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Open Letter Calling for Stay of Demolition: 437, 439, 441 Powell Street

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hello Friends and Neighbours,
I've just returned from a press conference regarding a 122 year old building under threat of demolition THIS COMING MONDAY. Present were several generations of Chinese-Canadians and Japanese-Canadians, as well as a younger generation of artists and housing activists who explained their frustration over the fate of a well maintained and historically significant building that has been providing Single Resident Accommodation and affordable artist space.

Please read my open letter to the City below. If you are able and concerned, please write Concerned residents including Chinese-Canadian elders will be onsite Monday morning to block demolition as necessary. Strathconans are encouraged to attend. - Pete Fry, Chair

Demolition near for 122-year-old building in Vancouver's old Japantown (Vancouver Sun)
Historic Japantown building to be demolished in Vancouver (CBC)
Century-old Ming Sun Benevolent Society building to be demolished (Georgia Straight)

Open Letter Calling for Stay of Demolition: 437, 439, 441 Powell Street

December 6, 2013

City of Vancouver
453 W 12th Ave
Vancouver BC
V5Y 1V4

Mayor and Council, 
Dr. Penny Ballem, Manager, City of Vancouver

CC Janet Leduc, Heritage Vancouver
CC SRA Council and General Membership

re: Open Letter Calling for Stay of Demolition: 437, 439, 441 Powell Street

Dear Council, Mayor, Dr. Ballem,

I have just returned from a press conference at the Japanese Language School, with several generations of Chinese-Canadians, Japanese-Canadians, First Nations, Artists and Downtown Eastsiders to learn the fate of the above addressed 122 year old building.

I was extremely disappointed to learn that despite a passing grade from a structural engineer hired by the Ming Sun Benevolent Society, the City seems intent on demolishing this historic and cultural asset. I was further disappointed to learn that the demolition order is largely based on the removal of a non-structural brick veneer, which was damaged in the City's hasty demolition of the neighbouring building owned by a man with an admitted desire to 'develop the block' *

In additional details provided by two generations of the Wong family, it sounds very much like the City and its legal and building departments have obfuscated the facts surrounding this situation and let down these citizens who believed they were negotiating in good faith as indeed most ratepayer should and do. Further damage to the building in what can only be described as very deliberate vandalism has resulted from the City's order to vacate, and subsequent failure to secure the premises. At the very least there needs to be more thorough disclosure and transparency if not an outright forensic investigation before any demolition action (ordered for this Monday, December 9).

It is abundantly clear that this building is important to both Nikkei Heritage and the history of Saltwater City, and as we develop a Local Area Plan for the Downtown Eastside is precisely the kind of local asset our communities seek to preserve, honour and respect. It seems to me that the City and process have failed our citizens quite badly in this case.

I urge our elected officials and city staff to recognize the important historic and ongoing cultural and societal benefits the Ming Sun provides through affordable housing and artist space and work with the Society to help preserve this important asset to the community.

Pete Fry — Chair, Strathcona Residents' Association / SRA Rep DTES LAPP Committee
CC: Janet Leduc, Heritage Vancouver
CC: SRA Council, General Membership