Conservationists seek to save Vancouver's Legg mansion, built in 1899, from demolition

Orange fencing is going up around the Legg Residence in Vancouver on March 24 , 2014. It will soon be torn down.

Photograph by: wayne leidenfrost , The Province

Heritage conservationists are calling on the city to halt the imminent demolition of one of Vancouver’s oldest mansions.

Orange fences have been erected on the lawn of the Legg Residence on 1241 Harwood St. — an ominous sign indicating the 1899 home’s impending destruction.

“This is just one of three mansions left over from that period in the West End,” said Janet Leduc, executive director of the Heritage Vancouver Society. “It becomes more valuable as they diminish in number.”

The Legg Residence, built during the boom of the Klondike Gold Rush, is listed on the city’s heritage “A” register, which affords it some protection, but doesn’t save it from demolition spurred on by new development.

The society wants the city to place a moratorium on the late Victorian-era mansion — similar to the recent one placed on the Hollywood Theatre — to allow time to come up with a plan to retain the house.

“The owner wanted to save the house ... all along,” said Leduc, referring to a five-year attempt by the owner to come up with a proposal in 2011 that would have restored and protected the house in exchange for permission to build an 18-storey tower on the site.

However, council rejected that proposal because it would have destroyed a 110-year-old tulip tree on the property and asked the developer to come up with a plan that would save the tree.

The revised proposal kept the tree in exchange for a 17-storey building, but would demolish the 115-year-old house. The proposal didn’t go through council because it met zoning requirements. It was approved by the Development Permit Board in 2011.

“I’m not sure (council) wanted to exchange the house for the tree,” said Leduc. “I think they wanted to save both.”

Since then, the Legg Residence has been used as rental accommodation. A development application or demolition application has not yet been lodged with the city.

The owner is listed as 5253 Investments, according to property records. Michael Heeney of Bing Thom Architects had spoken up on behalf of the owner in the past. He was unavailable for comment Monday.

Leduc said city council, which enacted a Heritage Action Plan last year in a bid to help preserve original homes in the city, seems more heritage friendly.

“There’s certainly a greater awareness and interest in heritage conservation in the last two years,” she said. “We’re hoping this gives us a better shot.”

If the Legg is torn down, it would be the third heritage “A” building to be demolished in the last 25 years, following the Marpole Safeway in 2012 and the Georgia Medical-Dental Building in 1989.



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