Date: May 21, 1997Dept. File
   No.  GMcG
                                            C.C. File No.: 5051-1

   TO:       Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment

   FROM:     Director of Land Use & Development

   SUBJECT:  Heritage Revitalization Agreement - Bowmac Sign


        A.   THAT Council acknowledge that  the Bowmac sign at 1154  - 1176
             West  Broadway has  sufficient heritage  value to  justify its
             conservation, and

        B.   THAT Council  authorize  the City  to  enter into  a  Heritage
             Revitalization  Agreement with the owner of the site at 1154 -
             1176  West  Broadway to  vary the  Sign  By-law to  permit the
             continued  use and addition of  new sign text  to the existing
             non-conforming Bowmac sign  and to  secure its  rehabilitation
             and  maintenance for the duration  of the Toys   R  Us tenancy
             lease, and 

        C.   THAT the Agreement include a provision permitting the  City to
             restrict  the level of illumination or the times that the sign
             is illuminated between the  hours  of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
             or both, in order to lessen the impact on the neighbours, and 

        D.   FURTHER  THAT the  Director of Legal  Services be  directed to
             bring   forward   the    by-law   authorizing   the   Heritage
             Revitalization Agreement.


        The General Manager of  Community Services recommends A, B,  C, and


        There is no applicable Council Policy. 


   The purpose of this  report is to seek Council approval  to enter into a
   Heritage Revitalization Agreement  (HRA) with the owner  that varies the
   Sign  By-law to permit  the repair and  adaptive re-use of  the landmark
   Bowmac sign  and gives  the  City the  ability  to restrict  the  sign s
   illumination at night.


   Urbanex  Development Corporation  is  constructing a  one-storey  retail
   centre with roof-top parking on the former Bowmac car dealership site at
   the south east corner  of Broadway and Alder Street.  Urbanex approached
   Planning staff in Fall 1996 to retain the existing non-conforming Bowmac
   sign structure and to replace the text with "Toys 'R'  Us". The approach
   was similar  to that used to  transform the sign on  the former Canadian
   National  building, at Main Street and Terminal Avenue, to read "Pacific
   Central".  Further,  the  Bowmac  proposal  also  entailed substantially
   changing the form of illumination and letter font.

   Initially, staff and  Urbanex worked collaboratively, but failed to find
   a mutually agreeable solution that  would retain sufficient character of
   this 1950's  sign and at  the same  time, meet the  tenant s budget  and
   corporate logo requirements. A demolition permit was therefore issued.

   Subsequent discussions led to a new and innovative design concept.  This
   new  design achieves both  parties' objectives and  is the basis  of the
   current Sign Application SI401331, received on April 14, 1997. On May 9,
   1997  the  Director of  Planning  approved  the  application subject  to
   certain conditions. One  condition is that Council approve the requisite
   HRA which will authorize the  significant Sign By-law variances required
   for the re-use of this existing non-conforming sign. If the applicant is
   not successful  in obtaining  a Sign  Permit,  the Bowmac  sign will  be


   Heritage Value 

   The  Bowmac  sign  was  constructed  in  1958  on  Broadway,  which  was
   Vancouver's Auto Row at the  time. A number of car dealers,  notably the
   Dueck and Deely dealerships, had begun erecting a number of increasingly
   large signs to attract attention. The Bowmac dealership countered with a
   29 m (80-foot) high  orange sign illuminated with red  neon and hundreds
   of flashing light bulbs. The background was repainted to the current red
   and blue colours.  It was the tallest structure outside  of Downtown and
   briefly, it was  the largest  freestanding sign in  North America.  When
   illuminated it could be seen as far as 18 miles  away. Apparently, Jimmy
   Patterson was pleased with his first sign which prompted him to purchase
   the company that built it, Neon Products.

   Some  of the  sign s notable  features include:  its colossal  size; its
   extravagant  use of  1950's  technology (i.e.,  over 1,200  incandescent
   light  bulbs and  extensive  neon lighting);  the characteristic  1950's
   letter font; and the Las Vegas style marquee base with kinetic lighting.
   The Bowmac sign  is an icon  of the era  when Vancouver, because of  its
   significant number of artistic neon signs,  was referred to as the "neon
   capital of North  America".  The Bowmac sign is  distinct from the other
   neon signs.  It is a city landmark because of its size and  its position
   on the West Broadway route.   
   Council  has no  policy  on the  conservation  of historic  signs.  Some
   precedents include: Council approving the  adaptive re-use of the former
   "Canadian  National" neon sign; and the preservation of the "Dunns" neon
   sign in  its  new location  at Granville  and Pender  Street. Staff  are
   currently working with some Council members to restore the "Ho  Ho" sign
   in Chinatown.

   Staff put forth RECOMMENDATION A to formally acknowledge that the Bowmac
   sign has  sufficient heritage  value  to warrant  its conservation,  and
   therefore, enable it to be the subject of a HRA.

   Sign Application Proposal 

   Sign Application SI401331,  proposing the adaptive re-use of  the Bowmac
   sign,  achieves  the  following objectives  set  out  by  staff and  the

        1)   retain  the  integrity of  the  original sign  and  its 1950's
             technological character;
        2)   limit  the  level of  illumination  to  not negatively  impact
             neighbouring residents;
        3)   incorporate Toys  'R' Us corporate  logo as  the incentive  to
             retain and refurbish the historic sign; and
        4)   adhere to an established budget.

   The proposal involves retention and repair of the existing free-standing
   sign, addition of a new layer of text in front of and partially covering
   a  portion of  the Bowmac  sign and reconstruction  of the  marquee (see
   drawings Appendix A).

   The new proposal preserves the old  sign as an artifact. The sheet metal
   cladding of  the vertical sign  would be repaired  and repainted  to the
   colours  existing  today. The  letters spelling  out  "BOW MAC"  will be
   preserved,  but  not self-illuminated.  The  letters  will be  partially
   covered by a highly perforated 3/4 inch metal screen which will, in turn
   bear the Toys 'R' Us logo.  The individual Toys 'R' Us letters would  be
   in the  corporate primary colours  and be   internally self-illuminated.
   Night lighting  for the Bowmac letters would be provided by an even wash
   of front lighting.

   The marquee beneath the vertical portion  of the sign will be recreated,
   although it would be attached to the low-rise building that is currently
   under construction. The neon tubing at the front of the marquee would be
   replaced by fibre optic tubes which will be capable of reproducing  much
   of the original kinetic lighting effect, but with more colours. 

   Heritage Revitalization Agreement 

   Legal Services has advised  that the Sign By-law provisions  relevant to
   the proposed utilization of  the Bowmac sign are in  substance a "zoning
   by-law" and  as such can  be varied by  an HRA. The  requisite HRA would
   have two main elements: 

       to authorize significant variances to the Sign By-law to permit the
        adaptive re-use  of the  existing non-conforming Bowmac  sign: 215%
        increase to  the maximum  permitted height;  1823% increase  to the
        maximum permitted sign area;  permit encroachment over the property
        line;  increase  the  maximum  permitted  distance  from  building,
        encroachment, angle of sign in relation to property line and height
        above building roof;  and permit sign lighting which changes colour
        in  this location (see Appendix B for detailed table of variances);

       to secure  the repair, protection  and on-going maintenance  of the
        Bowmac sign for the duration of the Toys 'R' Us lease.

   Toys 'R'  Us has a 20  year lease of the premises,  with two consecutive
   renewal options  of five years. Upon termination of the lease, a new HRA
   will have to negotiated or the sign will be demolished. 

   Compatibility of Conservation with Community Planning Objectives

   Surrounding  neighbours were  notified as  part of the  Sign Application
   review. Of  the 287 notified, 19 responded: 2 in support and 17 against.
   The principle objections expressed were: 

       Toys  'R'  Us  should  conform  to  the  Sign  By-law  as  do other
       the sign will set a precedent for signs on Broadway;
       the sign is an earthquake hazard;
       the sign does not merit heritage status;
       if the sign is changed it will no longer merit its heritage status;
       light and noise from sign will greatly impact adjoining residential

   By virtue of the existing sign, the proposal cannot conform  to the Sign
   By-law which was  enacted after the sign was constructed.   The scale of
   the  existing  also  established the  scale  of  the  new signage.  This
   proposal will not set a precedent for signs on Broadway because the Sign
   By-law cannot be varied for other non-heritage properties. To ensure the
   sign is not an earthquake hazard, the applicant has engaged a Structural
   Engineer to  undertake a structural assessment of  the sign with its new

   Staff  understand  that   this  is  an   unusual  example  of   heritage
   preservation.  However,  recently  there  has  been  substantial  public
   interest  in  preserving  the  Bowmac  sign  and preserving  in  general
   remaining  examples of  Vancouver's historic  neon signs.  Staff believe
   that the  proposal will  retain sufficient  heritage  character.   Staff
   supported  this  concept  while   rejecting  past  versions  because  it
   conserves the original  sign as is. The new metal  screen, introduced to
   separate  the  new  layer  of  signage  from  the old,  will  be  highly
   perforated  to  ensure  the Bowmac  backdrop  is  clearly  viable.   The
   opportunity  to add  the new  user s logo is  the incentive  required to
   return  the sign  and pay  for its  revitalization.  Staff  believe this
   approach conserves the original artifact and  brings new use and life to
   this commercial art landmark.

   To  mitigate  lighting impacts,  staff  put  forth RECOMMENDATION  C  to
   include  a provision in the HRA giving the City the ability to limit the
   hours and level of illumination, should the new signage adversely impact
   neighbouring property owners or tenants.

   Vancouver Heritage Commission Comments 

   The Commission reviewed the Sign Application SI401331 on May 5, 1997 and
   passed a resolution on May 9, 1997 commending Toys 'R' Us for continuing
   to  retain the Bowmac sign. It supported its application for relaxations
   to  the Sign  By-law.   The  Commission  also made  recommendations  for
   refining the proposed  design, all  of which have  been incorporated  in
   staff's conditions of approval.


   The adaptive  re-use of the Bowmac  sign by Toys 'R'  Us will revitalize
   this City  landmark that  is an  important  artifact from  the era  when
   Vancouver  was the "neon capital of North America". RECOMMENDATIONS A, B
   and D acknowledge the sign's importance  as a heritage resource and will
   ensure  its rehabilitation and on-going maintenance  for the duration of
   the  Toys  'R' Us  lease. RECOMMENDATION  C  will ensure  any unforeseen
   lighting impacts on neighbours are mitigated.

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