British Columbia

111-year-old heritage home in Kelowna faces demolition

One of the oldest houses in Kelowna, B.C. is facing demolition, despite the recommendations of a heritage advisory council, and those against the decision are calling for the city to reconsider.

Just because a building is on the heritage registry doesn’t mean it's protected

Exterior view of 409 Park Avenue, also known as the F.W. Groves House. It's pictured here in 2004 but has been around since 1909. (Canada's Historic Places)

One of the oldest houses in Kelowna, B.C., is facing demolition, despite the recommendations of a heritage advisory council, and those against the decision are calling for the city to reconsider. 

The house located at 409 Park Avenue was built more than a century ago in 1909, an era when the community on Okanagan Lake was centred on timber production and fruit-packing. A prominent civil engineer named Francis William Groves lived there until his death in 1948. 

"Part of the story that we're going to lose if this building is demolished is the history of the development of Kelowna," said Peter Chataway, an architectural designer and the former president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society. 

The house was added to Kelowna's heritage register in 2001, not only because of Groves' contribution to the city, but  also because of the home's 20th century vernacular architectural style. 

Council voted to remove it from the Heritage Register last week, at the request of the owner, which means it could soon be demolished. 

"I think council and staff received wrong information about the building," he told Brady Strachan, guest host of CBC's Daybreak South

"The consultant's report used things like the condition of the building, the structure in particular, and the cost associated with [repairing] that."

Those considerations, he argues, have nothing to do with the heritage value of a building. 

But both the owner of the house and the city say the house isn't structurally sound and that's why it was removed from the register. 

"It's been there one hundred-plus years," Chataway said.

"In my experience, and I've worked on buildings from the 1800s as well, is that if they've lasted this long — the proof is in the pudding."

New roof in 2017

Lauren Sanbrooks, a planner in the policy and planning department at the City of Kelowna, says a house on the heritage register isn't necessarily protected from demolition. 

"There is no protection to these buildings, this is just an identification tool," she said. 

A building with heritage designation status, on the other hand, does have bylaw projection. 

In Kelowna, about 200 houses are on the heritage register but only about 20 have protected designation. 

Part of the issue — and one that Chataway raised — is that the previous owner of the house was given a grant of $7,500 for a new roof in 2017. The program is managed by the Central Okanagan Heritage Society.

"I can't speak to what may have changed with this inside or the structure of this house," Sanbrooks said. 

"However, I'd hate for this one instance to outweigh all the good this grant program has done for a number [of heritage buildings]."

The city is now looking at updating the grant program to make sure buildings don't receive funding for improvements and are then torn down soon after. 

Click on the audio below to hear more:

With files from Daybreak South


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