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Aquilini’s Oak St. tear-down tenants face weird damage deposit hurdle

September 16, 2014


A tenant of the Santa Fe apartment building told me this morning that Aquilini’s building management people have been insisting on walk-through inspections of the soon-to-be-demolished suites before they will return any tenant’s damage deposit.

Back in 2012, when Francesco Aquilini’s Aquilini Investment Group bought the Santa Fe apartments on the corner of Oak Street and 14th Avenue, it was clearly with the intent of knocking it down, so it’s no surprise that he let the building fall further into a state of disrepair.

But just  as the real estate developer and owner of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team is getting set to demolish the historic Fairview building he’s suddenly developed a bizarre concern for the state of the individual apartments.

Tenants wanting their damage deposits back are apparently being required to submit to an actual inspection to prove they are leaving their apartments just as they found them. Building management is insisting on this even though not a single apartment will escape the wrecker’s ball, expected to fall soon after the tenants are all gone.

The deadline for everyone to be out of the building was originally September 30 but has been slightly extended to a final-final deadline of October 3.

 Countdown to a tear-down

Bear in mind that the last time I listened to a tenant of the Santa Fe apartment building at 2975 Oak Street, I was told me that the plan to knock down the heritage low-rise building and replace it with a tower had been rejected by City Hall.

In fact, on May 20, City Council unanimously approved the project, submitted by Aquilini Development and Construction Inc. and CEI Architecture, which trades a kind of heritage preservation in return for a 47 percent increase in the allowable density of the new development.

Under the approved Heritage Revitalization Agreement, the south- and east-facing concrete facades of the three-storey, 14-unit, building are to be  preserved and restored. The rest of the Santa Fe will be demolished and replaced by new, 40-unit, eleven-story, apartment tower, which will also be called the Santa Fe.

A bird in the hand and all that

It seems to me that preserving only parts of the facade of a building is heritage preservation the way a mink coat is animal conservation.

I see this facade of heritage preservation  as little more than a thinly veiled method to get around zoning regulations. But I’m also mindful that it will, in fact, preserve some irreplaceable bit of the past that would otherwise be lost.

Skinning the Santa Fe makes perfect sense when you realize that old buildings that stand in the way of development in Vancouver are like passenger pigeons —  extinct birds which now only exist  in any form because some people had the good sense to stuff a few and put them on display.

And speaking of passenger pigeons…

A stuffed passenger pigeon. -- public domain

A stuffed passenger pigeon. — public domain

One hundred years ago this month, on September 1, 1914, the very last passenger pigeon — named Martha — died at the Cincinnati Zoo. She likely died of old age, at 1 p.m.

Her body was stuffed and preserved, and is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History — the last example of a bird species which had once numbered in the billions and driven into extinction, largely by human activity. Click the images to enlarge them.


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