Local writer starts Vancouver Vanishes Facebook page to celebrate character-filled homes and lament their demolition

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Trees on the Shannon Mews estate on Granville and West 57th Avenue make way for a new condo complex. The Shannon Wall Centre Kerrisdale will retain the old structures of the mansion and coach house and surround  it with new buildings.
Trees on the Shannon Mews estate on Granville and West 57th Avenue make way for a new condo complex. The Shannon Wall Centre Kerrisdale will retain the old structures of the mansion and coach house and surround it with new buildings. Photo: Katja De Bock

Though Vancouver developers may see densification as the answer to a growing population, some residents, such as writer Caroline Adderson, think the city is losing its connection with older character-filled houses.

“I see these old homes as repositories of narrative.  When they go down, with them go all the stories,” said Adderson, who was inspired to start a Facebook page called Vancouver Vanishes after witnessing a “beautiful old home” being bulldozed in her neighbourhood.

Adderson believes that Vancouver is creating a “city without a past, without stories.” Her neighbourhood of Kerrisdale has experienced 116 permits for demolition from 2011 to 2012, according to the City of Vancouver.

“To me, that doesn’t bode well for the future,” said Adderson. Others agree. A survey conducted by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation found that 88 per cent of those surveyed support less demolition of heritage buildings in their communities.

How to protect older homes

One way to protect older homes is to list them on the Vancouver Heritage Register, which has roughly 2,150 buildings detailed. The building in question must have “architectural and historical significance” in order to be considered listing in the register, according to the City of Vancouver’s register website.

Registering doesn’t necessarily protect buildings from demolition. The city requires certain permits to be obtained for those wishing to tear down a heritage building, and the city does offer various incentives, depending on the circumstances.

Old and new housing sustains communities

Diane Switzer, executive director of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, disagrees with the idea that destroying the old and building new houses is the only way to sustain communities, adding that Vancouver needs to make better use of what the city already has. Older housing is often the most affordable options for many families, said Switzer.

Switzer says however that there are ways the city is trying to preserve buildings, as well as grow. “We need to create change, it’s just a question of how we do it.”

Reported by Niall Shannon

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