Our Community, Our Plan (OCOP) and Grandview Heritage Group (GHG) Will lead the community in a Funeral for an Affordable Rooming House: 1723 Napier (at Commercial Drive) to be demolished to make way for upscale duplex
Join Us On Sunday, September 7, 4:00-4:30pm, 1723 Napier
Neighbours & former residents invite the public and media to share memories of a disappearing East Van phenomenon: affordable housing. Dress is formal. Eulogy, speeches and funeral march.
We gather to mourn the passing of 1723 Napier (1922 – 2014.) It will soon fall to the wrecker’s ball, making way for million dollar homes.
As friends and neighbours, we commemorate the life of this heritage building, which gave affordable shelter to artists and those of more modest means. Such places are of an increasingly rare breed in East Van. And so we mourn the passing of our community as well.
At times like this we take solace in scripture. John 14:2 tells us: “my father’s house has many rooms.” And so did this rooming house off Commercial Drive — seven bedrooms and two suites at about $500 each — an example of density before it was a buzzword on the tongues of City planners. The duplex that will rise in its place will have room for only two, wealthy households.
“Density,” brothers and sisters, is that fork-tongued rationale the City fathers use to justify upscale condo towers that practically reach up to Heaven itself.
But let us not remember 1723 Napier as we see it now: empty, without windows or walls; awaiting demolition. Let us remember the generations who lived, laughed, loved, created and cried there. They nestled in the embrace of beam and timber, harvested from old growth Douglas Fir — the finest lumber of its time, now all but gone. Are those faithful old timbers headed for the landfill?
It is rumored that Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong fame) was once a co-owner. So was Bonnie Beck-woman, who also runs a store on the Drive that exemplifies the concept of density in the sheer quantity of stock, shoehorned into every square foot.
And so, as we mourn the passing of 1723 Napier, do we also mourn the passing of our East Vancouver? Are we now seeing a new era where the City gates are only open to those who can afford the down payment?
We watch this generation of rambling houses, once sheltering many households replaced by upscale lifestyle spaces for young, upwardly mobile urban professionals.
Oh! The hubris of Man! Dwelleth close to the earth, with thy brothers! Dwell not in the sky, in cells of gold!
Woe to he who celebrates the demolition of these affordable, green, heritage homes!
Woe to he who builds not shelter for his brothers and sisters, but shelter for his investments and those of his fellow speculators.
Let us pray, yes, but let us also be angry – and may our anger be righteous!
Let them hear in City Hall not the splintering of old timbers, but this congregation’s clarion call for social justice!
Let this not be a world for the landed gentry alone, but for us all.
Ashes to ashes, sawdust to sawdust.