British Columbia

Kaplan heritage sign covered up with illegal paint job

The neon blue Kaplan sign that's hung for decades on a Vancouver heritage building has been covered up with an illegal paint job, raising the ire of activists and citizens alike.

City of Vancouver says it's working to resolve the issue

The Kaplan heritage sign (left) has been covered with what the city calls an illegal red paint job (right). (CBC)

The neon blue Kaplan sign that has hung for decades on a Vancouver heritage building at the corner of Granville and Broadway has been covered up with an illegal paint job, raising the ire of heritage activists and citizens alike. 

The City of Vancouver says AEG Education and the sign's creator, Pattison Sign Group, inquired about changing the sign. Staff told them that as the Dick Building is a heritage building and the sign has historic significance, they would need a sign permit, but the work went ahead without one.

The once-familiar sign has been covered with a panel painted in red that also has a new font and several Chinese characters. 

"It's terribly ugly," says Vancouverite Alan Munro as he pointed at the sign. "It's an Art Deco building, it's a heritage building. How were they allowed to put that thing up?"

Gregory Dreicer, the director of curatorial and engagement at Museum of Vancouver, says he can understand the attachment to neon signs. The museum has an exhibit of the city's historic neon displays.

"It just jars people and makes them aware, 'Wow, Vancouver is changing a lot,'" he said. 

City taking action

AEG told CBC it thought Pattison was handling the permit application, but a new application based on the new sign isn't sitting well with the city so far.

Pattison told CBC on Wednesday that its interpretation of the bylaw says a change in the colour of the sign does not require a permit. 

However, the city disagreed. 

The Dick Building has a heritage designation from the City of Vancouver. (CBC)

"Many aspects of the sign are not supportable from a heritage preservation perspective and we will be working with the applicant to try and find another solution for them," said Anita Molaro, the city's assistant director of planning and development. 

If a solution can't be worked out, the issue could go to court.

Some believe the city should stick to its guns and enforce the rules. The city previously forced Toys R' Us to preserve and incorporate the BowMac car dealership sign on its site on West Broadway rather than have it demolished.

"I think if they haven't followed the procedures, they have to go back," said another Vancouver resident Gillian Lord. "Rules have to be respected, heritage has to be looked at and respected as well."


  • An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Kaplan sign had been removed. In fact, the original sign was covered up with a new panel and repainted red.
    Aug 12, 2015 4:53 PM PT

With files from Kirk Williams


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