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Lack of urgency over burned City property on West Broadway is calm before the storm of redevelopment

August 19, 2019

Trashed interior of 1443 West Broadway on August 9th, over four months after fire struck the building.

Four-and-a-half months after fire ripped through the Eat Your Cake meal service, at 1443 West Broadway Avenue, the insides of the City-owned, one-storey property—as visible through one of the front windows—are almost exactly as torn-up as Vancouver Fire and Rescue crews left them on March 31st.

Trashed interior of 1443 West Broadway Ave. on April 11, over a week after the fire.

The meal-prep-and-delivery service has long-since moved to a new downtown location. And the smoke-damaged remittance business that was next door, at 1441 West Broadway, is also gone.

International IRemit had advertised a move four doors east into a TransLink-owned property. However, that may not have happened; the company currently only lists one active location, in Richmond.

Trashed interior of 1443 West Broadway Ave. on April 1st, one day after the fire.

The only noticeable changes that suggest any passage of time since the fire was quenched are these: the complete absence of charred-wood smell (which took weeks to dissipate); plywood boarding of half the storefront’s windows and the recent application of paste-up graffiti art on the window boarding.

This last detail alone implies a good week’s-worth of effort on the part of an anonymous street artist.

Soup to nuts or canned laughter?

One boarded window of 1443 West Broadway shows some new development, in the form of paste-up graffiti.

The paste-up graffiti consists of three oversized soup cans, ala, Andy Warhol, that lampoon the U.S. President Donald Trump.

Each can repeats the same image of Trump looking at the viewer over the rim of sunglasses; On one can the sunglasses are reflecting the U.S. stars and stripes, superimposed with a globe showing North and South America, with the label “Trump Soup”.

The other two cans are both labelled “Fake News”—Trump’s signature slur against mainstream media coverage of his administration. One of the two cans is is shown to be alphabet soup, while the other boasts that it is “Loaded with lots and lots of fake noodles”.

Trust me, the graffiti looks better than it sounds.

Not worth fixing or tearing down?

The City of Vancouver has owned the property containing 1443 and 1441 West Broadway, along with its immediate neighbour to the east, 1431 West Broadway, since 2014.

My first thought was to wonder whether any other landlord besides the City could get away with just leaving a fire-damaged property in this condition for over a quarter of a year.

The answer to my question is yes—so long as the property is fully secured against entry, as appears to be the case, front and back.

But a private owner, driven by the profit motive, would have little incentive to leave such an investment fallow if it could be made lease-worthy.

At the same time, there would be little or no incentive for any owner—public, or private—to do anything but wait, if the property was only fit for demolition and redevelopment.

And the latter is probably the case with this property, given that flames were reportedly seen shooting through the roof on March 31st.

Speculation about the speculation behind the scenes

The TransLink-owned property 1905 West Broadway Ave. and its long-time tenant Akbar’s Own, up for sale since June.

It was once plausible to think that the City of Vancouver and TransLink purchased the four adjacent properties in the 1400 block of West Broadway to serve as the location of a station entrance for a future Broadway subway.

But recently revealed blueprints show the entrance for the Granville subway station in a new redevelopment by PCI Developments at 1489 West Broadway, on the northeast corner of the intersection with South Granville Street.

This argues that the City and TransLink may have purchased the four properties as either backup insurance, in case the station entrance could not be on the preferred corner, or as staging areas for construction equipment, or as investments.

There is nothing to stop either the City of Vancouver, or TranLink from trying to profit from the potential increase in value to West Broadway property that is expected to come with the Broadway subway.

TransLink, the regional transportation authority, specifically had its provincial legislation amended in 2007 to allow it to buy land around proposed rapid transit stations for the purpose of profitable speculation.

In addition to 1421 and 1409 West Broadway, TransLink also owns at least two other properties along the proposed subway route: 1905 West Broadway and 2096 West Broadway, at the intersection with Arbutus Street.

The TransLink-owned property at 1905 West Broadway has been the well-known home of the Indian cuisine restaurant Akbar’s Own for over 13 years.

And whether this has anything to do with the looming start date for Broadway subway construction in 2020, or not, since June, a “stunning licensed 60 seat Indian restaurant” located at 1905 West Broadway has been listed for sale for $178,000.

As for the City of Vancouver, in addition to its two properties in the 1400 block of West Broadway, it also owns 1004 West Broadway, at the intersection with Oak Street and 2097 West Broadway, just across the same intersection with Arbutus as the TransLink property at 2096 West Broadway.

Did the City buy in the 1400 block to block a developer?

A possible fourth reason why the City and Translink purchased property in the 1400 block of West Broadway may have been to forestall the entire north side of the block from being gobbled up by one developer—such as PCI, which may already own three properties on that side of the block.

PCI’s redevelopment plans for 1489 West Broadway (which PCI has owned since 2007) appear to include the neighbouring 1465 West Broadway (suggesting that PCI owns this property as well). And while PCI does not say that it owns the property on the northeast end of the 1400 block, that property—1401 West Broadway—is run by a PCI group company called Warrington PCI Management.

At the same time I have been told that “the same company that owns the RBC building” has been buying property across the alley—on the south side of 1400 block of 8th Avenue—in the form of the surface parking lot at 1434 West 8th and one of the adjacent properties. The former owner of the adjacent property is quoted as saying that a 30-storey tower is planned.

No matter what happens though, it seems a good bet that 1443 and 1441 West Broadway will pass out of the City of Vancouver’s hands. In that case it is easy to imagine the City thinking that it might as well leave the two derelict properties to be demolished by their ultimate owners, thus saving the City both money and bother. Click the images to enlarge them.

One Comment
  1. The images of trump reminds me of calling himself the chosen one. Yep, chosen for notoriety 😎


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