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Real estate company says interest is high in St. Paul's Hospital site

Last Updated May 4, 2019 at 12:22 am PST

(Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

Bidding is expected to begin this month on the 6.6 acre downtown parcel

Heritage expert believes older buildings could be converted to housing units

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The company assigned to sell Vancouver’s St. Paul’s hospital site says interest in the property has been strong, since it went on the market a couple of months ago.

Tony Quattrin of CBRE says bidding on the property is expected to begin this month.

While the hospital has heritage value, it’s expected the site will go to condo developers.

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Michael Kluckner is chair of the City of Vancouver’s Heritage Commission and says the buyers are going to need to recoup the large expense involved in acquiring a major downtown parcel, and the best opportunity to do that is by developing residential towers.

The 6.6-acre-site is worth at least $700 million.

“On the parts of the site where buildings will be cleared away, I think we can expect some pretty stupendous condominium buildings because residential developments are what’s most valuable,” says Kluckner.

The hospital is listed as a Class A heritage site, but is “not a designated heritage building and is not protected by legal statute,” according to Heritage Vancouver.

And some buildings are older than others.

The oldest part, referred to as the Centre Block, dates back to 1913. According to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, the brick and terra-cotta Italianate design was done by Portland-based architect, Robert F Tegen and two wings were added in 1931. Tower additions came in 1983 and 1991.

“This is fine architectural design. Keeping the building there is part of the city’s legacy,” argues Kluckner.

He says it would be a shame to see the newer towers disappear.

“I personally think part of the scandal of moving St. Paul’s is that they are abandoning buildings that were only built 30 years ago. If public buildings only get 30 years of use, what does that say about our environmental credibility, our sustainability?”

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In order for the heritage buildings to be retained, they will need to be converted.

“What will happen with the historic buildings if the city forces the new owner to keep them and then adapt for new use? How easily will they be adapted?” Kluckner asks.

He insists conversion is not an impossible task. He points to local warehouses and The Electra, the former home of BC Hydro, which have been transformed into living units.

In its sales brochure, CBRE says the site “has immense potential to become a “city within a city.”

It also says “this site represents downtown Vancouver’s largest development opportunity in the last 13 years.”

The new hospital in the False Creek flats won’t be complete until 2026. Kluckner says discussions about retaining heritage buildings at the original site won’t happen until a development application is filed.