THE North Shore Heritage Preservation Society says the North Shore's municipalities need to tighten their rules around heritage homes or risk losing them to developers' wrecking balls.
This, after the group has learned a heritage designated home in Edgemont Village has been demolished, only to have the lot listed for sale with plans for a five-bedroom, sevenbathroom "McMansion" to occupy it.
"This is ideal for someone who wants to build their dream home ASAP right in the heart of the village," the lot's MLS listing states.
Designed by noted local architect Fred Hollingsworth in 1950, the home at 2895 Newmarket Dr. was razed after the District of North Vancouver issued a demolition permit on July 3. Buildings that date back to the North Shore's formative history or homes once lived in by important people have an intrinsic value worth protecting, the group argues, comparing the homes to family heirlooms.
"The heritage buildings we see around us are our link to our past and sweeping them away means we sweep away all evidence of where we come from," said Peter Miller, society president. "In this particular case, we regret very much that the system permitted this to happen. It's very sad."
District staff met with the owner, as is standard practice when someone wants to demolish a heritage home, to discuss other options that would see the house preserved, said Jeanine Bratina, district spokeswoman.
"Ultimately, the decision does rest with a property owner," Bratina added.
But real estate speculators shouldn't be seeking out historic homes for their lucrative property flips, said Jennifer Clay, society vice-president.
"Why would you buy a heritage a home only just to tear it down?" Clay, asked. "If they just want an empty lot to build their dream home, they should go find some rundown bungalow that isn't on the heritage register and do it there. There's plenty of those kinds of houses around."
The group is also in mourning for a 1910 home, part of Finlay's Row on the 200-block of East 19th Street, which City of North Vancouver council debated vociferously before issuing a demolition permit in a split vote. Council had already funded a $10,000-study into the costs of renovating the home and offered to put up $25,000 of the approximately $745,000 needed to raise the structure, pour a new foundation, and bring the floor and ceiling joists up to code. Rebuilding from scratch would run about $651,000, city staff concluded. The owners are pledging to rebuild a new home on the lot with a design aimed to fit in with the rest of Finlay's Row.
That's better than a McMansion, Miller said, but it still amounts to "Disneyfication" when new materials and workmanship are used to mimic the real thing.
"There is an emotional attachment that an old building has to the past. If you go up to a front door, which was there almost 100 years ago, and touch it, you can feel that people have been going in and out of that door for 100 years," he said. "When you go up to a door that looks essentially the same but came from Rona, there's none of that emotional connection to the past."
In the meantime, the group is left to try to persuade a homeowner or developer to stay the bulldozers.
If done correctly, it's cheaper to repair than rebuild, Miller said, and keeping a heritage home comes with a much smaller environmental cost than building a new one, taking into account the landfilling, transportation and raw resources needed.
"The greenest building is an existing building," said Miller.
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