Vancouver landmark: Evergreen Building: slated for demolition

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Arthur Erickson upset over decision

John Bermingham

CREDIT: Les Bazso, The Province The Evergreen building was one of the first ‘green’ buildings. It will be replaced by a highrise tower.

The city’s most famous architect, Arthur Erickson, is upset that one of his buildings is facing the wrecking ball.

It’s the first time one of his signature buildings is to be pulled down.

The Evergreen building, at 1285 West Pender, has been marked for demolition by owner, and ex-B.C. Hydro chairman, John Laxton.

Laxton intends to replace it with a highrise tower, with condos, retail and townhouses next to the Coal Harbour development.

“This building has been my baby,” Laxton told Vancouver City Council yesterday.

“I put the whole of my heart into saving the building and a good part of my wallet. We have had to reach a very painful decision. The saving of the building is not economically feasible or technically possible.”

Erickson told The Province he was “very disturbed,” adding: “It’s greed, purely and simply.”

He said Laxton was trying to take advantage of spiralling real-estate values downtown.

“It’s one of the few unique buildings in the city,” Erickson said.

“It’s one of the few structures that is green all over, which is going to be demanded in the future, the greening of the city.”

Erickson hopes the building can still be saved, but doubts he will participate in designing a new building for the site.

“I wouldn’t want to be part of taking it down,” he said.

Last year, Laxton proposed adding four storeys to the building, but it was rejected by the city.

Since then, he said, he’s incurred $2 million in extra costs.

“My staff were telling me don’t do it,” he added. “But I ignored them because of my love for this building, and my decision to get it saved.”

Cheryl Cooper of the Vancouver Heritage Commission said Erickson was ahead of his time in the greening of public buildings.

“It is tragic that a building of Evergreen’s significance should be at risk,” said Cooper.

Susan Boissonneault of Heritage Vancouver, which placed Evergreen No. 3 on its top 10 most endangered list this year, said it should be saved.

“The building should be preserved as a significant Vancouver landmark,” she said.

Laxton hired Erickson to design the building in 1980, and Laxton has occupied it ever since. Laxton also had Erickson design his home 40 years ago in Gleneagles.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

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