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Developers' Vision Decision Shoves out Seniors, Artists

by murray bush - flux photo

Seniors at a Dec 5 press conference
Seniors at a Dec 5 press conference
Locked front door
 Developers' Vision Decision Shoves out Seniors, Artists
 Developers' Vision Decision Shoves out Seniors, Artists
Damage included 'suspicious' things like tearing holes in floors and ceiling.
Copper pipes and wire were targeted as well
Hidden architectural feature
 Developers' Vision Decision Shoves out Seniors, Artists
Building advocate David Wong, left, and Instant Coffee artist Jinhan Ko
The brick veneer had to be removed 'for safety' after the building next door was demolished
Ransacked society office

COAST SALISH TERRITORY - The 122-year-old home to a Chinese benevolent society, artists' collective and affordable housing is facing demolition instead of preservation. The Chinese seniors that run the Ming Sun Benevolent Society at 439 Powell blame the Vancouver Vision Council for breaking its own rules and bylaws. The crisis comes as the City is debating a Heritage Action Plan to preserve historical buildings.

Ming Sun spokesperson David Wong explained that the City had the building next door demolished without consultation -  jeopardizing the structural integrity of their building. But instead of working with them to preserve the building and keep it as a clean housing for low-income people and artists' studio and society meeting place - the city wants it torn down as well. The seniors say the lots on both sides of the building are owned by a local businessman who has made several offers to buy them out and who wants to redevelop the three lots as one site.

The society was forced to close the building and the tenants were forced to leave. There were eight single occupancy units that rented for under $300 a month. The closure brought extreme vandalism that has put the whole building's future in doubt. The city issued a demolition order three weeks ago that could be carried out as early as Monday. The society says it has had the building tested and even with the vandalism damage it is still structurally sound.

The City, says Wong,  "has put great pressure on us to tear down a building that we have maintained and cared for and which housed our historical archive. We don't want to tear it down. We feel betrayed by the City. Our tenants feel betrayed." Wong said they have reports that prove the building can be saved but that the City has not been interested.

Jinhan Ko, a spokesperson for the Instant Coffee art collective that has been housed on the main floor of the building for several years, said "The whole process was suspect from the beginning - and now we are left with less space for artists in Vancouver. We are already losing artists at a rapid pace..."

The seniors are calling on the City to halt the demolition order immediately and pony up the costs they have incurred through damage to the building they say was caused by the city's decisions.

The City has said the building is now unsafe and it will not halt the demolition order. On Friday it said the society has to provide an engineer's report before Monday in order to stave off demolition.

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