” Grandview (that is, not The Drive, not Hastings Street) and investigate their histories to try to determine the ethnicity of the owners, the length of their tenures and any other information that can be gleaned from archival sources. At the end of the project, we should have a complete picture of this largely vanished aspect of our community.

Realtor David Campbell, who has lived and worked in Grandview for about 35 years, talked and answered questions about the real-estate market here, focusing on the heritage buildings that are in such high demand from new buyers. He noted the shortage of supply of new listings because people are staying put in the neighbourhood, resulting in bidding wars for the few old buildings that come on the market. He described how people who bought into Grandview wanted to reside here – i.e. they aren’t investors living elsewhere – and how many buyers have good incomes and little fear of the huge mortgages they have to assume. The current “tear-down value” in the neighbourhood is around $900,000, he said, making most old houses that come on the market too valuable to be bulldozer-bait; the exceptions are dilapidated rooming houses, such as the one we highlighted in the summer on Napier Street, where the cost of upgrading exceeds any final value that a renovator or owner could attain. He also noted that the high cost of new half-duplexes, about $900,000 or so, was making the area’s cottages and interwar bungalows attractive to some buyers, who reckon they can get an entire lot in fee simple with a needy house on it for the same price as a small place with modern bells and whistles on a strata lot. He noted that buyers were willing to go through the city’s heritage process to save significant houses, such as the Georgian at 2185 East 3rd that was on our agenda last month, and that neighbours appeared to be supportive regardless of the added infill density that the projects will trigger.

Michael Kluckner gave an update on the city’s Heritage Action Plan, explaining some of the intricacies of the character-house policy that is being developed for RS3, RS3A and RS5 areas on the west side of the city, and suggesting that the policy might eventually be extended into the RS1 areas of East Vancouver (including the southeast part of Grandview). He also noted that there will be a public nomination process in the Spring for additions to the heritage register.

Dorothy Barkley talked about an art show fashion project with the Museum of Vancouver involving models in vintage costumes staged in front of vintage houses. Grandview is a logical spot for Edwardian and some interwar tableaux. There will be an opportunity for interested members to get involved.

• We had a brief discussion about land assembly on The Drive and the need to work with the city zoning regulations to ensure that change there respects the fine detail and architectural diversity of the street. Comparisons were made with the long strips of shopfronts below condo/apartment blocks that are homogenizing Hastings around Nanaimo and Main Street south of 16th.

Eric Phillips presented more information about the hazards and horrors of early houses, drawing on material from a British series on Victorian homes. Arsenic in English wallpaper, dangerous early electrical wiring, nutbar-quality products like electric tablecloths and hairbrushes, and odorless coal gas stoves were among the items he talked about. Time was tight so he will present more material at the January meeting.

No meeting in December, eh? Merry Christmas to all…. We will meet again on Thursday, January 15th.