Old Kitsilano — particularly its early twentieth-century commercial buildings — is rapidly disappearing.
The former ‘Black Swan Records’ building — a cherished community landmark at the corner of West Fourth and Bayswater — is set to become another casualty of unabated condo development.
Remarkably, this handsome two-storey wood building is not listed on the City’s Heritage Register, even though 2904-2906 West Fourth Avenue (aka Topanga Café) ranks a ‘C’ on the list. Although Black Swan lacks Topanga’s brick façade, it has arguably greater architectural appeal and has always had great prominence as a corner building.
A rare surviving example of the early commercial development of western Kitsilano, 2936 West Fourth Avenue is one of a cluster of commercial structures built near the Fourth and MacDonald intersection as the streetcar line was extended west. Moreover, Black Swan has a storied history as part of Kitsilano’s 1960s ‘hippie’ culture. One of the few remaining icons of that era, Black Swan become known in its later years for the jazz-themed mural along its Bayswater façade.
Kitsilano residents want to retain the building and, in response to community pressure, City Council had earlier instructed heritage staff to explore all options to save it. City staff attempted to negotiate a transfer of density, which was ultimately rejected as insufficient compensation.
The most recent chapter ended January 19, 2006, when Council unanimously approved a development permit that will allow the developer to demolish and replace the existing building.
What conclusions can be drawn from this experience?
At the very least, the Register must be upgraded to fully reflect community values, but this will not help unless the City’s toolkit of incentives is bolstered to meet the pressures of contemporary development. In the meantime, we urge the City to keep exploring avenues to save this valuable heritage resource.
Vancouver building permit, no. A-4416
Issued September 12, 1922 to owner S. Dumaresq, with a build value of $6,000.
Update April 14, 2006: As all redevelopment permits have been issued for a new building, City staff are making a last-ditch effort to relocate the existing building to a site a couple of miles southwest of its present location. The final outcome will depend on whether some tricky legal issues can be overcome. Otherwise, the building will be demolished by April or May 2006.
Update August 10, 2006: Time has run out – significant parts of the building have been salvaged and are in storage awaiting approval of permits to construct a new building on the receiver site at West 10th Avenue and Highbury Street, in which the salvaged parts will be incorporated. The rest of the original building has been demolished.
Update Post-2006: It is unknown what happened to the rebuild plans, or where and what happened to the salvaged building parts for the building’s reconstruction, which never materialised.