Arrow Lake From The Leland

April 30, 2012

“Arrow Lake From The Leland” (2008), TIFF print 32″ x 20″


How They Moved the Brandon Block

April 29, 2012

In 1913, the south part of Commercial Drive was being widened, and the new Brandon Block was in the way.  How did they move this huge building the seven feet they needed?  Read all about it at the Grandview Heritage Group website.

Grandview’s Historic Elms Win Recognition

April 26, 2012

The stretch of elms that runs along 6th Avenue in the nine-blocks between Woodland Drive and Nanaimo Street has been recognized by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation as one of the 125 Places That Matter, celebrating the city’s 125th anniversary.

We are told that the elms received the third largest number of votes out of the 125 spots, and that a number of plaques will be put up to recognize the importance of these trees to the community.

The group of community activists who worked hard to save these elms are to be congratulated and it is excellent news that they and their work are now to be recognized.


April 23, 2012

Vancouver City Council is keen to see even longer buses on Broadway.  I’m not opposed to that.  But to do that they need permission from the Province which controls the length of buses.  Why bother?  Instead, why not push for double-deckers?

These are within Provincial length guidelines and handle almost double the passengers for the same footprint.  I’m certain we could find electric versions and lifting the trolley wires hardly seems an insurmountable problem.

I’m all for it!

I’m Giving A Walking Tour

April 23, 2012

I will be conducting a two-hour guided walk along Commercial Drive from Venables Street to Second Avenue.  I’ll be identifying and discussing many of the heritage buildings along the route and relating stories of the people and businesses that occupied them.

Meet up on the southeast corner of Venables & Commercial at 9:45am Saturday 9th June 2012, rain or shine.

Please register by email to $10 contribution to the Grandview Heritage Group at the meet-up.

The Alvarado Block

April 22, 2012

To celebrate the 100th birthday of the Alvarado Block on the corner of Commercial & Graveley, I have written a brief article for the Grandview Heritage Group.  Take a look!

Here Come The Blossoms

April 20, 2012

Parker Street, looking east from Commercial Drive.

Please click on the image for a better view.


To Those Celebrating 420 …

April 20, 2012

Have fun!

The Tulips Come Alive

April 18, 2012

Our first tulips of the year break out!

Click on image for a much better view!

The Barn At 1st & Victoria Is Approved

April 18, 2012

The immense and ugly barn-like structure that Grandview Calvary Baptist has proposed to build at 1st and Victoria — and which I spoke against the other night — has been approved this morning at City Council. The vote was unanimous.

Councilor Reimer, who lives in Grandview, made the motion to approve with a couple of minor amendments that the design be “more reflective of the neighbourhood” and that a “community advisory committee” be formed.

It is a great shame that they could not get the building down to a size that is closer to Rt-5 zoning.  We can only hope that this does not become a precedent-setting decision.

The Fleet In Fog

April 18, 2012

Selling The Neighbourhood

April 17, 2012

I have written a short piece about how Grandview (or “Grand View”) was advertised in 1904 and 1905 at the Grandview Heritage Group’s site.  Take a look!

Talking To City Hall

April 16, 2012

This evening I am on the speakers’ list to talk with City Council about a proposal from Grandview Calvary Baptist Church to redevelop their property at 1st and Victoria as an “intentional community” housing individuals who are hard to house elsewhere.  Grandview Woodlands Area Council has the documents on this proposal.

The Church wants to put up a huge barn-like 4-storey structure that will dwarf surrounding houses (see image below).  Not only that, but their design includes nothing that comes even close to reflecting the neighbourhood’s historic and current buildings.  It will, almost literally, stick out like an enormous sore thumb on one of our major intersections.

My position tonight will have three parts:

a)  I fully approve the development of this site.  It is currently used as a private car park for the Church (which is further up First Avenue) and looks shabby.  My personal preference is that the site become a pocket park.  However, that seems to be a pipe dream and so I am content that a good building will improve the look of the intersection;

b) I don’t know enough about the Church and its programs and so cannot comment specifically (although I have read a number of comments from neighbours that question the Church’s ability to control previous programs.)  However, I am in favour generally of creating housing opportunities for the hard to house in our neighbourhood; and so I am in principle in support of the Church’s proposed use;

c) The design is so overwhelming and out of character with the neighbourhood that it must be changed. I will ask that Council send the proposal back for re-design before granting approval. My suggestion would be that the design eliminate certain uses that are not relevant to the primary use (see below), and that the design be spread over a larger footprint on the site.  These changes should allow the design to be scaled down from four storeys to three at most and, hopefully, two.

I have attended a couple of public presentations by the proposers and their architects, and their response to our concerns over the design were less than helpful.  In fact, on both occasions they essentially refused to discuss the design, saying that their “programming and business plan” required the size and style proposed.  However, their “business plan” includes offices for rent and a large community kitchen, neither of which seem essential to the proposed use.

Finally, I want to note that I assume their programming is designed to meet all Federal and Provincial regulations for such things; and I assume their financing and accounting set ups are designed to meet all necessary regulations for non-profits and churches.  Why then, should their building design not be obliged to meet current zoning regulations?  Why should it be that the one part of their proposal that directly affects the neighbourhood (and will for a generation at least) should be subject to the whims of their “business plan”?


54 Stories Of Old Ireland

April 15, 2012

“54 Stories of Old Ireland” (2008), TIFF, 20 x 16

Getting Ready For Summer

April 14, 2012

Since I got back from England, I have been running to catch up with my research schedule.  As a preparation for my next book on the Buildings of Commercial Drive, I have been looking closely into the opening of Grandview and the first building boom between 1904 and 1914. It has been fascinating stuff and I’ll be presenting some of my early conclusions at the next meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group next Thursday.

However, today was a day to relax and enjoy the early sunshine.  We walked the Drive, did some shopping, but mostly we hung out on the patio at Fet’s Cafe.  They always make the best burgers in town, but today’s were even better than usual.

A great burger, a Guinness, warm sunshine and street cabaret — what could be better!

What Did Olivieri Used To Use?

April 10, 2012

I just watched a TV commercial for Olivieri Fresh Pasta — “Made for Mondays” — which ends with the line:

   “Now made with natural ingredients.”

Which begs the question:  what the hell was their pasta made from before?




Red Tulips II

April 9, 2012

Changes OnThe Drive #8

April 8, 2012

Ah, it is such a joy to be back in Vancouver; and what could be better than walking the Drive in yesterday’s sun and cooling breeze?  After the nightmare of traveling for two weeks, this could easily be mistaken for heaven.

At the south end of the Drive, the old Far East Building is still being re-constructed.

The Van East Cinema portion at the south end of the building has completely disappeared, and the central portion of the building where new height is being added is being worked on steadily.

A small number of storefronts are still vacant and most have been that way for months now.  These include the old equipment rentals store at 2223, the former Deja Vu hair salon at 1840, the old DQ spot in Mercarto Mall, the new storefront next to Liberty Wines, 1338 which was previously occupied by BLVD Skateboards, and 1020 where Vigo Remittances was for years.

As a counterweight to those vacancies, BLVD is now fully up and running at 1995, and Falcone’s Deli now seems to be opening on a regular schedule.

In addition a number of stores are still being worked on for new businesses.  These include 1605 at the north end of the Mercato Mall which is supposed to open soon as a shwarma house, and at 1441, which has had a series of businesses since the venerable Cottage Cafe closed down, is now gearing up as a different Japanese restaurant, this time called Tatsu.

Finally, the battle of the pizza joints seems about to commence.  While the long-time stalwart Marcello’s continues to clean up its patio area, the brash newcomer Famoso on the other side of Kitchener seems about ready to open.

Obviously I cannot compare pizzas yet, but I can say that the new front for Famoso is a darn sight better looking than the old video store that it has replaced.

Earlier posts in the Changes on the Drive series.

Disappointed With Pulp Fiction

April 7, 2012

As many readers may know, Pulp Fiction — long a useful fixture on Main Street — opened a branch office on Commercial a few weeks ago.  I visited it when it was just opening, and again today now that it should be settled.  However, the shop continues to give the impression of being temporary, with the former Hair Stylists’ canopy still confusingly in place, and the interior having that unlived-in feel. It is as if one were at a Word On The Street stand rather than a real bookstore.

Having spent some time looking at the shelves, I asked one of the store folks where their local history section was.  “Don’t have one”, he said.  “We used to have Chuck Davis’s Visual Vancouver but it was a bit expensive to sell much.”  I pointed out that Visual Vancouver was by Bruce Macdonald and perhaps he meant History of Metropolitan Vancouver.  “Oh.  Maybe so.”

I asked whether he had Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive or The Drive and he did not, expressing a little surprise that such books existed. But, he said, if they were actually in print he could order them and sell them to me at a discount.  I didn’t tell him I was the author.  I’m not sure he would have taken it well.

We have no need for these interlopers who just want some of our retail dollars.  Luckily for those of us who want to buy books on Commercial Drive we have the unbeatable People’s Coop Bookstore, which has a full range of fiction and non-fiction, including a comprehensive local authors’ section.

The Worst Airport In The World

April 5, 2012

I’ll write more about my latest travels as soon as I work through the current sleep deficit. However, there is one thing about which I am absolutely clear already.

I have lived a long time with the mistaken impression that Heathrow was the worst major airport for passengers in the world.  I was wrong.  Toronto’s Pearson airport actively works hard to earn the title.  If ever I needed another reason not to visit Toronto, Pearson would be it!

Just for a little balance, I shall mention that Montreal Airport was a dream!