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Fire hits West Broadway property thought to be a future subway station location

April 1, 2019

Fire crew Monday morning, back on the scene of Sunday morning’s fire at 1443 West Broadway Avenue.

Early on the morning of Sunday, March 31st, fire ripped through a City of Vancouver-owned property in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue, which has been identified as a likely location for a future Broadway subway station.

One of my homeless peers in the area told me that the fire was in full swing around 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

By 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, when my friend was telling me this, the only evidence of the fire on the West Broadway side of the property was plywood replacing the doors of the Eat Your Cake bakery at 1443 and one Fire and Rescue person visibly prowling around on the roof of the building.

Monday morning (April 1st) another homeless person told me that he had seen smoke pouring out of Eat Your Cake some time after 11 p.m. Saturday (March 30th) and that fire trucks were on the scene by midnight.

Although he had a camera and he said that he thought of my blog, he admitted that he had dared not take photos, due to his ingrained fear of being suspected of anything by authorities—”guilt by association”, he called it—a fear common to almost all homeless people.

He related that the intersections at both ends of the 1400 block—at Granville Street and Hemlock Street—were cordoned off and he thought that about six fire truck responded in total.

Another homeless person says that he counted no fewer than 12 fire trucks in attendance!

A building living on borrowed time gets “fired”

The view through the front window of Eat your Cake at 7:22 a.m., Monday.

According to news reports, the fires started just before midnight Saturday in the basement of Eat Your Cake, located at 1443 West Broadway.

Fire damage looks insignificant from the back of 1443, with a bit of water and some charred bits strewn about.

What started as a two-alarm fire was quickly raised to a three-alarm fire after the first responders saw the heavy smoke billowing out of the bakery.

Reportedly the only injury was to one person in a next-door building, who was treated for smoke inhalation.

Although external evidence of damage to the property is negligible—all that can be seen behind the building is some water and small bits of charred stuff strewn about—the fire was severe enough that Eat Your Cake has announced on its Instagram account that it is looking to open in a new location as soon as possible.

The only visible sign of fire damage to 1441 West Broadway.

The iRemit international remittance company located next door at 1441 has also been closed due to fire damage, according to a sign on its front door.

Even the Deserres arts and crafts store next door to iRemit at 1431 has plywood boarding one of its two doors, suggesting that fire crews felt the need to enter the store Sunday morning.

External damage to 1443 caused by firefighters checking for fire spread on Sunday morning.

At just before 10 a.m. Monday, a fire truck was back on the scene, with a crew of two apparently checking on part of the front of 1443 that had been exposed by crews Sunday morning, likely to check for fire spread.

And some 18 hours after the blaze was more-or-less extinguished, the unmistakable smell of burnt wooden building was still strong, even across the street on the south side of the 1400 block.

Granville subway station watch becomes a demolition watch

A graphic from 2018, showing property owned by the City of Vancouver and TransLink in the 1400 block of West Broadway.—Google Maps

On April 2015 the 11,700 sf property of 1431-1441 West Broadway was sold for $13.5 million. The buyer in that transaction was not listed but the City of Vancouver has shown ownership of 1431 (Deserres) and 1441 (Eat Your Cake and iRemit) on its Internet-accessible Vanmap since 2015.

I was one of the first to suggest, in a 2016 post titled More Broadway Tunnel station speculation—on the strength of the city’s ownership—that the two properties in the 1400 block of West Broadway were good candidates to be the site of the Broadway subway’s planned Granville station.

Almost exactly a year ago, in spring, 2018 post, I surfaced documentation indicating TransLink owned both 1421 and 1409 West Broadway—the two properties adjacent to the two city-owed properties.

In the same 2018 post I showed how the realty company Colliers International was explicitly citing 1431-1441 West Broadway, in a sales brochure, as the site of the future Granville subway station.

I can also now add that 1451 West Broadway (the property on the west side of the two city-owned addresses) was sold in May of 2018 for $14 million by one Shompond Pongsaratana to Shato Holdings, Ltd., the Vancouver real estate development company founded by Peter Toigo and run, since his death in 1993, by his sons Peter and Ron Toigo.

If the above expectation of where the Granville subway station will be sited is accurate and with actual work on the subway now expected to begin in fall of 2019, then 1441 and 1431 are already living on borrowed time. If 1441 has also suffered significant structural damage from Sunday’s fire then its time has run out early.

In that case, we can probably expect to see the City of Vancouver demolish the 82-year-old building, level the lot and then securely gate it to stop any squatters, or homeless campers from taking advantage of the rare “affordable housing” opportunity it presents.

The storefront signage at 1441 West Broadway Avenue.

Update: Eat your Cake announced plans to find a new location on the morning of the fire. Now, as of April 11th, signage in the window of 1441 West Broadway indicates that due to fire damage iRemit will be moving four doors west–to 1411–as of April 21st.

The interior of the iRemit office at 1441, seen through the window April 11th.

This means that both tenants will be leaving the burned building. This would have to be the case whether the owner (the City of Vancouver) planned to fix it or tear it down. Which it will be I do not know but I do think that the fire damage is quite severe. Eleven days after the blaze, the property still gives off a very strong tang of wood smoke. Click the images to enlarge them.

From → Personal

  1. Margaret permalink

    Shame about the fire. It sounds like it could have caused a lot more damage than it did though.

    You are really good with your data and investigative work. Change in the neighbourhood is coming…


    • Neither the outsides or the view through the front window look bad at all. But all that billowing smoke (and — I’m told — flames) had to have been coming out of the roof, which sounds none too good. But yes, big change is coming to the Fairview part of the Broadway corridor and sooner, rather than later.

      For one thing, the top three floors of the RBC building on the northeast corner of the 1400 block will be emptying out and moving to a location near Boundary in May at the latest. And the lease renewal of the McDonald’s at 1482 is not as certain as one might have thought.


      • Margaret permalink

        That is interesting to know about the top three floors of the RBC building moving out. I suppose they thought they couldn’t function well as an office with the construction noise. Then when the subway extension is complete, their rent would probably increase. Maybe that is also why Cook Culture is closing. 1482 will be preserved since it is a heritage building. Who knows, maybe the lease renewal will be lower for the next 5 years. Wishful thinking?


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