British Columbia

Shaking shuts Gospel Mission on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

All services and programs offered by the Gospel Mission, on Carrall Street, have been cancelled because shaking from a demolition project next door has left the over-a-century-old building structurally unsafe.

Western Canada's oldest mission 'not safe to occupy' due to demolition next door

A Downtown Eastside charity has been forced to close because a demolition project that started Wednesday has damaged the historic Gospel Mission building. (Don Marce/CBC)

All services and programs offered by Gospel Mission on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been cancelled because shaking from a demolition project next door has left the over-a-century-old building structurally unsafe. 

"We have a crack running right from the ground up into the second level in our main structural corner on Carrall Street itself," said mission pastor Wesley Chadwick. 

Shaking from the demolition next door has dislodged existing fractures in the building and caused new cracks, according to Gospel Mission volunteers. (Don Marce/CBC)

City of Vancouver planning and development services has posted a legal notice on the mission's door that says there is "danger of collapse of the front facade."

The problem started yesterday when a demolition crew began to work on an adjacent property. 

Soon, volunteers who operate the mission's public shower facility began to feel the building shake and noticed cracks in the walls. 

"When we got there, the building continued to shake as they were demolishing and then eventually we said, 'You guys have to stop' and called the fire department once we noticed the cracks in the wall," said Chadwick. 

Not safe to go in 

The company doing the demolition next door has called in heritage building experts to assess the condition of the historic structure. 

"Their advice? We advise you to stay out. We can't guarantee the safety or integrity of the front elevation of the building," said Chadwick.

City of Vancouver staff posted a notice Wednesday ordering everyone to stay out of the Gospel Mission building. (Don Marce/CBC )

As a result, Chadwick said, the mission can't offer its regular meal and shower programs or prayer meetings.

"We serve a variety of people that are both locally living in SROs, drug addicts, prostitutes, right to families that have come down calling Gospel Mission their church," said Chadwick.

"We serve up to 50 people a night and half of them are regulars." 

Oldest in the west 

Gospel Mission, not to be confused with Union Gospel Mission, began operating in 1929. 

It's the oldest mission in Western Canada, according to Chadwick. 

"We're the last of seven original missions that had been set up during the Gastown era, before it became officially Vancouver — and, the great fire," said Chadwick. 

Five years ago, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation named the building where the mission has been located since the 1940s one of Vancouver's 125 "places that matter."

In the 1880s, the building was called the Vancouver Drug Company and at the turn of the century became the Louvre Hotel

There's no word on when Gospel Mission will be able to resume operations. 

"We now have structural engineers looking at it trying to figure out the quickest way to make it safe," said Chadwick. 

Demolition work has been halted and Gospel Mission services have been cancelled while structural engineers assess how to secure the over-a-century-old building. (Don Marce/CBC)