Canada Post redevelopment a 'step in the right direction,' says Vancouver heritage advisor

Don Luxton, lead consultant on the city of Vancouver's Heritage Action Plan, says he likes what he sees so far from Bentall Kennedy's plan to redevelop the Canada Post building because it preserves some of the heritage value while allowing for new uses.

Don Luxton says adapting these large, old buildings can be very difficult

Canada Post's downtown Vancouver office was built in 1958, and could soon be the site of a major redevelopment project. (Bentall Kennedy)

The old post office building in Vancouver is set for major redevelopment, and a heritage advisor with the City of Vancouver is pleased with what he's seen so far.

Developer Bentall Kennedy is proposing to add five towers, one of which will be 19-storeys, and an additional 900,000 square feet to the over-65-year-old building, and the city has been clear this redevelopment must keep the building's historic character intact.

Don Luxton, lead consultant on the City of Vancouver's Heritage Action Plan, calls the international-style post office a "fascinating" building, but one that has been "unloved" for much of its life.

"Architecture style is like fashion, it comes and goes out of style … We didn't like Victorian buildings for a long time, we didn't like Edwardian, we didn't like art deco," he told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"Many people aren't fond of international style, it doesn't have the style of ornament we associate with heritage buildings … Considering the bulk of the building it's broken up very beautifully almost in a classic kind of way. Very symmetrical, very horizontal. It's a well-done piece of architecture."

Luxton says the post office will be the site of the largest revitalization project in the city, and it has certain challenges: limited entries, the desired multiple new uses of what is essentially a big factory, and preserving the facade.

And while the city hasn't expressed any opinions on the proposed redevelopment, Luxton says the proposal from Bentall Kennedy "is a step in the right direction."

"The building can't exist in its current form, and certainly we in the heritage community … knew what happened to Woodward's," he said. "When you have these massive, large floorplate buildings and you can't find a use to go into them, and you have to integrate active uses, it's just not easy."

"I think this is a direction that moves toward an adaptive re-use that will preserve the post office."

Bentall Kennedy plans on submitting an official rezoning application to the city in about two months.

If the city approves the proposal, the project could be complete by 2021.

A model of the proposed redevelopment project for Vancouver's former downtown Canada Post office. (Bentall Kennedy)

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: City of Vancouver heritage advisor says Canada Post redevelopment 'step in the right direction'


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