In 2011, Vancouver schools top the list as our most threatened heritage buildings. In recognition of the magnitude of this threat, our top three sites illustrate the main threats to Vancouver’s historic schools: closure, redundancy and demolition.
The situation with our historic schools has become so serious that our entire list could have been made up of landmark heritage schools. Heritage Vancouver fully supports seismic upgrading and is at a loss to understand why other provincial School Boards and the University of British Columbia are able to carry out seismic upgrading while still retaining the heritage character of the buildings under their stewardship.
The Vancouver School Board has not yet delivered on a promised plan regarding the future of our schools, and continues to implement the seismic upgrading process in a random manner. The Board has stated that heritage is not high on their list of priorities and have demonstrated this through the demolition of Sir Charles Dickens School, the plan to demolish the interior of Kitsilano Secondary, and the potential demolition of General Gordon and one of the heritage buildings that make up Lord Kitchener School. There is no end in sight to this process, with potentially dozens of heritage schools on the chopping block.
Our other Top Ten sites for this year demonstrate a variety of issues, including ongoing difficulties associated with the Heritage Density Bank – frozen since August 2007 – as well as outdated City plans in many neighbourhoods that do not recognize current development pressures. Some heritage sites are also threatened by current city policies that try to wring maximum public benefits out of many sites through extra density – raising the question of ‘how much is too much?’ These ten sites represent the many challenges that we have in building a future for heritage in Vancouver.