It’s lonely being heritage!

And dangerous! Not only are you becoming more surrounded by towers than by other older houses – eventually you are demolished to make room for new towers, or in a more single home neighbourhood, torn down to be replaced by a modern “monster house.”

The house pictured here, was originally located at 1754 Pendrell St. near Denman St. in Vancouver’s West End. It’s a solid structure built in 1905 with leaded glass windows, classical molding, and a large porch. Although it’s not classified as a heritage building, it’s certainly part of Vancouver’s heritage and dates back to the city’s early days. This Edwardian home eventually became a rooming house during World War II.

1754 to 1772 Pendrell St. provided 26 low cost rental units contained in two houses and an apartment block. It will now be redeveloped by Westbank into a 21-storey tower with 173 rental units. 26 of these units will be below market rate to replace those lost, but, in all likelihood, the remainder of the units will be undersized and overpriced.

In any case, 1754 Pendrell, looking a little dismal and disoriented at the moment, is beginning a new life with a new owner, Sanjiv Sandhu, a small developer. He has moved this house temporarily to its present location on Main St. between East 1st Ave. and Industrial Ave. Its permanent location will be in the 400 block of East 5th Ave. in East Vancouver. Restoring historical houses is Sandhu’s passion and once this one is done, he will use it as a rental property.

Both the City of Vancouver and Westbank cooperated with the salvation of the house. One of the biggest factors was safely moving it, and the masters of this art are Nickel Bros. Hydro, Telus and other city services have to be closely coordinated since power lines are disrupted. In addition, the house had to be floated across False Creek initially to a location near Olympic Village for several months and then trucked to Main St. Some of Nickel Bros. incredible house moves have been featured on the TV series: Massive Moves.

To move this approximately 40 metric tonne house cost Sandhu around $175,000.

This admirable labour of love may eventually pay off, but it still leaves the dilemma of so much of Vancouver’s heritage being destroyed for towers and bigger homes. And moving homes is clearly not an option. Older homes with good construction and old growth timber can last for hundreds of years with proper maintenance. New construction with inferior materials often has a much-limited life span. We in essence are sacrificing our heritage for quick profits in a booming housing market. I live in a West End condo built in the early 90’s housing boom. There were a lot of corners cut and perhaps inspections were less than thorough. Around 18 years later this leaky condo building had to be virtually rebuilt.

Recently I visited an older character home at 4255 West 12th Ave. that is slated for immediate demolition. It will be replaced by a “monster home” built by a foreign buyer who has no interest in preserving the character of the neighbourhood. Although I enjoy living in the West End, what you immediately notice in this area is a softness you don’t readily see in the midst of high-rise buildings. There is a sense of peacefulness and community. Everything is human scale. Vancouver by necessity has to have variable housing accommodation but tearing down everything that’s affordable, or contains a sense of the past does not make for a livable city.