Two of Chinatown’s most iconic spaces, the Brickhouse and Jimi Hendrix Shrine, will soon demolished and replaced with a new condo and affordable housing development.
Bonnis Development Corporation is proposing a new, mixed-use building at the properties it owns between 728-796 Main Street. The new building will be 15 storeys with retail on the ground floor and 140 market residential units above. 35 per cent of the units will be appropriate for families, meaning they will be two bedrooms or larger.
In addition, existing single room accommodation (SRA) units in the Creekside Student Residence building will be replaced in the new development.
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.”
“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 769 signatures and reads:
“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.”
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.
According to 2006 census data, the area 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 no doubt risen, but the area is still home to many low-income residents.
A similar condo proposal nearby at Columbia and Keefer streets by Beedie Living has had a tough time gaining approval from the city. The 12 storey building in front of Chinatown Plaza has been redesigned four times and is still awaiting a rezoning application. Wall Financial is also building a rental apartment tower at 288 East Hastings, which is currently under construction and has not faced much criticism, although it did displace several low-priced retail shops.
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.”
An public open house for the proposal is planned for Janaury 24, 2017 from 5:15 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. at the TELUS World of Science. Bonnis says a rezoning application will be submitted following the open house, with a city-hosted open house to follow.
The new building was designed by Studio One Architecture.
Last updated January 16, 2017