CommercialBrickhouse on Main Street in Chinatown to be replaced with condos

Brickhouse on Main Street in Chinatown to be replaced with condos

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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.


Brickhouse proposal viaduct view
The proposed building as seen from the viaduct. Credit: Studio One Architecture
Brickhouse view
The proposed building, as seen from Bosa’s BlueSky rental apartment building. Credit: Studio One Architecture
Brickhouse development
Rear of proposed building. Credit: Studio One Architecture
Brickhouse bar facade
The facade of the existing Brickhouse will be incorporated into the retail portion of the new development. Credit: Studio One Architecture
Jimi Hendrix Shrine facade
Elements of the existing Jimi Hendrix Shrine will be incorporated into the facade of the new building. Credit: Studio One Architecture
Hogan's Alley commemorative display
Commemorative heritage panels, celebrating the area’s history as an African-Canadian community, will be installed in the laneway off Union Street. Credit: Studio One Architecture
Rendering of Brickhouse proposal, looking east
Rendering of proposed mixed-use building on Brickhouse site. Credit: Studio One Architecture

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.”

Brickhouse Chinatown
The Brickhouse venue on Main Street will be torn down for a new condo development.
Creekside Student Residence
Single room accommodation units at the existing Creekside student residence will be replaced in the new development. The building will be demolished.

Last updated July 6, 2017

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Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner
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  1. Density leads to stock, therefore affordability. Detached house prices have been climbing much faster than attached condos in the city, and the only way to keep it as such is to build high and dense. Life is about progress. Holding onto old relics for the sake of it is how we drive housing prices up even further.

    • Jeff Kee:
      Would you care to define “progress” for me? I’ve never really understood the meaning of the term, and what I see mostly in Vancouver now could best be described as “regress” instead.

      • Job postings increased in Van & BC while it reduced in Alberta (oil prices). We have higher density housing and even more coming. I kinda care about reducing greenhouse gases… just a personal thing, I care about our planet. Single family dwelling with no vertical-build is the least efficient type of housing. Urban residents post 1/3 of carbon emissions compared to that of Surrey/Langley/Delta commuters. More condos built in dense areas, or on Skytrain lines, have a proven effect of reducing commute time and carbon dioxide production per capita. Population of the City of Vancouver (not including lower mainland) was predicted to increase by 200,000 between 2012 to 2020, we are halfway there and we did well with that. Sure, there are growth pains but that’s 200,000 more people in a dense area. We have yet to catch up with superior city planning in many parts of Asia & Europe etc. where their carbon emissions per capita is even lower, but getting there. Ripping out single story wastelands and replacing with multi level/multi purpose towers is one of the best things we can do – also it spurs the industry, creates jobs and keeps money flowing on top of all the environmental & time-saving benefits.

        Reduction of commute time has been proven by Harvard researchers as one of the key factors to mental and physical happiness of residents, surpassing income & size of homes.

        Personal note:
        My business has grown 50% a year, year after year, for 4 years in a row, employing new people with steady jobs and now up to a team of 10 with no turnovers. I’m LOVING life here with the economic growth in the tech & real estate sector. My life in the past 15 years has been turbulent but overall a fantastic one in this city with so much opportunity and growth and satisfaction.. although this is highly anecdotal compared to the more objective points above.

  2. It’s more than a bit fatuous, in reporting on this development proposal, to focus on two venues that no longer exist. I have no idea when the Brickhouse shirt down, but the pathetic little farce that was the so-called “Jimi Hendrix shrine” moved to Homer Street months ago. Far from being “iconic”, neither had anything at all to do with Chinatown. Why are you not focusing instead on the insane level of density this proposal calls for? That Planing should even consider allowing this much destiny on that site merely heightens the growing perception that their goal is to destroy the fast-disappearing last vestiges of historic Chinatown and replace it with monstrous new developments. Yaletown East. Of course, when there’s money to be made, and developers to be made happy, Planning– and Council– is always ready to obediently answer the call and do as their masters ask…