VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver city councillors are poised to vote on the futures of the Balmoral and the Regent Hotels.
During next Wednesday’s council meeting, they’ll be asked to decide whether to expropriate the buildings from the current owners, the Sahota family.
The single-room-occupancy buildings have been empty since the city stepped in over recent years and closed them due to multiple bylaw infractions.
The Balmoral was vacated by its tenants 2017, when the city declared it too dangerous to live in. The same action was taken against the Regent the year later.
The Sahotas had been fined for dozens of bylaw infractions, including failure to maintain walls, ceilings and floors. The Sahotas pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $150,000 in fines plus another $25,000 to local non-profits.
The city also made efforts to buy the buildings last year, but were unsuccessful.
The city is now offering one dollar for each building, based on independent property appraisals. The city would need to spend another $350,000 to protect the building with security systems and mobile patrols.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart has Tweeted his thoughts.
“Next week I’ll be voting yes to expropriate the Regent & Balmoral. They’ve been vacant and in disrepair for too long. We need to bring them back into public ownership & repaired so our most vulnerable neighbours can get off the street,” he says.
It’s a sentiment echoed by civic historian John Atkin.
“It’s sad to see buildings neglected, almost on purpose. There’s no need for these things to be in the conditions that they are. They should be protected buildings and they should be healthy buildings. Let’s hope the future bodes well for them.”
Atkin points out BC Housing has successfully transitioned other former hotels in Vancouver, such as the old Hotel Canada on Richards Street, and the Hutchinson Block on West Pender Street, to house the marginalized.
He adds many features of the Balmoral and the Regent have significant heritage value. He says both were built pre-World War 1, to cater to ship and train passengers.
“In the Regent, there was liberal use of marble, and brass and bronze railings. You can imagine, scraping back the layers, a fairly elegant hotel.”
The Balmoral boasts the oldest standing neon sign in Vancouver. It’s 90 years old.
“It’s intact – that’s quite something. It’s considered a transitional sign because the outside is lined with light bulbs, and then you’ve got neon letters and the clock has a green neon ring on the inside. It’s an important piece of heritage.”