Heritage protection pitched for 1911 North Van apartment block

One of the oldest buildings in Lower Lonsdale may be in line for permanent heritage protection.

The owner of the Mount Crown Block at 109-115 East First St. has offered to restore the building’s facade and give it heritage designation in exchange for permission to convert two storage spaces fronting LoLo Lane into commercial storefronts.

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If approved, the city would also waive a number of modern regulations the building never conformed to because it long predated the zoning bylaw, including its height, density, parking minimum and setbacks. And the city would put in writing forgiveness for some minor encroachments onto the city’s right of way.

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Two storage units fronting LoLo Lane will become commercial storefronts if City of North Vancouver council agrees to a heritage revitalization agreement. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

The building, which was one of the largest structures in the city when it was built, has an A ranking on the city’s heritage registry, although restoring it to its original glory will take some effort, a city staff report notes.

“The Mount Crown Block is an example of the classical revival era with Edwardian overtones. Most of its original materials and design are still intact, these include: the wood framed windows and ornamentation; brick materials and inset patterns; and the eastern store front V-shaped glazing and inset entrance,” the report reads. “As part of the restoration works for the building, the original cornice (of wood construction) and western storefront to match the eastern store front will be re-established to bring the building back to its original architectural composition.”

The main floor currently contains two commercial storefronts facing First Street and the upper floors are home to 18 rental apartments.

On Monday, council voted quickly and unanimously to send the proposal to a public hearing. Only Mayor Linda Buchanan opted to comment on the proposal, saying that both LoLo Lane and the Mount Crown Block would be better off for it.

“It is nice to see that this building will be getting updated but staying in its original form,” she said. “I think it adds a great character to Lower Lonsdale with the new and the old, and I certainly like to see that our heritage is restored.”

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The Mount Crown Block as it looked in the original 1911 architectural drawings. image supplied

Peter Miller, president of North Shore Heritage, said his group will be urging council to approve the HRA.

“It is a remarkably preserved example of what North Vancouver was promising to grow into,” he said. “That was at the very beginning of the city. At that time, the North Vancouver streetcar system was just really completed ... and it was a very prosperous place with a lot of potential, which got completely sidelined by the First World War. It’s a very grand building. It was hoped there would be many, many more of them in Lower Lonsdale and they didn’t come to fruition.”

The vote followed Buchanan proclaiming Feb. 17 to Feb. 23 Heritage Week in the city.

Coun. Tony Valente recused himself from the vote because he lives nearby.

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The Mount Crown Block, as it will look when fully restored. image supplied

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