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Does anyone have an idea that could help save some of Vancouver’s historic schools? Anyone?

January 19th, 2013 · 109 Comments

To some, Vancouver many historic schools are among the few remaining artifacts of the early city, visible and valuable mementoes that should be saved. To others, they are death-traps, likely to crumble instantly on top of the heads of students the next time there is even a mild earthquake here.

The Vancouver school board has been caught between those two views since the 1990s, when groups of parents successfully lobbied the board and the provincial government for money to restore or rebuild those schools.

Although the board has restored many schools, it has also taken down others after (or before) building new schools, notably Magee secondary, Dickens elementary, and Kitchener elementary. Up next: Hudson elementary, L’Ecole Bilingue, and Kitsilano secondary.

Now, given the chance to try something else due to the luck of working with a large lot, as I wrote in the Globe this week, the board is trying to find someone, anyone (except a private-school operation) to take on the about-to-be-abandoned Sexsmith elementary, 103 years old, and possibly Douglas elementary.


Categories: Uncategorized

109 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Danielle // Jan 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    It’s a complicated issue. Having worked in one of the old schools (Queen Alex at Clark and Broadway), there certainly issues with the old buildings, and seismic upgrading for them is costing a fortune. The issue of saving the old schools is also compounded with the fact that enrolment is declining seriously, and there are many neighbourhoods around town that have multiple schools within blocks of each other,in the same neighbourhood, all at less than capacity.

    Building new schools is not always ideal either- Dickens Elementary is a great example. The school is beautful, LEED-certified, but was built way to small. There are still students going to class in the old Annex up the street.

    The school districts (and the Province as a whole), needs a longterm strategy for managing lack of resources and changing enrolment.

    The Toronto school board has controversially sold off city property- not necessarily entire properties, but portions of large school property, to raise funs (with the proviso that the revenue goes towards school infrastructure development and building, not the general budget). It’s not a pretty idea, but maybe one to consider.

  • 2 Jan Pierce // Jan 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Missing from this list is General Gordon Elementary in Kitsilano. This 100 year old school is slated to be demolished as soon as a new school is built despite strong neighbourhood support for retaining all or even part of the school and the support of the Parent Advisory Committee. Years of so-called neighbourhood consultation spent large amounts of money on experts and meetings but the outcome was exactly what the VSB had told us at the start. They would not keep any part of the school. Residents can’t help but feel that the hundreds of hours spent in meetings was a waste of their effort and time.
    Ironically the main difference in cost between demolition and renovation was the cost of portables. Now it seems that recently the VSB has found a ‘swing space’ that could potentially eliminate that expense. Also now that the design for the new school has been put forward, the loss of playground areas and reduction in size overall are becoming clear.
    The outcome of this process does not bode well for the other heritage schools in the city. These schools are iconic public buildings that help to create neighbourhood identity and teach our children about the history of their city.
    We all want safe schools for our children but it is possible to have safe environments within renovated heritage schools.

  • 3 Threadkiller // Jan 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    How do you save historic schools? Here’s how:

    In other words, spend money! Speaking as someone who’s married to a Queen Mary alumnus (tho she only attended for one year), and as one who’s lived long enough to see three of the four grade schools he attended lost to the wrecking ball, I applaud everyone involved in this wise and heritage-sensitive project, so unusual in these demolition-happy times.

    PS: Quick local history quiz: My mother attended Aberdeen (elementary) School in Vancouver, which was knocked down decades ago. Can anybody identify its one-time location, without using Google?

  • 4 Chris Keam // Jan 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    “To some, Vancouver many historic schools are among the few remaining artifacts of the early city, visible and valuable mementoes that should be saved.”

    I’d like to hear the rationale for that. It’s supposed to be a functional building for a purpose. Children deserve better than being the pawns of preservationists, only to be crushed under brickwork when the mega-temblor hits,

  • 5 Kenji // Jan 19, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    All I know about this topic is that I was a Dickens parent, and therefore plagued by numerous other Dickens parents wanting me to help them shame the school board or whoever into saving the scary old Dickens because it was old.

    I found, and find, this attitude insane. First, our buildings are what, a hundred years old at most? That’s not exactly anthropologically meaningful.

    Secondly, is there the slightest chance that a heritage building would have the environmental, earthquake, and fire control sophistication of a new building? If they were the same, then ya keep the old time.

  • 6 boohoo // Jan 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Spend money on them and make them multi-use.

  • 7 mike0123 // Jan 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    The two impressive old schools in North Van, Ridgeway (1911) and Queen Mary (1914), were gutted and rebuilt. There will be condos built around the edges of the Queen Mary block. The less impressive schools were demolished: Lonsdale (1910) was redeveloped into condos without a replacement and Westview (1944) was replaced on its site.

    The answer in North Van has been to build condos on the school sites in its most densely populated and fastest growing parts and to retain only the more impressive buildings.

    The question is a bit ambiguous: is a school saved if just the building is saved?

    I’m another Queen Mary alumnus. I was in it during a small earthquake, even.

  • 8 F.H.Leghorn // Jan 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    When I children were young I served on the PAC at their elementary school in Kits (ca.1918, un-reinforced masonry,i.e.bricks). We worked on the Board for 4 years to get on the seismic-upgrade list. Upshot: the kids are only in the building 6 hours a day so there’s only a 1 in 4 chance they’d be in it when it falls over. Pretty good odds. The Board installed a 20-foot container full of emergency supplies and “comfort kits” on the playground just outside of the blast radius.
    During that same period the teachers’ union and the Board built themselves big, new earthquake-proof office buildings. Parents were relieved to learn that the system would continue to provide world-class adminstration and collective bargaining in the case of disaster.

  • 9 jenables // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:41 am

    does anyone else see irony in tearing down beautifully built heritage buildings which we have so few of (imo, generally buildings began to lose their charm and quality in the fifties) under the guise of them not being structurally sound, only to be replaced by…condos? towers? I’m pretty sure mother nature laughs in the face of those too, and so do I, when I see how quickly and cheaply they are built. especially the 4×5, crooked concrete slabs that make up the balconies. I’m all for preserving our scant heritage and the stories that go with it. I’m not suggesting subjecting kids to unnecessary danger, but seeing as there seem to be no shortages of schools, but why can’t they be community (which I swyped as common nutty at first) centers? theatres, shelters, food banks, resource centers, archives? archives for the analog, the non digitized, the microfiches, museums of the not so distant past. housing, even. offices. these buildings are beautiful and fascinating, and this city is selling itself out of beauty and intrigue. so disheartening.

  • 10 Sean Nelson // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:49 am

    “The Toronto school board has controversially sold off city property- not necessarily entire properties, but portions of large school property, to raise funs (with the proviso that the revenue goes towards school infrastructure development and building, not the general budget). It’s not a pretty idea, but maybe one to consider.”

    If we really, really want to save some of these old buildings then I think this is the least problematic alternative. I don’t really see why it would be essential to save every last building, as long as we can preserve representative examples. And if we can do that by sacrificing some to upgrade others, it seems like a sensible solution to me.

  • 11 Everyman // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I’m sure it was an interesting article but thanks to the Globe’s paywall I won’t be reading it.

  • 12 Chris Keam // Jan 20, 2013 at 11:13 am

    “imo, generally buildings began to lose their charm and quality in the fifties”

    This, for me, is the whole point. Architecture is subjective. One person’s clean modernism is another’s boring concrete block. I find lots of these old schools look like over-decorated cakes (imo).

    Not up to the children to have to work in worn-out facilities because some preservationist feels a need to save a slice of history. Take a picture if you can’t remember what it looks like, but let the kids move on, so they can spend half their walking hours in modern, effective learning environments instead of out-of-date buildings that are brutally expensive to bring into the 21st c.

  • 13 WM Gibbens // Jan 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Beyond the bricks, J. W. Sexsmith is also home to an historic student environmental project initiated by former teacher librarian Daryl Sturdy prior to his retirement.

    The J. W. Sexsmith Native Species Garden engaged students in the creation and stewardship of a native species garden in the schoolyard and hosted a pioneering 18-month digital artistic residency of the
    Vancouver based artist and public educator W. M. Gibbens of Influency whom quietly practised his disciplines responding to the garden’s growth throughout both on site and on the web.

    The J. W. Sexsmith Native Species garden (shown bottom front in your article’s photograph) project is an early example of how an environmental project can engage a artists, educators, students, staff and parents in addressing key environmental artistic, digital and
    on-line elements while studying the environment both inside and outside the classroom.

    The project sought to move beyond the creation of the garden to the appreciation of artistic exploration and expression of the experience of nature – pointing towards each individual’s ability to engage in a lifelong stewardship of the environment and to pass it on.

    The project also explored, open source and open standards technology while addressing viable public technologies related to on-line privacy, digital content creation, writing, mapping and databases – long before these things became mainstream on the internet and indeed, public policy on Vancouver and the province of BC. Some aspects of technological change (on the website) can be found in a few broken images on the site which may or man not display properly due to specification and viewer changes.

    I was sad to find, in your article, no reference to the garden’s historical significance nor any reference in the School Board’s RFP to the preservation and even expansion of the natural elements and possibilities of the site. Perhaps , I’ll offer to give a slide show and talk at the open house.

    Yours truly,
    William Gibbens of Influency

  • 14 Kathy McTaggart // Jan 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    A great example of how to use one…over in Qualicum Beach!

  • 15 jenables // Jan 20, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    oops, I wrote a comment and it got lost in the abyss. keam, do you feelthat way about four hundred year buildings? do you think we learn what is best and apply that to everything we do? when you see a street of small, different houses built at different times in the last hundred years, do you pray for the day when they will all be turned into pastel pre fabs? does your aesthetic not allow for diversity? or perhaps you feel there is a dearth of modern architecture here, of late. putting specifically the earthquake issue aside, do you really think the structures today are better made? for example, my building has heat that comes from hot water. works very well. why did they stop doing that? Have you bought an appliance lately and been dissappointed with its performance? I remember appliances that lasted at least twenty times longer than one year before they stopped working, but I’m not sure where you’d buy those new. my point is, the detail and craftsmanship and uniqueness have value, in my opinion. Iit’s a cheap disposable world, not to mention the environmental cost of ripping down everything that isn’t modern(because what is modern will not be modern in twenty years!) and building new.forgive my digression, I just don’t have the same faith in what people do now as you. and I love old buildings and vintage things.

  • 16 Chris Keam // Jan 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I like old things and recognize some things were made better once upon a time, but I don’t think children should have to put up with crap old schools because somebody has a thing for brickwork. Preserve if functionality (quality of construction) warrants but don’t idolize old buildings that are old and out of date just because. Esp. if it’s going to put lives at risk.

    The issue has zero to do with aesthetics (as I say it’s too personal) and everything to do with using our money wisely.

    You have one heart available for transplant (the school building budget) Ya gonna sew it into a one hundred year old person, or a productive young adult. It’s a no brainer.

  • 17 Michael Kluckner // Jan 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Re: Chris Keam’s comment about functional schools and modernism vs. decorated buildings –I understand that John Oliver at 41st and Fraser, built in the 1950s, is one of the most fragile seismically, and I can’t help recall that one building that pancaked in Christchurch, NZ, in 2011 was a 1970s design.

    Re: Threadkiller and Aberdeen School. It was on Burrard between Barclay and Haro, north of the YMCA; a parking lot for BC Electric/Hydro employees used its front playing field for years before its demolition. At that time there really were no children left in the West End.

    About 23 years ago St. George’s School was going to pull down the old Convent of the Sacred Heart on West 29th in Dunbar, which it’d bought as its junior school. The headmaster cited seismic problems, which it did indeed have, but also felt that the old building didn’t have the right sort of spaces to teach children anymore. After a protest led by a few heritage activists and Sacred Heart alumnae, a seismic fix was engineered that was, apparently, cheaper than demolition and a new school. Fast forward to last year, when the school very proudly celebrated the building’s 100th anniversary. I admired the steel diagonal brace across one edge of the library and noted the keep-out zone along the building’s front facade, innovative solutions, and I found myself talking to the current headmaster who said that the vintage classroom spaces were ideal for 21st century learning, in his opinion. Everything seems to come full circle in education, as with the churches and their changing opinions about design and layout.

    The real stumbling point in the school debate in Vancouver is the question of “equivalency”: there is no value placed on the old schools’ venerability, that they’ve already lasted a century, and the old schools have to compete in a cost-comparison with much cheaper newer buildings that have life-expectancies of perhaps 40 years.

    Is there no irony in a school system that is trying to teach ‘reduce reuse recycle’ to its students, as part of our Greenest City and Save the Planet ideals, but isn’t able to go the extra distance to practice what it teaches? And it isn’t just the fault of the school board, but the senior governments who have money for all sorts of things but little left to make these kinds of value statements.

  • 18 Andy_F // Jan 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Any school that won’t meet today’s seismic code should be knocked down and rebuilt. That would teach the lesson that our society invests in and values youth. Give the bricks to heritage groups or truck them out to non-seismic zones. St. Paul’s oldest parts should be knocked down too as it’s another example of something that has to function in the event of disaster.

  • 19 jenables // Jan 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Just wanted to mention, as I did above, in no way am I suggesting we put children in danger.. the predominant danger being in the case of an earthquake, or I suppose uhm… mold? I don’t really know what else would make these brick buildings dangerous as I haven’t heard of them randomly collapsing, and in this situation asbestos becomes dangerous when it is disturbed, I.e. during renovation or demolishing right? however it seems like a real shame to destroy something with irreplaceable aesthetic value and history when I had the impression that there was no shortage of other, newer schools. I could be wrong but I remember reading about how they were considering closing more than ten schools because enrollment was so much smaller. my suggestion is to keep the buildings for use by the communities, to utilize them to serve the public who paid for them. not only that, they could plant a
    whole bunch of plants on the grounds and clean the air a wholelot more effectively than their current tactics. I’m down with green in the literal sense, adding beauty and enhancing quality of life rather than concrete, heat retaining, air trapping developments pretending they care.

  • 20 Chris Keam // Jan 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    You’ve conflated two of my comments Mr Kluckner, and in doing so, slightly misrepresented my point. I did make a point of saying that if functionality and safety aren’t compromised I have no problem with keeping old buildings. I didn’t imply modernist buildings were inherently safer than any other kind, but used the aesthetic as a means to point out taste in architecture ranges from person to person, in this case, as a counterpoint to the turn of the century style of some of our older schools.


  • 21 Silly Season // Jan 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Ah, @Chris Keam (and @Michael Kluckner),

    The newest schools may be loaded with soaring acoustically perfect ceilings, carpeted floors and built in ports that handle the latest electronic gadgets, but take a look at this:

    I spent Grade 12 at the Convent (any more time, and the nuns would have quit ‘en mass’ ;-). And, prior to that, did most of my secondary schooling at Eric Hamber, a perfectly nice school built in 1963.

    I will tell you, however, that even though I spent 4 years at Hamber, I have virtually no specific memory of what the school looked like, at least on the inside. I guess the best way to describe it was “60’s institutional”.

    However, I remember very clearly the Gothic Revival architecture of CSS. Who wouldn’t remember granite and terra cotta facing , the balustrude of the main wooden staircase, the patina of the wooden floors (no doubt partly polished by the oldest nuns who refused to give up the habit), and any number of weird and wonderful crevices and hiding places? And my ‘vintage classroom’ was a special space with picture windows and an anteroom that we used as the Senior Lounge. Cozy.

    I took Lit 12 at the Convent. Because the architecture evoked such strong feelings in me, I dreamily half expected a brooding Mr. Darcy (pre Colin Firth) to stride across the school ground ‘moors’ and engage us in some biting word play.

    I am very appreciative of the CSS Alumni who fought the good fight, and convinced the St. George’s board to preserve the scholl (though still incredibly annoyed at the Archdiosese for selling it in the first place!). It’s a treasure.

    There’s definitely room for both the old and the new in terms of architecture at Vancouver schools. I hope that the VSB can replicate the efforts put forth by St. George’s in those schools that they deem architecturally worthy, and save a few of our ‘old’ schools.

    And by the way, I guess I hit a bit of the jackpot—last year was the Convent’s 100th anniversary. This year will be Hamber’s 50th.

    Fond memories of both schools, and of great teachers therein.

  • 22 Threadkiller // Jan 20, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    @Michael Kluckner, #15:
    Re Aberdeen: Bingo. You win the no-prize, but it it’s not surprising that you of all people would. My mother was a student there in the early 20s, when her family lived on Eveleigh Street– I could make its whereabouts another quiz question, but instead I’ll disclose that for many years it’s been little more than an alley behind the Bentall Center (but it has somehow retained its street sign, at its intersection with Thurlow). 90 years ago, however, Eveleigh was a residential street, lined with houses. But you probably already knew that as well. How time has changed this city; and so seldom for the better.

  • 23 Roger Kemble // Jan 21, 2013 at 4:38 am

    My school St. Peters York UK . . .

    . . . was founded in 627 AD by Saint Paulinus as the choir for York Minster.

    The architecture of the minster is Medieval Gothic preserved as it was when built, between 1220 and 1472.

    The school secularized in the 19th century and moved away from the minster. The architecture when I was there was circa 1910 and still in use. The parts that were bombed during WWll have been replaced as they were.

    I last visited in 2006. There are many new buildings: gymnasium, library etc. The kitchens (our favourite desert was John-the-Baptist’s-head i.e. suet pudding slathered in strawberry jam) and dining facilities in the old building have been completely modernized.

    Needless to say the new architecture, that some would charitably describe as modern, I would call arbitrary: the contrast between old and new, to the sentient observer, is frightening.

    I say frightening because architecture is ostensibly signals who we are, invoking the question of today, who hell are we really?

    As York minster now tells us of the social hierarchy of its day so too do our artifacts, if indeed they last long beyond the caprice of were we are clearly headed today.

    I was the architect for the interior renovations to Queen Mary, Ridgeway, Lynn Valley and Keith-Lynn elementary schools in North Vancouver. We studiously avoided infringing on the exterior, it was not in our mandate, but even in the 70’s their heritage was valued.

    IMO the lasting value of Vancouver’s old schools, beyond the memories and sign posts of our collective journey, is in the chiaroscuro of the facades: the masonry and manner in which the columns, crevices are described by light and changing weather and relief from relentless gray concrete. And surely the land, playing fields etc, can find a better use than condos of which there already is an uneconomical glut.

    I know Vancouver’s old schools can be economically preserved. It remains for the community to define their new use.

  • 24 Roger Kemble // Jan 21, 2013 at 6:06 am

    PS There are, to my knowledge, no relics or foundations of Paulinus’s original church, prior to 1220.

  • 25 rf // Jan 21, 2013 at 7:27 am

    The Globe is not a public service. It’s a business. If you want quality reporting and journalism, buck up the $20/month.
    We can’t have it both ways. The public cries when newspapers shut down or cut service days (eg. Times-Pecuyune in New Orleans). It doesn’t change the reality that advertising doesn’t pay all of the bills.
    If you are willing to buy an authors book or a musicians album/itune, you can buck up for the newspaper, just like everyone did back in the old days that are so relished.

  • 26 Silly Season // Jan 21, 2013 at 10:06 am

    @rf #25

    Yup. It amazes me that people think that these organizations should run on air.

  • 27 Anne M // Jan 21, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Maybe the Waldorf operators can set up shop in one of them.

  • 28 Bill Lee // Jan 21, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Schools are reshaped now. While they used to have rectangular rooms on each floor, they now have large circular or square rooms for open learning.

    I visited the new Panopticon Kitchener School in Dunbar and was struck by the barriers to the children’s movements by the rooms etc. and this was before Sandy Hook made us think to look around at safety architecture from another point of view than fire, quake and storm.

    Elemntary schools, even Secondary schools are forgotten in nostalgia, and rarely revisited.
    Knee-high views are not the same as when they are a 160 cm adult.
    As people have pointed out, un-reinforced masonry (see the horror stories about Moberley elementary), and such yessterday wonders as asbestos and other materials in the walls (including live wires) mean that construction-wise they should be taken down.
    Or hollowed out and encouraging the great bane of Vancouver, FACADISM, as a nod to the past.

    However it is the land for another condo-tower that is more valuable, and children can always go to another school a few kilometres away as enrollment drops.

  • 29 Bill Lee // Jan 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    @Anne M // Jan 21, 2013 at 11:53 am #27
    “Maybe the Waldorf operators can set up shop in one of them.”

    They already have.
    Vancouver Waldorf School, 2725 St. Christopher’s Road, N. Vancouver BC,

  • 30 Bill Lee // Jan 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    @Everyman // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:49 am
    ” I’m sure it was an interesting article but thanks to the Globe’s paywall I won’t be reading it.”

    Public libraries get the Globe and Mail and have a months of paper. Take your digital camera and Irfanview’s OCR will chomp your pictures into text.
    Besides using a diffrent browser (see name) gets you another 10 views for the month.
    Steve Ladurantaye has been giving out free subscriptions for such reading purposes for several months.
    Here is a twitter note from this morning from him.

    Steve Ladurantaye‏@sladurantaye 7 hours ago.
    If anyone else wants a free 3-month Globe subscription to enjoy just like @jeffjedras, just email me at

  • 31 Dan Cooper // Jan 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I’m with Chris Keam here, and like the way he put it above…though of course that won’t stop me from saying it again in my own words!

    The sole goal that matters is protecting all the children. Period. If the historic (meaning built at earliest about the time my grandparents were born, or in other words not very long ago) buildings can be saved without slowing down the sole goal by even a day, based on the money that is available, then by all means make it so. If not, however, then those buildings have to go. And frankly, as near as I can tell from going through quite a number of them, what we are talking about here are basically just big, square, brick boxes, and in some cases simply concrete-slab bowling alleys or random messes that have been built onto repeatedly in no particular order. (I’m looking at you, Eric Hamber Secondary.)

    Full disclosure: I attended a similarly “historic” (1936) school in my the small city where I mainly grew up, and it was later ripped down so that the hospital could build yet another parking lot on the site. It bothered me that the school had to move, but frankly the new building is a heck of a lot nicer and more functional than the clunky old box we had been in before.

  • 32 Michael Kluckner // Jan 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    To Chris Kean: I know I conflated a number of valid points you made but I wasn’t really criticizing your ideas, more to say that, in my opinion, functionalism is only one aspect of the public realm, or ought to be, and to confirm (which nobody has contradicted) that “newish” buildings aren’t necessarily safer than old ones. You wouldn’t want to be a planner in the east wing of City Hall, built in the ’60s, when the big one hits.

  • 33 Guest // Jan 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    The question is a bit ambiguous: is a school saved if just the building is saved?

    A good example is City Square in Vancouver.

    If the VSB can’t fund a renovation, sell the site, build a safe school nearby, and sell the original school with a heritage covenant over it.

    The building is saved and the kids will have a brand new building within which to grow their memories.

  • 34 Bill Lee // Jan 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    City Square? at 12th and Cambie?
    (We should never have removed the trolley lines on Cambie Street).
    The former Normal School (Norm as in standards, as in teaching teachers in the days when one could teach in schools with only Grade 13, Senior Matriculation)
    Quoting from a Flickr page
    “Normal School. Built in 1909 at West 11th Avenue and Cambie Street.
    School for training teachers, first opened in the Old Vancouver High School (1901), moving to Lord Roberts (1902), King Edward (1904) and then to its own site in 1909. UBC took over teacher training in 1956. Now part of the City Square Shopping Centre.
    The Normal School building was designed by architects Pearce & Hope. The design included Gothic Revival details such as the arched entranceway, rough granite and sandstone walls, and stained glass windows.”

    I would say that was a provincial building.
    And few tenants seem to stay long. Other han an overflow from VGH or City Hall who have disparate needs and desperate buildings, it stays empty as a “bad fix.”

  • 35 brilliant // Jan 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    @Chris Keam-I find the charge of children being pawns of preservationists somewhat bizarre when coming from someone who vociferously advocates turning from cars to bikes to solve global warming. HUB can do all it likes but it’s pissing into the wind in the face of China and India’s rising middle class’ thirst for cars.

    On the other hand preventing untold tons of demolished schools from going to local landfills is something we can do to help BC’s environment right here, right now.

  • 36 Chris Keam // Jan 21, 2013 at 8:37 pm


    I’ll address your misapprehension in the interests of accuracy, then let’s move beyond trying to catch me out in an ideological contradiction, so others can continue a productive discussion on the topic at hand OK?

    My comments advocating improvements to cycling infrastructure as a rule address issues other than climate change. Improving public health (regular exercise), avoiding inefficient land use (esp. paving of farmland), increased mobility options for youth and those who can’t afford a car, and pollution issues (airborne particulates and other dangerous emissions) are the primary reasons I think we should encourage cycling as a transportation option. Any GHG reductions IMO are a happy consequence of fostering a rational approach to mobility for those who choose to take advantage of it. The bottom line is that you can eliminate climate change from the equation, and promoting cycling and building safe facilities for same still makes sense.

    I hope that clears up any confusion you might have regarding my p.o.v. on the topic.


  • 37 Chris Keam // Jan 21, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I’ll echo rf’s remarks re: paywalls. I think it’s interesting that in my paper carrier days (Vanc. Sun – mid to late 70s) daily delivery ran $4.00 IIRC for once a day in the afternoon, with no multi-media, or links to other publications within the chain. Today’s pricing for online access is a bargain by comparison.

  • 38 Guest // Jan 21, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    WRT City Square, prior ownership is besides the point.

    The fact of retention (in their entirety) of the old structures for an adaptive new use is the point being made (and whether or not they demand the highest rent).

  • 39 Richard // Jan 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm


    I’d suggest actually researching what is really happening in China rather than parroting anti envirnmental talking points. The reality is that per capita automobile use and GHG emmissions in China are far lower that even our long term targets. They are currently doing much better than us and likely will always do better. They are not standing still either. They are making massive investments in high speed rail and rapid transit. Their cities are far denser thus far easier to cost effectively serve with public transit. They are buying 30 million electric bikes per year. Yes, people with monoy like people everywhere buy stuff like cars when they get money. Difference in China is that most of them will chose to use public transit and bikes instead of sitting for hours in traffic.

    Focusing on cars in China is just a feeble attempt by some in North America to make excuses for the lack of action over here. We need to take responsibility for what we can do rather than worry about other places.

  • 40 Richard // Jan 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Monoy was my feeble attempt at spelling money.

  • 41 Norman // Jan 22, 2013 at 9:44 am

    If the replacement buildings had some style I don’t think this issue would be so contentious. Style doesn’t have to add cost.

  • 42 IanS // Jan 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

    @Dan Cooper #31:

    “The sole goal that matters is protecting all the children. Period. ”

    I’m all for protecting children, of course, but I would have thought that the first goal for a school would be to educate children. Having said that, I think we’re in agreement that any solution (whether refurbishment etc of the old schools or the construction of new facilities) should be one which best achieves the goals of the school and the interests of the children.

    If the older, heritage buildings cannot economically be rendered effective, and safe, then I don’t see much point in keeping them around. At least, not as schools.

  • 43 gman // Jan 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Richard,using a per capita number to compare a country with a population of 1.3 billion with one that has 30 million is so wrong its laughable.Beijing alone adds 1500 cars a day to its roads.And the fact is people are trading their bikes for cars as soon as they are able.You also imply that China is some kind of innovative green utopia,are you kidding,they pollute at will and could care less about silly GHGs.The only reason they care about fuel efficiency is their worried about a steady supply of fossil fuels.A little less spin on your part might be helpful for you to get your argument across.

    Read the last couple of lines for a taste of reality.

  • 44 Raingurl // Jan 22, 2013 at 11:41 am

    @ Chris Keam // Jan 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm #4

    BRAVO! I would NEVER leave my child in a building that could crumble in 60 seconds………..

  • 45 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

    This discussion was almost staying on track until Brilliant waded in with a personal attack.

  • 46 Raingurl // Jan 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments but here is my idea for these treasures………Gut them………keep the facade ………sell off the fixtures, heaters, etc. ( I would LOVE some of these for my house) Use as much of the old wood and windows as you can. (Woodward’s can be used as a model) and I give you permission to use my tax money for this project BUT the buildings need to be used for mixed use housing AND ARTS and ENTERTAINMENT>>> BOOM!

  • 47 waltyss // Jan 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Gee, gman @#43, did you actually read the article you quoted or do you just search for “word bites” that support your pro-car, anti climate change screed.
    Before the last two lines, the author wrote:

    In an analysis published two years ago, Sperling noted that while “Beijing alone now adds nearly 1,500 cars to its roads every day,” China’s rapidly evolving economy makes the country ideally suited to lead the way in developing alternative energy vehicles.

    Calling the country a “hotbed of innovation” that is “well positioned to respond to internal demands and international initiatives,” Sperling pointed out that China is working on small electric cars; is imposing “aggressive” fuel efficiency standards; and is developing innovative public transit systems.
    Moreover bikes may not be the future in Beijing because they are the present and appear to be close to or at saturation point, no-one in their right mind suggests the future is cars. Which is not to say that China and India will not experience an increase in cars; just that cars while symbols of prosperity are far from efficient or sane for mass transportation.

  • 48 Higgins // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Michael K @17
    “Is there no irony in a school system that is trying to teach ‘reduce reuse recycle’ to its students, as part of our Greenest City and Save the Planet ideals, but isn’t able to go the extra distance to practice what it teaches? ”
    I agree with your statement 100%!
    What can I say, school is no longer hip as far as the leadership of Vancouver is concerned. On the other hand, if it was a Tiki Pub with a booze license …

  • 49 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    China should do as it pleases. Other countries should decide where their line in the sand is re: trade with countries that don’t place share the same principles, be they environmental, labour, or legal. We should keep talking about the nexus where earthquake mitigation, architectural preservation, capital budgets and public safety meet. It is, as Brilliant pointed out, an area where we can have an impact.

  • 50 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    ignore ‘place’ in second line of prev. post please.

  • 51 Higgins // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    ha, ha, ha gman!
    I see Waltyss is picking you out from the crowd faster than Hollywood celebrities in a lineup for DUI. :-)

  • 52 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm


    The grown-ups are talking. Take the snark elsewhere. It serves no useful purpose.

  • 53 gman // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Waltyss 47
    Thats all just coulda,shoulda,woulda and doesn’t reflect reality Waltyss.China isn’t innovative they copy and produce what ever they can sell.And like I said the only reason they are pushing mpg standards is out of concern that the world will have to produce an extra 35 million barrels a day,but that doesn’t mean people will purchase electric cars if they can afford a beemer.Its ridiculous to try and hold China up as some shining example of a progressive green society.

  • 54 Higgins // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Chris K #52
    Joined your bro in arms, eh?
    Vision Vancouver’s leadership must be so proud of you boys!

  • 55 gman // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Something a little closer to the topic is that we know school enrollment is falling yet the constant meme is always density,density,density.They constantly warn us about the coming hoards but that doesn’t seem to reflect the reality of falling enrollment.So what really is going on?

  • 56 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I don’t need brothers in arms Higgins. I’m not fighting a war. I speak only for myself, I put my name on the things I say, and I try to make my comments useful and constructive. It ain’t much, but it’s better than being noise in the system such as your comments.


  • 57 Threadkiller // Jan 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    @ Chris Keam #49:
    In a world that is getting smaller and smaller, phrases like “China should do as it pleases” are no longer viable.We can no longer afford to hold laissez-faire attitudes like that. There is no country anywhere that does not share a common responsibility not only to the international community but to our species as a whole and to the species with which we share the planet. This sort of attitude is completely irresponsible in so many ways, but especially in the dual context of geopolitics and the environment.

  • 58 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm


    Please note the sentence the follows the one you quoted. It is my expectation that national leaders will take a principled stance and actually ensure there are some sort of consequences for countries that don’t show a regard for the global community. Yes, a fella can dream.

    I do sense however, that Canada (and all nations frankly) seem reluctant to have other countries impose standards, so as a nation we seem to embody the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ way of thinking. I will also note that any comments I’ve made here or elsewhere on the internet that imaginary boundaries are a pointless exercise in low-level xenophobia are met with a level of resistance and hysteria that would suggest the vast majority of Internet posters work in border security and flag manufacturing.


  • 59 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    “China isn’t innovative they copy and produce what ever they can sell.”

    Do you have a nonsensical sweeping generalization for every country?

  • 60 Richard // Jan 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm


    So we have the right to use many more resources, use much more energy and pollute more per person just because we are Canadian? That is rediculous, unfair and elitist at best. A lot of their energy use, GHG emmissions and pollution comes from factors that produce stuff for us.

    It is really not relevant how many cars they are adding a day now. That is just another meaningless talking point. They are and will likely always be driving a lot less than us.

  • 61 jenables // Jan 22, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    driving a lot less….but then how the devil did the air get so polluted?? there can’t be any other forces at work polluting the air, could there? was it bad luck or could the air quality issues…be caused by..factors other than cars? sacre bleu! Perhaps all that innovation replaced plants with…plants? like power plants?

  • 62 West End Gal // Jan 23, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Richard. You are wrong dear. If you want to make it right, tell our Canadian leaders to pressure our Corporations to bring back our jobs from China, to stop taking our Canadian jobs from under us (see the mining stories in BC) and stop bringing replacement workers for the cheap. And then, maybe you can have a say, on who is polluting what. See, at home you are the ruler, not the Chinese! Was that concise enough for you?

  • 63 gman // Jan 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Well no I don’t Chris because my my comment was short, concise and true.It was your sad attempt at a drive by that is nonsensical.But here are a few things you probably think are innovative.
    -computer hacking and theft of intellectual
    -5 mile wide toxic tailings ponds from rare earth
    -harvesting organs from prisoners and selling
    them on the free market.
    -putting nets around the living quarters of
    abused workers so they can no longer go to the
    roof and jump to their death.(got to keep those
    i-pads coming)
    -shutting all the factories during the Olympics so people could actualy see the events through
    the smog.
    -cutting baby formula with toxic waste to
    increase profits.
    -the one child policy that caused and still is causing the murder of millions of female babies.
    -strict controls of the internet and freedom of speech.
    -ghost cities.

    I could go on Chris but I would hope that even you can get my point.One more little tid bit that will be announced soon is they just bought a set of patents so in the future if a country buys a nuclear reactor it will be stamped MADE IN CHINA. But not to worry Chris,with their attention to detail and their great ethics Im sure everything will be just fine.

  • 64 gman // Jan 23, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Richard 61,
    What are you going on about? Your comment is nothing but a bunch of made up emotional drivel that you try to tag me with.I said none of the things you just made up.The fact is you were wrong in your use of per capita numbers and I pointed it out.
    You are wrong to suggest people are going back to the bike,they said it themselves.
    Then you say it doesn’t matter how many cars they add everyday,then what the hell are you talking about?Everything you said was wrong or a misrepresentation of the facts.

  • 65 F.H.Leghorn // Jan 23, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Re: patents on nuclear reactors. It is a little-known fact that the patent on all reactor technology was held by Enrico Fermi (the bomb was just a sideline).
    As to future sales of reactors, the picture is unclear. Who will buy them? Probably not Japan or Germany. Canada manufacturers its own brand (CANDU) and would be a competitor. Most governments are bankrupt and unlikely to embark on multi-billion dollar schemes to buy devices which carry such an expensive risk, a risk which makes them too costly to insure and which produce large volumes of a deadly waste for which there is currently no practical means of disposal or even long-term storage. China (and possibly Iran) is the only nation with a reactor program and will likely regret the decision sooner rather than later.
    The real purpose of reactor technology is not electrical generation but has always been and continues to be the production of materials for nuclear weapons.Finally, as Einstein pointed out, nuclear reactors are a stupid way to boil water.

  • 66 gman // Jan 23, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I don’t disagree with what you say but am curious why they would purchase these patents.They more than likely will be used domestically and not for export.And that begs the question , how will they deal with the waste?
    But they did build one heck of a wall.

  • 67 waltyss // Jan 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Oh my god. What started as a thoughtful discussion on updating old schools has degeneraated into a not so thoughtful discussion on patents on nuclear reactors and how awful the Chinese government is.
    Are we to conclude that the naysayers (that is you, gman, Higgins and Foghorn Leghorn) want Chinese prisoners to update our schools and then install patented CANDU nuclear reactors in the old schools and sell the power.
    Or alternatively that you have nothing to contribute to the topic at hand.

  • 68 F.H.Leghorn // Jan 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    @waltyss: “nothing to contribute”? See #8 above.

  • 69 F.H.Leghorn // Jan 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Knock-knock joke

    Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton enters the Oval Office as President Obama puts out a Camel and asks her to sit down.

    SS: Good morning Mr. President.

    O: What’s on your mind, Hil?

    SS: He’s here, Sir.

    O: He’s here?

    SS: Not Hee, Sir. Hu.

    O: Who?

    SS: Yessir.

    O: What?

    SS: Not Wot, Sir, Hu.

    O: Who?

    SS: Yes, Sir.

    O: Who’s here?

    SS: Yessir.

    O: Who?

    SS: Yessir. He’s here.

    O: He’s here?

    SS: Not Hee, Sir. Hu.

    O: Who?

    SS: That’s right.

    O: Who’s here?

    SS: Yessir. President Hu.

    O: I don’t know. Who?

    SS: That’s right, Sir.

    O: Whoa.

    SS: Not Wo, Sir. Hu.

    O: He who?

    SS: No, Sir. Hi Hu is Hu’s wife. She’s not here.

    O: Who’s not here?

    SS: No, Hu’s here, but Hi Hu is not.

    O: Hold it, who’s the President here?

    SS: No, You are the President here. Hu is the President there.

    O: Who is?

    SS: That’s correct, Sir.


  • 70 brilliant // Jan 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    @Chris Keam 45-Personal attack? No. Merely pointing out the dichotomy between those who go all doe-eyed over Gregor the Green for bringing in bike lanes while conveniently ignoring how he has provided over one of the largest periods of gratuitous demolition and dumping in Vancouver’s built history.

    You’ve ably defended your passion bikes but not your wish to see these huge buildings sent to a landfill for the sake of saving a few bucks. My god, take a look at the size of these buildings and picture how much space they devour at Ashcroft. “The greenest building is one that’s already built”, yet Vision has presided over the mass destruction of thousands of perfectly habitable homes in favour of monstrosities that are either unoccupied or underoccupied. How “green” is that?

  • 71 boohoo // Jan 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you own a lot, is there anything the City could do to prevent you from tearing down your old bungalow and building some big gaudy house, provided it meets and the zoning/bylaw requirements?

    I don’t think there is, so blaming the current administration or any for that seems like a stretch.

  • 72 gman // Jan 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    FHL 70

  • 73 Chris Keam // Jan 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm


    Don’t misinterpret my questioning of your broad brush approach to entire nations as Sino-philia.

    You’ve hopelessly conflated a bunch of issues, assumed the Mayor has a say on things that are outside his scope, and absolutely made it personal, instead of actually discussing the issue, which is finding a balance between preserving examples of old architecture, and ensuring a safe, effective learning environment for children. It’s a discussion, not a debate. Stop trying to ‘win’ the argument ferchrissakes, step back, take a deep breath, and see if there’s a solution or constructive comment you can offer.

  • 74 brilliant // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    @boohoo 71-If there’s ONE thing the Mayor & Council do have control of, it is zoning. So rather than take quixotic runs at global issurs like climate change, why not focus on municipal ones? Limit new builds to 110% the size of the existing structure or waive development fees for renos that retain 90% of
    an existing structure. I’d be happy to see my
    taxes go down as a result of decreased pressure on landfills.

  • 75 brilliant // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    @Chris Keam 73- see above. Your’re saying zoning issues are outside the mayor’s job scope but climate change isn’t? Then lets hope Gregor makes the rumoured leap to federal politics so his talents aren’t wasted.

    BTW debate and discussion go hand in hand.

  • 76 Chris Keam // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    No, I’m saying that the topic here is seismic upgrading of schools. I’m saying we might cleave a little closer to the question being asked at the top of the page. I’m pointing out that constantly trying to catch people in some imagined ideological contradiction only pollutes the well.

    The Mayoral mono-mania exhibited by you and yours only highlights the lack of productive ideas and solutions you are willing to bring to the table for debate and discussion. All you want to do (or so it appears) is tear down others. It’s boring and small-minded. It reflects poorly on your efforts to unseat the current administration, and if you were to be objective about it, draws no one to your cause and strengthens those you oppose.

    At best you chaps and lassies are essentially doing a bad job of executing a poorly-thought strategy. At worst, you are actively trying to prevent the creation of a positive space where people can share ideas, identify solutions, and find common ground.

  • 77 gman // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    CK 74,
    You say “Don’t misinterpret my questioning of your broad brush approach to entire nations as Sino-philia. ”
    Nice word Chris,but in what context are you using it.
    -someone who has a love of China
    -someone who has a great knowledge of China
    If your saying you’re not a sinophile then I guess that means you have neither a love or knowledge of the country. Just asking.

  • 78 Chris Keam // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I’m using it in the context of making it clear that questioning your ridiculous generalizations of an entire country doesn’t mean I am a fan of its policies. Is that clear enough for you? Now, can we move past this incredibly boring obsession with my comments? If I were an egotist I would think you fear my influence.

  • 79 Everyman // Jan 24, 2013 at 12:12 am

    @Chris Keam 76
    But that is part of the appeal of the internet isn’t it? The wild careening from one thing to another?

    Be that as it may, Vancouver does have a sorry record of heritage preservation. Since the 1970’s heyday which saw the Orpheum, Sinclair Centre and Heritage Hall preserved it seems to have gone downhill. I was reminded of that when shopping at the new Best Buy in South Vancouver on SW Marine. The brick facade of the old Chrysler parts warehouse is rather incongruously stuck on a big box power centre. The warehouse itself with its interesting glazing is long gone and the whole concoction sits about 100 metres back from the road, which is deadly for retail.

    Speaking of lost homes, waltyss might find this blog interesting:
    Shame the author seems to be packing it in, as it is nice to have a chronicle of the past.

  • 80 gman // Jan 24, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Just to be clear Chris it was you who decided to pile on as usual when I pointed out what Richard said was bunk,so I guess you’re the one that in fact is obsessed with my comments.And your explanation of context is not even connected to my question or the word you used,so no Chris that doesn’t really clarify anything.Then you go on and infer that I somehow fear your influence,well Chris I had no idea you had any great influence but now that you bring it up what influence do you have and does your influence include some kind of paycheck.
    Also, as far as me taking this thread off topic I would refer you back to my comment at #55 where I attempted to put it back on topic.
    Just to be clear,you got that Chris?

  • 81 jenables // Jan 24, 2013 at 3:36 am

    I just read that entire Dunbar blog, as aware and frustrated as I usually am to see what has happened to my hometown, this drives it home. so heartbreaking, all these little houses with front or backyards,gardens, heritage details, CHARM, history and the good feeling of something that had been taken care of survived many years because it was meaningful and precious to someone… at some point. I would have taken care of any one of them. All of those homes once were utilized by people who raised families, worked and lived in the community, and spent their disposable money in the community, enabling others to do the same. I feel so scammed, though I love my neighborhood, my walk up and my landlady who provides affordable housing with zero fanfare, and always has. her husband was my landlord originally, he passed away on Christmas in 2007. I’d heard he had offers on the property but didn’t want to sell it because he thought it would be bad for the neighborhood. he started here with nothing and accomplished so much – one of his daughters noted how hard he worked his whole life to keep improving his English, and his wife continues to manage the building in his spirit. I have to remember how much these people have made a difference in my life, and that there are genuine and good people out there who truly make a difference and ask for nothing in return.(I would see her sweeping the carpets in the halls, or doing various things and she has always refused my offers to help – I later realized that after working hard her entire life and raising six children that staying busy is probably very natural, vital and healthy so I don’t interfere:) thank you Mr huey and Mrs Huey, for that desperately needed reminder and all the kindness you’ve shown me. I digress, but it’s relevant and it contrasts so sharply with today’s flip it and displace attitude today.

  • 82 jenables // Jan 24, 2013 at 3:38 am

    dolphin is a terrible mobile browser to write comments on for this site, by the way. that was agonizing. I like it for other things though.

  • 83 Chris Keam // Jan 24, 2013 at 7:07 am

    “I would refer you back to my comment at #55 where I attempted to put it back on topic.”

    Just to be clear gman… you haven’t provided a single comment related to seismic upgrading. If you want to bring the thread back on topic, that’s what we’re talking about. Do share your thoughts. I for one can’t wait to hear the pearls of wisdom you are dying to share.

  • 84 Chris Keam // Jan 24, 2013 at 7:15 am

    “And your explanation of context is not even connected to my question or the word you used,so no Chris that doesn’t really clarify anything.”

    I dumbed it down as much as I could gman. Next time I’ll use finger puppets.

  • 85 Chris Keam // Jan 24, 2013 at 8:06 am

    BTW, I’m stepping out of this thread to get paying work done. So, silence isn’t me ignoring whatever riposte you’ll send my way next gman. It’s common sense prevailing.

    (Actually it’s a ruse. My comments weren’t sufficiently doctrinaire in this thread, so I’ve been recalled (something about a faulty chip sending signals to think for myself)

    ‘There’s no pain, there’s a wire in my brain’ – “Wirehead – Wasted Lives, from the album Vancouver Complications, 1979

  • 86 spartikus // Jan 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I’m pretty sure this so-called “earthquake threat” is an overblown invention of the Seismic Fascist movement and their friend, Al G0re.

    George Soros is involved too, I’m told.

  • 87 Jan Pierce // Jan 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

    In terms of retaining our older homes throughout the city, it is possible through some creative zoning strategies to tip the balance away from demolition and towards renovation and reuse. Incentives such as FSR relaxations for low basements or covered porch areas in existing older houses and sticks such as reducing allowable FSR for new developments that involve demolition of character houses are both tools that have been used. It would also be possible to have laneway houses only available if the original house is retained.
    It might even help if there were stronger requirements for sale and recycling of all materials in the case of a demolition.
    These zoning tools are within the powers of city council.

  • 88 Everyman // Jan 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    @jenables 81
    Yes, it is a shame to see so many nice homes gone when still perfectly livable.

    Frances, might I be so bold as to suggest a piece on the topic, maybe an interview with that blog’s creator?

  • 89 A Dave // Jan 25, 2013 at 1:36 am

    While I certainly do not relish the prospect of yet another class of historic buildings being demolished, and hope that the narrow justifications of cost and expediency are exposed as bunk, I have to admit that I have quite enjoyed watching Chris Keam and Richard get demolished on this thread!

  • 90 Chris Keam // Jan 25, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Might want to lay off the bong and reread A Dave. ;-)

  • 91 rmac // Jan 25, 2013 at 9:38 am

    General Gordon Elementary has lost whatever character it had (I, my four brothers and sisters as well as our father and three aunts and uncles attended it). The windows were partially filled in years ago during the energy crisis of the seventies so the large rooms are now dark , the western end of the school was renovated into a library and a nasty little cafeteria/multi-purpose room was added to the south side of the building. Add the general unpleasantness of the building to the fact that the only bathrooms are in the basement and are truly creepy and you get a building that has outlived its usefulness.

  • 92 Jan Pierce // Jan 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    There is no doubt that the windows of General Gordon have been replaced and several additions to the back were made over the years. However, during the type of seismic upgrading processes being considered by the VSB, interiors are completely reconfigured and new energy efficient windows would be installed. The original brick structure is quite intact. Other advantages are that the heritage design minimized the footprint of the building on the small schoolyard and provided wide hallways and larger classrooms than the new school.
    Also, heritage schools, in the end after renovation, are seismically upgraded to high and safe standards. It was never an option to keep the school as it is as it is not currently safe.
    One option (that was the choice of the Planning Department) was to keep and restore the oldest part of the school at the west end and reuse it as office and library and then rebuild the rest of the school. This would have kept some of the heritage value and was not much more expensive than the total demolition that is the current choice. It would possibly be even cheaper if the School Board has now found swing space that will eliminate the need for portables.

  • 93 Jan Pierce // Jan 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    And there are numerous alumni that I know who are very upset about the loss of their old school.

  • 94 gman // Jan 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    WOW Chris even an eight year old only has to stick a fork in a toaster once and they quickly learn not to do it again……..but I’m afraid you’re full on delusional.I think you need help Chris.

  • 95 A Dave // Jan 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Actually, Chris @90; I was enjoying a nice whiskey last night while I read the thread. But maybe one needs to start smoking pot to grasp the relevance of your plethora of comments?

    BTW, the digression (which wasn’t off topic at all) was not started by gman or brilliant or the other “chaps and lassies who are trying to “unseat the current administration” (!?) as you claim, but by the very knowledgeable and thoughful commentator, Michael Kluckner, way back @ #17. He wrote:

    “The real stumbling point in the school debate in Vancouver is the question of “equivalency”: there is no value placed on the old schools’ venerability, that they’ve already lasted a century, and the old schools have to compete in a cost-comparison with much cheaper newer buildings that have life-expectancies of perhaps 40 years.

    “Is there no irony in a school system that is trying to teach ‘reduce reuse recycle’ to its students, as part of our Greenest City and Save the Planet ideals, but isn’t able to go the extra distance to practice what it teaches?”

    Apparently, you guys don’t see the irony.

    But doesn’t it make you pause when the COV boasts about setting a new record with $1.1 billion in new building permits last year, while also claiming to also be the Greenest City on the continent? So we can tear the city down and build it up again every year for the next 40 years and still brand ourselves as North America’s Greenest City every year? Awesome, dude! Ka-ching!

    The demolish/build cycle certainly creates a significant amount of GHG emissions, material waste and pollution on the demolition side, and consumes a huge amount of raw materials, water and energy on the build side. This is especially true of the large mega-project rezonings, which seem to be the specialty of this Council (Rize, Marine Gateway, Oakridge, etc.).

    Yet urban environmental researchers like the Siteline Institute don’t even consider the massive environmental costs of demolition/construction when they compare and rank cities each year. (Maybe they should call themselves the “OverSiteline Institute.”)

    Most alarmingly, as the previous threads on the Waldorf make clear, the last decade has also seen an unprecedented number of heritage buildings, cultural spaces, and community recreation facilities (pools, rinks, theatres, churches) fall to the wrecking ball. In a city that has grown as rapidly as Vancouver, a 1:1 replacement rate equals a net loss in capacity, but we have not even come close to 1:1.

    How do these losses affect our long-term quality of life and the livability of our city? Why shouldn’t we be skeptical when social capacity is given much less consideration than, say, walkability scores or kms of bike lanes?

    I, for one, think that pointing out this inconsistency in the Greenest City paradigm constitutes very constructive criticism, and is definitely worthy of discussion by anyone who cares about land-use policies in relation to urban environmental issues.

    Rather than trying to undermine critics by attacking them as “boring and small minded”, or copping-out of any responsibility by parsing words and definitions, or pretending this doesn’t actually matter to the environment, I hope Vancouver’s progressive Council will address this rather gaping hole in their credibility, and consider how their brand of “green” policies could (and should) be encouraging and rewarding “reducing, re-using, recycling” buildings – including the rapidly dwindling number with historical, architectural or social significance.

    Does it not make perfect sense that conservation and preservation would be a cornerstone policy of a civic administration that brands itself as “green”?

    But as former city planners like Trish French and Brent Toderian make clear, without clear political leadership on these land-use and zoning issues, don’t expect much to really change.

  • 96 Chris Keam // Jan 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    @A Dave:
    comment #16
    “Preserve if functionality (quality of construction) warrants but don’t idolize old buildings that are old and out of date just because.”

    Comment #20
    ” I did make a point of saying that if functionality and safety aren’t compromised I have no problem with keeping old buildings.”

  • 97 Chris Keam // Jan 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

    “The demolish/build cycle certainly creates a significant amount of GHG emissions, material waste and pollution on the demolition side, and consumes a huge amount of raw materials, water and energy on the build side.”

    No doubt. We should be looking at ways of deconstructing the old buildings in a way that materials can be re-used and re-cycled, and mandating that new ones can be taken apart easily. One of the advantages of new buildings would be the ability to design re-use into the plan at the outset in the same way Volvo now builds cars:

    The other up-side is that it’s labour intensive and will create local employment, instead of hiring a few men and machines to just knock down buildings into rubble. I’m not an architect but I expect the raw materials of century old buildings might be marketable?

  • 98 A Dave // Jan 28, 2013 at 1:12 am

    “I expect the raw materials of century old buildings might be marketable?”

    Marketable? Gawd. We’re not talking about scrap Volvo parts here, we’re talking about our city’s heritage buildings. Our history.

    They preserved some of the interior decoration of the Pantages. I guess it sits in some warehouse somewhere now. Feel better? And sure, many of the bricks in these old buildings are preserved and reused, but isn’t the civic value of a preserved heritage building exponentially greater than some of its scattered parts?

    And, as an example of my earlier argument regarding the environmental cost, the Pantages demolition created an immense amount of air pollution in the immediate neighbourhood for months. After a protracted battle with local residents and businesses, the City finally conceded this and forced the developer to clean it up for health and safety concerns.

    But again, this very significant amount of toxic pollution (multiplied over every demo/build site in the city) is never accounted for on the Greenest City balance sheet. The GHG emissions from over $1 billion in construction each year aren’t even counted!

  • 99 jenables // Jan 28, 2013 at 4:51 am

    a dave, you are my hero. that is my point exactly. during some research on demolition permits issued(974 in 2011 and over a thousand from Jan-nov 2012 – once December info is available I’m sure it will be on average three per day in 2012) i stumbled upon a site, can’t remember if it was a city of Vancouver site or not, but it had bar graphs showing causes of air pollution and I noticed in the fine print that construction had been left out..why?? I can’t help but notice these ridiculous inconsistencies when it comes to the “greening” of our city. even happy planet, i mean, what company that cared about the planet would package their product in questionable plastic that obviously leaches into the beverage? why not just use glass bottles? speaking of which why not provide really kick ass recycling for businesses and residents? (cue long winded speech about the everything bin) and why be so insecure about what you are doing that you put more money and energy into advertising the desire to be the greenest city in the world(does anyone actually care about that? is it a contest? is first prize being the most smug?) than producing tangible results for the taxpayers. if only they could think in the context of what the people want and need to make their lives better, easier and safer. goodbye schools, hell, goodbye to all heritage, goodbye small businesses, goodbye little
    houses with backyards, goodbye lawns, goodbye viaducts, hello congestion and more ugly, hastily constructed half empty condo towers, hello to square footage in the dtes hitting over $4/sq foot and hello to more trees in tiny holes surrounded by cement. this city needs a new pimp. a Dave for mayor!!

  • 100 Chris Keam // Jan 29, 2013 at 8:19 am

    “We’re not talking about scrap Volvo parts here, we’re talking about our city’s heritage buildings. Our history.”

    Slight digression, but I feel our history is our people and stories, not necessarily our buildings, which to paraphrase, in this instance are machines for teaching. Their function should override their form. Part of living in society is accepting that not everyone shares the same values or veneration of a particular artifact. Haranguing someone because they may not feel they need buildings as totems to the past isn’t helping find a solution. With that in mind — recycling some of the older schools, esp those with the most high-value materials could conceivably help preserve a few emblematic examples of the period, in keeping with the question posed in Frances’ story.

    I do think it’s fair to question the criticism of the School Board and Council in this regard. I don’t know the answer to this question, but how are we doing as a city… in comparison to other cities? That, to me is a better assessment of our progress in greening the building and demolition of major municipal structures. For all I know we’re leading the pack. Maybe not. But to be fair, it’s been less than a decade of this particular Council (to mark the start by Robertson’s first mayoral election). Are we really taking the to task for failing to revamp the entire construction industry in this time?


  • 101 Chris Keam // Jan 29, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Oops, I clicked submit when I meant to highlight and delete the ‘however’. Sorry.

  • 102 brilliant // Jan 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

    @Chris Keam 100-In a word: Bosh!

    Do you think millions travel to Europe to break down the door of Mr Smyth-Jones or Frau Wurtzmuller and insist to “hear their stories” They go for the historic atmosphere that built history provides. Imagine how exciting the streets of Prague would be if they featured nothing but Vancouver’s banal developer driven architecture.

  • 103 Chris Keam // Jan 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Let me reiterate:

    “Part of living in society is accepting that not everyone shares the same values or veneration of a particular artifact. Haranguing someone because they may not feel they need buildings as totems to the past isn’t helping find a solution. ”

    Now, do you have any constructive, solutions-based comments to add Brilliant, or just more criticism of one man’s opinion?

  • 104 Chris Keam // Jan 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    BTW, how many schools on the Grand tour of Prague?

    Also, please point me to the Tourism Vancouver ‘come see our 100 year old buildings’ campaign. The reality, given our geography, is that most of these buildings will be earthquake rubble long before they are tourist attractions.

  • 105 jenables // Jan 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    yikes, that is some dark and fatalistic thinking. guess we’ll never be the greenest city by 2020 then. city’s just gonna get destroyed, so why bother trying… right? btw, have you seen what for example, st Paul’s in London has survived? it’s still standing somehow. maybe the big one will happen in the next hundred years. maybe it won’t. razing the city trying to be smart about it seems like a ridiculous, wasteful and scornful way to live. mind you, fear has always been the best tool for control.

  • 106 Chris Keam // Jan 30, 2013 at 7:36 am


    You might want to consider the differences between seismic conditions in London and in Vancouver.

    Nothing over 6.1 in recorded history.

    And again, can we realistically expect these schools will become tourist attractions?

    Nobody’s talking about razing the city. Geez, try to debate with a fair representation of the other person’s p.o.v. please.

  • 107 jenables // Jan 31, 2013 at 1:48 am

    it survived the blitz, Chris. I know that’s not the same thing as an earthquake. I and many other people believe these old buildings have historical value to US, the people that live here, not as a tourist attraction. sometimes it is nice to look around and see something from the past that had lived through all kinds of fads and remained the same. the city would look like yaletown otherwise, it would be like living in an architect’s 3d model. (Sorry yaletown, I’m not really a fan of you, just my opinion) Chris, I’m not trying to misrepresent your opinion, it’s just that when the city is handing out three demolition permits a day it starts to feel like it is being razed, so pardon my hyperbole.

  • 108 jenables // Jan 31, 2013 at 1:48 am

    it survived the blitz, Chris. I know that’s not the same thing as an earthquake. I and many other people believe these old buildings have historical value to US, the people that live here, not as a tourist attraction. sometimes it is nice to look around and see something from the past that had lived through all kinds of fads and remained the same. the city would look like yaletown otherwise, it would be like living in an architect’s 3d model. (Sorry yaletown, I’m not really a fan of you, just my opinion) Chris, I’m not trying to misrepresent your opinion, it’s just that when the city is handing out three demolition permits a day it starts to feel like it is being razed, so pardon my hyperbole.

  • 109 jenables // Jan 31, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    oops, sorry about that.

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