West Van blocks destruction of rare Ron Thom house... for now

The clock is ticking for a West Coast Modern classic in the British Properties.

District of West Vancouver council voted Monday night to temporarily halt the demolition of the 1962 Forrest-Baker residence at 1143 Eyremount Dr. in hopes they can persuade its owner to save it.

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The district has negotiated heritage revitalization agreements with several property owners to restore and give permanent protection to architecturally significant buildings, usually in exchange for subdivision of, or greater density on, the lot.

The home was designed by Ron Thom and Dick Mann. When the district compiled a survey of its architecturally significant buildings in 1988, the home was considered a “primary” heritage resource, meaning it is “an integral part of the image of West Vancouver,” although it has no legal protection.

“The topography of the sloped site determined the layout of this low, rambling one-storey structure. The low-pitched gable roofs are set at the same angle as the slope of the land, with the eaves flared to allow additional sunline without disturbing the sense of shelter they provide,” the statement of architectural significance read. “Originally built for Mr. and Mrs. Terry Forrest, who lived here very briefly, this dynamic residence was the winner of a 1964 Massey Medal for Architecture.”

In 2012, the property was purchased by a man who intended to knock down the 3,000-square-foot home in order to build a 15,000-square-foot mansion in its place, but later “fell in love” with architecture and opted to keep it, according to a story published in the Globe and Mail by architecture journalist Adele Weder.

The Forrest-Baker residence’s chances, however, are looking bleak.

“My staff have attempted to contact the owners of the property on multiple occasions to set up a meeting to discuss possible alternative development opportunities in exchange for protection of the existing house,” Jim Bailey, director of planning for the district, told council Monday night.  “However to date, there has been no response from the property owners.”

The home has changed hands “several times” in the past 10 years, the district staff report notes.

Delaying the demolition permit will buy staff 60 more days to continue their attempts to negotiate with the owner.

The property was last assessed at $4.853 million, down sharply from $6.222 million the year before.

Most recently, a split council voted against a plan to save the 1924 Hewitt House in exchange for subdividing the lot and allowing a 1,500-square-foot home to be built.

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