728-796 Main Street

After much delay, this is finally a rezoning proposal. It’s for a site that’s one of very few where the Downtown Eastside Plan allows the possibility of 150 feet tall buildings, on the corner between V6A and Ginger. The opportunity is only possible because the revisions to the Plan haven’t been adopted yet. Those would see no further rezonings, after significant public concern expressed about the two taller buildings already completed, and one proposed on Keefer Street where City Council did not approve the rezoning.

An earlier version was shown by Studio One Architecture nearly three years ago, (below) that looks to have pretty similar massing, but was less refined in terms of detailing. After that the site was offered for sale for a while, but it appears not to have sold as the same owners are behind the new design. The 18 SRO units currently on the site will be replaced with 19 units to be given to the City of Vancouver, and there would by 99 condos over retail.

Main & UnionCurrently there’s a tired hostel that was a Single Room Occupancy hotel, a former vegetarian restaurant and yoga studio, the Brickhouse club and the former site of the Jimi Hendrix shrine (There’s no actual direct connection between Jimi and the shrine’s location, which started life as a cab stand and was later a storage room for a now-demolished restaurant). Supposedly the new scheme will reference this mythical connection, and also potentially replace the bar, if the former owner wants to continue to operate it.

It remains to be seen if this project raises as many objections as 105 Keefer, and if so whether Council will nevertheless choose to support it.

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6 Responses to 728-796 Main Street

  1. Mark says:

    I’ve always read that the building that the Jimi Hendrix shrine is in was once storage for Vie’s Chicken and Steak House where Jimi’s grandmother Nora Hendrix worked. It’s pretty certain that Jimi did spend time at the restaurant and probably the present structure as well. Regardless, the shrine is a gem and it would be really sad to lose it to such an ugly development.

    • ChangingCity says:

      The ‘shrine’ is said to have been used as a storeroom (although there’s no firm evidence of that) for a period for the now demolished restaurant that Nora Hendrix sometimes worked in, washing dishes and making salads (there’s also no evidence she was a cook there). Jimi Hendrix visited briefly as a child, usually in the summer, when she lived on East Georgia Street. He didn’t play guitar in those days. After he was briefly in the army he visited her again, but by that point she had moved to East Hastings. Vie’s café opened around 1948 when Nora Hendrix was already aged 65. Supposedly Jimi started playing guitar at the age of 15, (so in 1957) when Nora would have been 74. When he visited after he was in the army it was 1962, he was aged 20 and she would have been aged about 79. As she lived to be a robust 100 year old, she might have still been working, he might have visited where she worked, and he might have played the guitar. Or not. It’s an interesting idea to think he played in the store room (if it was used as the restaurant storeroom) – but there’s no evidence that we’ve found. There’s a great CBC interview with Nora Hendrix in 1970, after his death, where she says she only saw him play once (when he played Vancouver in 1968).

      It’s far too soon to say if the building will be ugly, or fit in well with the emerging newly revived neighbourhood. The illustration is the architect’s first idea – it’s not rezoned and neither is a detailed design approved yet.

  2. Geevs says:

    What an abomination. Yes, Chinatown is undergoing gentrification, but it has (so far) been tasteful and measured. This is a slash-and-burn approach that razes three historic buildings in favour of maximum square footage. A travesty. Oh, and Brickhouse is open seven nights a week. Use the backdoor, dad.

    • ChangingCity says:

      Thanks kid, we’ve altered the post and stopped hammering on the front door. We assume nobody forced the owners to sell up, and The Brickhouse has apparently been on borrowed time for a while (six years ago Leo said the place had about five more years). As we noted above – it’s too soon to know what will be built here – but like the other side of Main, it can have about 15 storeys, whatever it looks like eventually (hopefully both tasteful and measured to your liking). None of the existing buildings are in great shape – the Creekside was actually closed down for nearly 30 years.

  3. jjacob575 says:

    I’ve got no problem with urban densification. i’d much rather see this than urban sprawl encroaching on the ALR. What I’d love to see is more widespread use of renewable energies like geothermal systems to make these developments truly sustainable.

  4. Ron says:

    The scale of this project is comparable to the new projects across the street.
    It provides a very “urban” street wall which is in contrast to the short podium and tower massing elsewhere downtown that some call suburban-urban (i.e. if you look at older parts of Seattle or San Francisco, you’d see massing similar to this with similar heights).

    The massing adopts the individual brick facades to visually reduce bulk (and the glass and spandrel clad upper storeys on the theory the reflectiveness will “disappear” into the sky).

    I like the revised corner, which introduces a chamfered corner instead of the sharp corner.
    I think that reflects the way corners have been treated in Chinatown on older historical buildings.

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