2011 Top Ten Endangered Sites
Full List |
< Back |
6. Gordon T. Legg Residence (1899) [updated]
Photo: 1241 Harwood, taken around 1914. Photo courtesy of Phillippa Wenstob
1241 Harwood Street
This very significant late Victorian-era estate house will be demolished unless the City of Vancouver approves an onsite density bonus of 26,000 square feet. The density cannot be transferred offsite as the Heritage Density Bank has been frozen since August 2007. Heritage Vancouver supports this proposal, but there is significant neighbourhood opposition.
What is the threat to the Legg Residence?
The owner of the Legg Residence is seeking to negotiate a Heritage Revitalization Agreement with the City and is planning on restoring this important heritage home located in Vancouver’s West End. In the summer of 2010, Council turned down an earlier proposal that called for the building of a tower on site to compensate for the cost of retaining both the home and a significant tulip tree. Council chose not to make the tree eligible for a heritage density bonus because its roots were also on the property of an adjacent house.
If the Legg Residence is demolished, the owner will be able to build an 11-storey tower instead of the proposed 18-storey tower. The owner has put forth a new proposal to build an 18-storey onsite tower that is required to absorb the heritage bonus density necessary to offset the costs associated with saving the house. He has also indicated that if this proposal is not accepted he will demolish the Legg Residence. The City’s Advisory Design Panel has given the proposal its approval but the tower is meeting with resistance from some people in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the City of Vancouver is not accepting density into its heritage density bank at this time, thus forcing the owner to absorb the heritage density on site.
The city does not have any other meaningful incentives it can offer building owners to cover the cost of restoring heritage buildings.
Why is the Legg Residence significant?
The Legg Residence is one of the few surviving grand estate homes built in the West End at the end of the 19th century. This house was under construction in July 1899, just 12 years after the arrival of the CPR railway. The Klondike Gold Rush had ushered in a brief wave of prosperity, and the city’s wealthier citizens were developing a number of grand residences, such as Gabriola on Davie Street, in the desirable West End. Gordon T. Legg, who arrived in Vancouver in 1889, was the manager of Union Steamships of BC, and was one of the founders of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Designed in the British Arts and Crafts style, the house – with its broad overhanging jerkin-headed roof – typifies the style and grace of the late Victorian era and the patriotic connections to the Mother Country of many of Vancouver's elite.
Heritage Vancouver's Position
1) Heritage Vancouver supports the use of onsite density to preserve the Legg Residence, a significant late Victorian-era West End residence; and
2) the City of Vancouver should renew its efforts to absorb the remaining density in the Heritage Density Bank, and develop additional incentives to assist with the costs associated with restoring buildings of this significance.
Update: October 11, 2011: The City has received an application that seeks to demolish the Legg Residence, one of the city's three remaining grand estate homes from the turn of the 19th century. Heritage Vancouver is now shocked by the alternate proposal to demolish the A-listed building while still allowing a 17-storey tower to be built on the site. We do not understand why this proposal would be supportable if the previous application – which retained an A-listed heritage resource – is not. Following this direction, rather than approving the proposal to preserve the Legg Residence, would be an enormous setback for the City of Vancouver's Heritage Program and would send a profoundly negative message to other owners contemplating retention of a heritage building. The demolition of this West End Mansion is absolutely unnecessary and would undermine the credibility of the City of Vancouver's Heritage Program.
Update: July 2011: The DP application (DE414280) has been reviewed back to staff for further study to determine issues regarding the Tulip Tree and the proposed massing of the new building.
Update: May 31, 2011: Council rejected the proposal today, requesting it be sent back to staff for further review... after a five-year process. The owner may revert to the conditional proposal to build an 80-foot wide, 11-story tower on the site (at a lower FSR of 2.2), demolish the house, cut down the tree, demolish the gardens, all without the necessity of Council approval. The developer has no further incentive to continue this drawn-out process, and that along with a lack of other meaningful City heritage incentives may have doomed this A-listed heritage property.
E-bulletin on the proposed demolition, October 11, 2011
October 11, 2011 e-bulletin alert
Heritage Vancouver letter to Council, October 6, 2011
Letter dated October 6, 2011 (PDF, 244k)
Heritage Vancouver letter to Council, May 31, 2011
Letter dated May 31, 2011 (PDF, 244k)