Two of Chinatown’s most iconic spaces, the Brickhouse and Jimi Hendrix Shrine, will soon demolished as part of a new condo and affordable housing development at Main and Union.
Bonnis Development Corporation is proposing a 15-storey, mixed-use building on the properties it owns between 728-796 Main Street.
The new building will have retail space on the ground floor, and 99 market residential units above. The unit mix will be as follows:
- 35 studios
- 21 one bedroom units
- 38 two bedroom units
- 5 three bedroom units
In addition, 19 social housing units will make up the second floor, replacing the existing single room accommodation (SRA) units in the Creekside Student Residence building, which will be demolished.
The proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from community members over the continued gentifrication of Chinatown, but also the loss of historic structures and venues, and the developer’s attempt to reincorporate them into the new building. Feedback on the proposed rezoning can left online on the city’s website.
According to Kerry Bonnis, principle of Bonnis Development Corporation, ownership of the replacement SRA units will be transferred to the city as a goodwill gesture.
“It is our intention to replace the SRA units that have been operating primarily as student housing with an entire floor (18 units) to be built and ownership gifted to the City of Vancouver.”
The developer describes the project as being located “at the crossroads between historic Chinatown to the north, and some of Vancouver’s most significant new planning projects to the south — the removal of the viaducts and the new St. Paul’s Hospital.”
Although the buildings housing the Brickhouse, Hendrix shrine and student residence date back to the early 1900s, they are not on the Vancouver heritage register and are therefore not protected.
Bonnis says they will make an effort to incorporate parts of the Brickhouse into the new development, and there’s even a chance the venue could return to the new development.
“We intend to recycle Brickhouse bricks by incorporating their use into the new development,” said Bonnis. “We are in discussions with the current Brickhouse owner to ideally return and re-open within the new development.”
Rezoning documents filed with the city in May 2017 propose that the existing components of the front brick façade will be re-claimed and incorporated into the new building design.
Parts of the façade of the Jimi Hendrix Shrine, a small commercial building built in 1926, will also be reclaimed and assembled on the south façade of the new building. Heritage commemorative display panels will be located in the lane next to Union Street, featuring scenes from the neighbourhood’s history as a primarily working-class Chinese and African-Canadian community called Hogan’s Alley.
The architect, Studio One Architecture, says the building’s brick cladding will be a contemporary expression of the original mid-rise buildings of Chiantown and Gastown.
“It is our intention that the redevelopment of these properties will further the exciting revitalization of Chinatown – and are working accordingly with the City of Vancouver to further this vision,” Bonnis added.
Concerns about the demolition of the structures, especially the much-loved Brickhouse, have been circulating since 2014. An online petition against the redevelopment has gained significant traction:
“Vancouver is drowning in an ocean of copy-and-paste corporate chain bars. The Brickhouse is a great independent bar, but now it could be demolished to make way for a new condo development in Chinatown. The Creekside Student Residence and Jimi Hendrix shrine could be taken out with it,” reads the petition text.
New condo development in Chinatown is facing increased criticism. Community activists say the new condos and retailers are not comfortable spaces for those living near the poverty line, or the Chinese seniors who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades.
A similar proposal by Beedie Living at 105 Keefer Street was recently rejected by Vancouver city council.
According to 2006 census data, the neighbourhood is one of the poorest in Vancouver, with a median income of $17,658 compared with $47,299 for the city as a whole. With recent developments such as the Keefer Block, BlueSky Chinatown and 188 Keefer, income levels have risen, but the area is still home to many low-income residents.
Bonnis says they hope to develop the property in a respectful manner that honours the history of the site.
“We both grow up in Vancouver – and have strong roots in Vancouver – including coming to Chinatown as children and throughout our lives. We are aware of the importance of the Chinatown community – and intend to propose a development that is responsive to its needs.”
Last updated July 6, 2017