Quite the lovely day in the Park today. Warm enough to sit quietly, cool enough not to sweat even climbing the hill.
The blossom trees are just about starting to bloom, and the dandelions are painting the lawn. Beautiful.
This evening I attended the meeting held in the basement of the St. Francis church at Napier and Semlin. Earlier discussions about the church’s desire to build a new school can be found here.
The meeting was to introduce the project to the immediate neighbours of the church. However, the meeting was well known to GWAC members, people who read this blog, and others, so there were perhaps one hundred citizens in the room from a wider range than the limited geographic area expected. I thought that was a good thing.
There were half a dozen well-constructed display panels explaining the site, the demographics of the current student population, and some general aspects of the project. There was a fairly short speech about the project from a member of the church’s building committee from which we learned
And then there were questions from the audience. Someone whispered to me that the Church has no idea of the fight they are getting into; and it is certainly true that the tenor of the questions was negative. However, the church was firm that a new school will be built and the discussion is about how that gets done. From the Q & A we learned:
I found the meeting to be a good start to the process. It was the kind of meeting that Boffo/Kettle should have had but never did. I’m sure neither “side” came away completely satisfied with what was said and done but at least the conversation has begun and is out in the open. By encouraging on-going dialogue, SFA has a wonderful opportunity to teach developers how this process can be improved.
As for me, my inclination is to support the project as proposed by the church, with conditions:
Wilga gardens are not publicly accessible in the sense of being a park; having publicly accessible green space at St. John’s would be a good replacement and better than we have today. I have reservations about the heritage value of St. John’s. I believe the traffic issues are solvable given creativity and good will on both sides. I would be happy to see density in the form of, say, a three- or four-storey apartment building at Victoria and Venables; that would be a significantly useful addition to the community’s housing stock.
It was interesting to hear the opposition speakers tonight and I appreciate some of their concerns. However, I think the wider community can benefit from this proposal and so it has to be given consideration even if it disturbs a few time-honoured routines that have become entitlements for some.
There will be a public community meeting in the Church basement of St Francis of Assisi Church, Napier Street, on Thursday 2nd February at 7:00pm. The meeting will discuss the church’s plans to build a new school on the gardens at Wilga. They will use funds driven by a sale of their current school at Victoria & Venables.
There has been significant opposition to the development from local residents and meetings on the issue tend to be lively at least. How does it fit with the new Community Plan? It will be worth the time.
By the way, I have heard from SFA officials that this meeting is NOT a public community event and is, in fact, invitation only for neighbours around the church. However, that is not how the neighbours read the letter they received. I also note that neighbours of the SFA school at Victoria & Venables (like me) — deeply affected by SFA’s plan — do not seem to have been included in this invitation. Perhaps we don’t count in the church’s eyes.
Everyone concerned should show up and explain to the Church that it is not up to them to decide who is and who is not affected by their decisions
For some months now we have been reporting that the Wonderbucks store at 1803 Commercial is about to close due to staggering rent increases. The closing date is just a couple of weeks away now, and there are signs and rumours swirling around about how this is a much bigger development play than it seemed at first.
There are stories being told that a number of alternatives were suggested to the building owner, alternatives that would have increased his current revenue; but that he turned them all down. There are rumours that a deal with a major pharmacy chain fell through (as if the Drive needs more pharmacies!). Now, I’m being told, the tenants in the apartment block next to Wonderbucks have been handed eviction notices.
This begins to smell like a major land assembly operation going on here. It could just be a coincidence, I know, but history teaches that there are very few genuine coincidences.
When asked about an earlier development in a different block, City planner Andrew Pask assured me there were strict guidelines on assembly in Commercial Drive; and I am certain that a frontage stretching a full half-block would not fit within those guidelines. But who knows these days?
Both these buildings in that half-block have significance for the cultural history of the neighbourhood. The wide single-storey structure occupied by Wonderbucks was built in 1924 by Alexander Fraser and his brothers to house their Crystal Dairy. The rear of the building housed stables for horses and sheds for their delivery wagons. By the mid-1930s they were the largest independent dairy in Vancouver. On the Commercial Drive side, they ran a hugely popular milk and ice cream bar which was upgraded several times in the 1940s and early 1950s to compete with other youth spots in town.
Unfortunately, the economics of the dairy industry created a need for consolidation, The Fraser family sold out to Palm Dairy which in turn was swallowed up by Turner Dairies. The Commercial Drive operation was seen as surplus to requirements and was essentially shut down in 1952. By 1955, the building was owned by the Acme Novelty Company also trading as Select Music Company, and they sold coin-operated equipment until 1968. After that, it was an Italian dance hall called the Melodi for a while, and by the mid-1970s it had became home to a succession of cheap produce stores. Now, it has been the delightful Wonderbucks for almost two decades.
Next door, at what is now the Salonika Restaurant on the ground floor and two stories of apartments above, we have a slightly longer history as the original building dates from 1912. However, the success rate for businesses was not high here and there was a rapid turnover, mostly of furniture stores. In 1928, Harry Hipwell bought out the owner of the Grandview Furniture Exchange and for the next twenty years, he and his family operated a furniture and, later, appliance store from this building. When they closed the branch in the 1950s, one “new and used furniture” store followed another into the space in quick succession. The building was badly damaged by a storage fire in 1968 and was vacant for a few years. Eventually some Italian coffee bars moved in from the 1970s through the 1990s, and most recently, a Greek restaurant has taken up the storefront.
These cultural and social histories are important components of what make our community so interesting and special. Some, like the Wonderbucks building, are important enough to fight to keep.
One of the sadnesses I felt when the Peg Antiques closed was about the fact that their delightful Christmas window display of a busy model village would no longer be available to us. So you can imagine my pleasure this afternoon when I saw that it was all set up in the window of Da Vinci Travel!
Unfortunately, this was one of the few occasions when I didn’t have my camera with me. But it is worth seeing and getting a misty-eyed nostalgia for simpler times.
The extraordinary canopy of copper and gold and light brown leaves that has been such a feature of the Park for the last few weeks has entirely tumbled to the ground. For a day or so it was impossible to find the path under the deep shag of the fallen leaves. But then the Parks folks came and efficiently swept them all up into piles.
Today, there are just the final hangers on, delaying that final drop for as long as they can.
Previous Salsbury Park ruminations.