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Historic Celtic Shipyards need bylaw protection to secure existence

Advocates call on city to make the former hamlet a heritage site

Roy Uyeda's eldest brother with his catch, a 60-pound spring salmon in the summer of 1940 at the Celtic Shipyards. Submitted Photo: Roy Uyeda
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Reported by Becca Clarkson

The birthplace of Vancouver’s ship repair and fishing industry is at risk of being sold, redeveloped and forgotten because the industrial site from the 1800s hasn’t been granted heritage status, according to local advocates.

Celtic Shipyards was put on Heritage Vancouver’s 2017 Top10 Watch List, because it’s currently for sale. The City of Vancouver is updating its heritage program for the first time since 1986 and the site’s status is among hundreds to be reviewed in 2018.

Marco D’Agostini, senior heritage planner for the City of Vancouver, said that the Celtic Shipyards would need designation and protection from a heritage bylaw, not just heritage status.

“Having heritage status for a building only identifies it and provides opportunities for receiving incentives, like additional density or different types of uses, to encourage the retention for the building,” said D’Agostini, who wouldn’t speak to whether there are prospective buyers for the Celtic Shipyards.

Preserving history before real estate development cuts in

Heritage Vancouver, led by president Javier Campos, advocates for preserving Vancouver’s history during the rapidly increasing land values in the city, where new construction is less costly than retention.

“They’re not going to get as much revenue so [the city is] not going to be happy about it,” said Campos, who worries that the history of economically significant industries, as well as the Japanese families who were sent to internment camps “will be forgotten and we’ll have condos or something instead and we won’t understand what was there in our history.”

Roy Uyeda was born in the Celtic Cannery before the Second World War and he was part of the Japanese community living at the shipyards. During the war they were all sent to internment camps.

“It was somewhat like the salmon returning to its birthplace,” said Uyeda about returning to the cannery 12 years after his family was forced to leave in 1946. “To think that the site could be sold off, developed into glass, steel and concrete matter, completely wiping out any vestige of that quaint little fishing hamlet of Celtic Cannery, is exasperatingly despairing.”

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