38-68 West Hastings Street
The north side of the zero block W. Hastings is one of the city’s most intact historic streetscapes — completely unprotected save the ‘B’-listed Paris Block — a good-news rehabilitation project currently underway.
Other buildings in this fascinating streetscape include the 1906 Army & Navy building — its floor-to-ceiling continuous windows an important forerunner of modernism – the delightfully quirky Palace Hotel at 33-37 W. Hastings Street and the Save-On-Meats building better known for its landmark ‘flying pig’ neon sign.
The south side of this block was once a glorious location boasting the opulent Pantages Theatre (2nd)(long since demolished and now home to a special needs residential facility) and the twin National and Columbia Theatres (now a huge vacant lot the aftermath of arson).
The three remaining historic buildings, the 1900 McRae/Hall building, the 1904 Furuya Block and the 1904 Forbes & Van Horne Building have seen better days. Archival photos show handsome brick facades, now hidden behind layers of corrugated metal, stucco and cheap paint jobs.
The City of Vancouver did not flag sites on the historic Hastings Corridor to ensure that options for heritage retention would be considered, until December 2007. By this time development plans for 38-68 W. Hastings were well advanced, and a developer had already assembled development sites including these three historic properties. This, coupled with the city’s lack of restoration incentives puts these buildings at imminent risk of demolition. [Update: 38-68 W. Hastings have been demolished.]
Heritage Vancouver anticipates the coming change in the Downtown Eastside with both fear and anticipation — new investment is urgently needed before decay becomes terminal, yet how many of these precious streetscapes will be retained if the economics of retention are outbid by the economics of redevelopment?
Update March 2008: The heritage structures from 38 to 56 West Hastings have been demolished, for a Concord Pacific Development.