Agenda Index City of Vancouver



Vancouver City Council


Director of Current Planning


211 Columbia Street - Designation and Heritage Revitalization Agreement





The Transfer of Density Policy and Procedure allows for the transfer of density from heritage sites to receiver sites.


The purpose of this report is to seek Council's support for a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) and Heritage By-law designation to secure the conservation and municipal protection of the "C" listed heritage building at 211 Columbia Street which is to be rehabilitated for office use.


The building at 211 Columbia Street is located at the south-west corner of Powell and Columbia Streets in the eastern part of Gastown. Development Permit DE404014 has been approved subject to certain conditions. The Development Permit will permit the rehabilitation of the building and its conversion to office use. The building has been used for warehousing and retail over the years, but has been vacant for many years.

On March 30, 2000, City Council approved the building's eligibility for a heritage density bonus. Council also agreed that the Central Area be considered an appropriate location for a receiver site(s).

To assist with the heritage building rehabilitation and to assure its long term conservation, the applicant has requested a density bonus of 37,200 sq. ft. to be transferred off the heritage site. If the bonus is approved and the HRA established, the density would be held on-site until rehabilitation is complete. This bonus density is the subject of the request for Council's approval.


Heritage Value: 211 Columbia is a good example of the early Commercial style. The original two storey brick building was constructed before 1900 and features stone-accented continuous piers to a stepped brick area under the cornice. In about 1910, a three storey building was added to the north of the original building. It is a less elaborate structure, but is compatible as both have matching cornices and continuous piers rising to a stepped brick area. This amalgamated building is listed in the "C" category on the Vancouver Heritage Register. Importantly, it is part of the historic Gastown area, which contains a significant concentration of warehouse and hotel buildings from the turn of the last century.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement: The HRA recommended to Council would achieve the following:
· secure the protection and continued maintenance of the structure and exterior of the building;
· supplement the HA-2 zoning to permit a density bonus of 37,200 sq. ft., for transfer off-site;
· limit the density on-site to that 'as built'; and
· permit the City to install a heritage plaque on the building.

The bonus amount of 37,200 sq. ft. is to compensate the owner for the costs of retaining and upgrading the heritage building and foregoing additional development rights. The Manager of Real Estate Services has reviewed the applicant's pro-forma analysis and concluded that the bonus amount is justified. The owner is prepared to enter into the agreement and has agreed that the density bonus requested is adequate compensation for the municipal designation of the building and the obligations under the HRA.

Comments of the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee: At its meeting on February 16, 2000, the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee resolved:

At its meeting, the Committee raised a number of issues regarding the proposed restoration plan. Subsequently, staff worked with the applicant to address the issues raised through additional research and a revised restoration plan as outlined in the following section.

Rehabilitation Work: The applicant is committed to the following restoration work. All upper floor windows in the two storey structure are original and will be retained and repaired. All remaining windows and doors are not original and therefore will be replaced with new replicas of the originals based on historic photographs. All wood elements will be painted the original dark green colour identified through colour research. The parapet will be repaired and refinished with a sand finish coating to match original sandstone elements in the building. The sandstone that has deteriorated will be scraped down to sound material and removed stone will be reconstituted in a patching compound for rebuilding deteriorated areas. Granite surfaces will be cleaned using low pressure wash. Brick facades will be repointed with soft mortar and protected with a semi-permeable clear coating.

In addition to the restoration work, Development Application DE404014 will also allow the change of use of the building from retail/warehouse to office. A new front entry will be created, opening onto the former right-of-way. The building will be seismically upgraded.
Designation: The building at 211 Columbia was designated, along with many other buildings in Gastown and Chinatown, by the Provincial government in 1971.
Subsequently the province delegated the authority to approve alterations to these heritage resources to the City of Vancouver Director of Planning. To be consistent with other revitalization arrangements entered into by the City, municipal designation under the Heritage By-law is recommended. Municipal designation will provide the benefit of having both the heritage protection and permitting authority at the municipal level.

Notification: In accordance with the Vancouver Charter Public Hearing provisions, a newspaper ad was placed in two consecutive issues of a local newspaper.


The proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement would reward the owner for the preservation of this character building in Gastown, further contributing to this historic area's long term revitalization. Its long term protection would be secured through the approval of a transferable density bonus. It is therefore recommended that Council authorize the HRA and municipally designate the building as protected heritage property.

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